December 28, 2009
This past summer cousin David was complaining about getting the flu and not feeling up to scratch. He said he was walking about 5 miles a day (I think that’s what he said) around a tobacco plantation and other than drinking beer with other ex-pats and regaling them about our search, he looked after him self pretty well. Then when the flu didn’t go away, he went to the doctor and, long story short, he’s been diagnosed with leukemia. What a shock! So he made the trip home with his journals and went straight into hospital in Ottawa where he is right now. He is getting chemo treatments and the doctors do say he may be able to fight this one. We’ll see.
And what have we learned throughout this history research? We have learned that you were a terrific pilot, a great instructor, a very capable leader and that you were very brave, as most were who fought in that war. The story of your parachuting out of your Spitfire with five pieces of shrapnel in your arm as the plane was breaking up around you is amazing. I’m quite sure you would say something to the effect that “Well, that’s what you had to do.” I do know that you were happy to be back in Ottawa in February 1945. I can see the delight on all your faces in that picture in the Ottawa Evening Citizen with Grandma, Grandpa and Auntie Marian. They must have been so relieved.
Too bad it took another 4 months for Mom and I to get home. Poor Mom! I never did ask her how the trip went for her because, of course, she was pregnant with Rob who was born that September. Imagine, sailing home with all kinds of troops, many wounded, with me at almost 5. I know what your granddaughters were like when they were that age and I remember Mom telling me that she hoped I got a child like me (payback time!) and I did! And I said the same thing to Krista and she did too.
So the Big Trip is now for just Bill and me. I am honoured to be able to do this in your memory, Dad. In some ways, I hope this journey will help to make up for all the disruption I caused for the family when I was growing up. I know I was a hard kid to talk to. I always weighed the punishment and the crime and usually opted to do the crime and take the punishment.
I have wondered if you ever went back to the Mardaga Hotel when we were in Luxembourg in the 1950s. I know you and Mom went to Holland on a vacation and I’m pretty sure you drove and would have had to go pretty close to Asch along the way. I’ll check the hotel registers to see if you actually stayed there. That would be pretty amazing.
And just so you know, I always loved you very much.
PS – I thought you’d like to see us all now. This picture was taken in November in Toronto.