This has nothing to do with adoption. It’s the story of how I travelled to the place in Holland where my Dad was stationed during the war. I am writing a Remembrance Day post because of the two soldiers who were killed in Canada last month. One was killed in my hometown of Ottawa, at a place I know well, the War Memorial. When I was younger, I would go and stand at the War Memorial with my family on cold November mornings and observe the one-minute silence at eleven o’clock. In my memory, the air was always crisp and the sky blue. Back then, there were still many WWII veteran’s around. In fact when I was a kid, the WWII veterans weren’t that old. More like the age of the majority of veterans we see today. They were young men – and women.
My Dad, who was a veteran, never came with us, of course. He was always at work. They are talking about making Remembrance Day a National Holiday here so everyone can have the time off to attend the ceremonies should they wish to do so. I think that is a good idea.
I do not have any war stories myself except for this one. Although it took place long after WWII was over, it feels a bit like a war story to me.
My Dad was stationed in Italy and Holland during the war. (Or as he liked to say with a smile, he (personally) liberated Holland.) He was very young at the time. He would laugh when he told us how he was drafted six months after he had already voluntarily signed up. He liked Italy but he he loved Holland. He often spoke of it fondly and frequently slipped Dutch words and phrases in when he was talking.
Because of this, when I went to Europe for the first time, I travelled to the town in Holland where he was posted. I took the train from Amsterdam and tried to find the family he had been billeted with during the war. I was unable to find them but as I walked along the street my father had walked along, a man and woman came up and asked me if I was looking for someone and could they help. I explained why I was there. They didn’t recognize the name I had but they, too, had had Canadian soldiers billeted at their house during the war. We chatted for a while and then they asked if I would like to come to their house for lunch and I went. Not sure I would go to lunch with strangers today but I did go and had a very nice time. They showed me pictures of their own two billeted Canadian soldiers. One survived the war, one did not. That made me feel lucky and very sad.
I can’t remember what we talked about all afternoon but talk we did until it was time to catch my train back to Amsterdam.
They insisted on driving me to the railway station. They came out onto the platform and stayed until the train pulled away, waving good-bye.
I can still see them there but I don’t remember their name.
If that had happened today, we would probably have exchanged email addresses and stayed in touch. But even though I don’t remember their name, I have never forgotten them or their kindness.