A story

I dropped off the Jeep today (I just don't have the tools here to do the diff), and on the way there I passed a convoy carrying a half dozen tanks, with probably more behind them. I assume they're being shipped from Petawawa (north of us) down to Trenton air base to be shipped to Iraq, but I'm not entirely sure considering Canada's scaled back military role right now. Anyway, it made me think I should tell a (sort of) war story that I don't think I've told here before.

I get asked pretty regularly how I feel about the German part of my family, since there were of course many on that side that served military duty during the second world war in aid of the Nazi party. My great uncle was even in the SS as a U-Boat captain, but my grandfather's story is very different. To set it into motion, even though I look like my father and I think take after him, everyone in my family swears up and down that personality-wise I'm just like my grandfather.

When he was eighteen years old he was called up for working service (working service is what you did before serving your military service). My grandfather was a pacifist and hated Hitler (as did many Germans, as now many Americans hate Bush), so he deserted the work camp and hid in a plough furrow in a nearby field — he was of course found easily. He got labelled as emotionally disturbed and after spending about six months in a military asylum he was declared unfit for military service and dismissed. He's dead now, but when asked about it he says that it was the sanest thing he ever did.

After the war, when there was a risk that the Russians were going to take the rest of Germany (ie. not just the East) he bought a large sailboat and taught himself to sail so that if things ever got goofy he could escape with his family on it. As luck would have it, American occupation of Germany kept the Russian influence out of West Germany, but at that point he'd already cut off ties with most of the family — they thought he was a fool for going to such extreme lengths to protect his family.

Then currency reform started happening, and my grandfather was forced to sell the boat and because things were uncertain he took his savings and packed up his young family and moved everyone to South Africa, a place where he felt he could live with both freedom and privacy. Eventually this path brought him to Canada. He also totally isolated himself from anyone who didn't accept his views on freedom and privacy and as a result spent most of his life without his parents and brothers and sisters.

My grandmother thinks these actions were the biggest mistakes he ever made, but to me, I see a man of principle willing to make personal sacrifices for the things he believed in. Anyway, I'm not sure now why I told that story. I think maybe I wrote it for Rachel to give her a little more insight into who I am and why I do some of the things I do… I worry that one day she may resent some of my actions as much as my grandmother resents those my grandfather made.

Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *