Today, we continued a little family tradition that started a few years ago, when my son was a toddler. We gather in our living room and watch the Act of Remembrance from the cenotaph on CBC.
We started this after a past November 11 - one much like today in Ottawa: rainy, cold and grey. Back then my wife and I made our way downtown with our kids. My son was still in the pram and my daughter small enough to ride on Daddy's shoulders. But the cold got to the kids, the umbrellas blocked our view and the crowds were too much. The following year we stayed home to watch on TV.
Our family has found this new tradition to be very moving. We can talk and explain to the kids what is happening, and why we are doing it. The kids get to see their dad get misty and occasionally sob out loud.
This year my 5-year-old saluted when he say the soldiers. My daughter sang 'Oh Canada' along with the crowd. We all joined in, singing in French and English. We stood at attention during the moment of silence, in front of the couch. While fighting back tears, I explained to my kids where poppies come from and why we wear them as the kids choir sang 'In Flanders Field'. My 11-month-old clapped along with the bag-pipes during the lament.
And most of all we talked about Uncle Tim, my brother. My kids are just barely understanding that our soldier's are still dying in war, but they know that their Uncle Tim is a soldier. They've seen him in his uniform, they've heard him talking about driving tanks and firing guns. They don't yet know that he is a Warrant Officer in the 1st Hussars and may be sent to Afghanistan, since we are "scrambling" for soldiers for the mission. They don't quite get what the could mean for their aunt and their cousin. Or for their Dad and Grampa and Gramma.
And we talked about Maj. Charles F. Rothera, 97th Algonquin Rifles, veteran of WWI and founder and first President of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 182 - my great-grandfather. We talked about LCpl William A. Rothera, Royal Canadian Signal Corps, veteran of WWII and past President of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 182 - my grandfather.
We told our family stories of Ypres, teaching King George how to work the radio, missing the first wave at Dieppe because of nature's call, fighting across the Schelt. We laughed at gopher holes in Wainwright, dislocated shoulders from prematurely fired 75mm cannons and giving away your -25 C Army-issue sleeping bag to an old widow in Kempville after the ice storm.
In short, we remembered. We brought to life and made real and personal what is normally a grainy black-and-white movie with a solemn deep voice-over. None of us wore red and only a few of us still had our poppies. We just remembered, as a family.
We also remembered that the Red Poppy does not glorify war, but honours the warriors and reminds us that their real wish is "Never Again."
Thank you great grandfather.
Thank you Grampa.