My dad is 91 years old now and lives in an old folks home in Orillia, Ontario. He’s frail but his mind is sharp, and he seems to have gotten smaller as the years go by.
The last time I was in Orillia, last April, we sat in his small room and we talked about his war years. He was a truck driver in the Canadian army, serving in England, Holland, and Italy, and he never fired a gun or was on the front lines, so a movie will never be made about Ernie Kane and his buddies.
But he served his country, helped make the world Nazi-free in his own quiet way, and came home and went about his business of being a husband and dad.
He was 19 when he volunteered, said goodbye to his mom and siblings, and was shipped to England. He told me he and his army buddies would go to dances and British gals would ask him to dance but he was too shy, and so he sat by the walls and watched everyone have fun. In Italy, he and a buddy found a little orphaned Italian boy of about ten years old, who was scared, lost, and hungry, and they brought him back to their base, had a small Canadian uniform made for the little fellow, and adopted him as their mascot.
The boy wrote letters to my dad as he grew up and had a family, and he thanked him for saving his life.
Near the end of the war when my dad was shipped back, he landed in New York and took a train to Toronto. No one was there to meet him, but a stranger gave him some money and thanked him for serving. Dad then got on a train bound for Sudbury, where his family lived at the time, and no one came to meet him at the station there either. But he made it to his house anyway, and shortly after, went down to Orillia to see the girl he had met before shipping out and whom he had stayed in touch with through dozens of letters.
My dad told me he went to a friend’s house in Orillia, contacted the young lady, and she came over shortly after. He told me, which brought tears to my eyes, that he remembers thinking that she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen when she came in the room.
This would be Laura, who would become my mom.
My dad went to many army reunions over the years, and was invited to come to Holland because the Dutch people wanted to say thank you to him and others for helping to liberate their country. But he never went. He’s just a quiet and shy man, and a trip of this nature would be a little too complicated for him.
My mom died in 1978 and dad has been alone ever since. He’s rarely been happy since that horrible day at Princess Margaret hospital in Toronto when he lost Laura and we lost our mom, and now he just wants it all to come to an end so he can see her again and leave the cursed life of a very old man.
But on this day, Remembrance Day, I just want to say thanks to my dad, of whom I’m very proud. And thanks to everyone who fought in all the different wars to make our lives better.
And one last thing. My dad has always been a Habs fan.