On This Remembrance Day, My Dad Sits In His Room

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.


12 thoughts on “On This Remembrance Day, My Dad Sits In His Room”

  1. Absolutely beautiful story Dennis.

    My great-grandfather got killed in the Battle of Cambrai on the 26th of November. His remains were never found but it is possible he was found but no one was able to identify him. I was able to find out where he died and it’s quite possible he was killed by artillery. What a horrible way to go.

    On my dad’s side of the family a few members went to the 1st and 2nd World Wars and my grandmother told me that many were never the same after that. One of her nephews went and he ended up losing a leg when a tank ran over it. He lived a long life afterwards though.

    I hate War. It’s an awful thing and if there is a God up there I am sure he’s pretty damn disgusted with us all for getting into it. All those young lives lost for no good reason.

    A kind of funny story is my grandfather had a heck of a time during World War 2. He couldn’t go because he was declared physically unfit and he said that for the entire war people would come up to him all the time and give him hell. It was usually women that did this…little old women. He said at least once a week someone would come up to him and give him all kinds of trouble. He said he was called a coward so many times he lost count.

  2. Hey Dennis,Very good recolection of your Dad and how he made is way through life,very touching for sure.My Dad served in Europe as well,he met and married my mom there,Mom was from Ireland.I saw some pics of Brendan on facebook this morning,then I watched the sevice from Khandahar where he is at.A good day to remember.

  3. Thanks, Darth,
    It’s terrible that folks thought that way about your grandpa because not everyone was deemed fit to serve and it wasn’t their fault. I’ve heard many times over the years that the Rocket wouldn’t go but the truth is, he tried several times to enlist but because of several hockey-related injuries, he was denied. I hate war too but it seems it’s a natural way with humans as its been around forever. It’s all very sad. Be proud of your grandpa because he tried to enlist and then withstood that nonsense he had to endure.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing that wonderful story Dennis.
    Very touching and heartfelt.
    On a lighter side….I now know who you got your good looks from….your dad Ernie, was a very handsome young man.


  5. Dennis thank you for this memorable story about an honourable man on this day we set aside to remember.

    Mr. Kane is #1


  6. Thank you for sharing this Dennis. I like your Dad. Sounds like my kind of guy, and sounds like you got some of that charm he has. And you’re both Habs fans.

  7. Thanks to everyone who said nice things about me dad. I told him and he was surprised. Again, thanks. It means a lot.

  8. Are you sure you have the right photo? He looks much too young to be shipped overseas to fight. It’s with great gratitude we remember the sacrifices of those who served. It’s thanks to men like your father that we have the privilege of living in this great country.

  9. On this Thanksgiving weekend all Canadians should be thankful for people like your dad who helped to keep our country free of foreign rule. I hope that Ernie knows that even though his role may have been small, he should be very proud of his contribution- I know that I personally am grateful .

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