Originally published on November 11, 2012
It must have caused quite a commotion when he arrived in this world.
Come to think of it; I’ve never heard of it before (or since) – being born with different colored eyes. But it’s true – although I never saw them myself. His wife told me about them, but she never described them.
She also told me that he was just a teenager when he left school to join the army – the Ontario Regiment to be exact. She said that his mother didn’t even kiss him goodbye when he left for Europe to fight in the Second World War.
It was a long journey – boarding a train in Oshawa for Halifax – and then by ship to England. But he had his guitar with him, and his buddies from the neighborhood, so he probably wasn’t lonely.
His wife also told me – with a look of pride – that he played his guitar on the BBC Radio, although it didn’t make him famous.
Then a few months later, his regiment was shipped to Sicily, Italy.
She told me that he was severely wounded – shrapnel from a bomb or grenade had struck him in the eye. She said that the medics placed sandbags around his head to keep him still while they removed the metal from his left eye – the operation took place on the battlefield.
But they couldn’t save his eye – there was nothing left of it.
He returned home to Oshawa – but the war for him was not over. There would be many sleepless nights – reliving the horrors of war.
He wore an eye patch for quite some time – until he got his replacement – a “glass eye.” Nobody could tease him about his different colored eyes anymore – they now matched!
His wife told me that they had met each other after the war – and it was love at first sight. She said they married and then went to Montreal for their honeymoon.
They started a family – their first child was a girl – and they named her Linda Mae.
Their second daughter was born a year later – they named her Leslie Heather.
A year later, they had their first boy and named him Daniel James.
Nobody ever called me Daniel – it was always just Danny or Saint. My brother Frederick (Freddy) was born a year later.
And then several years later, the stork brought Eric (Ricky) and then returned a year later to bring Randall (Randy).
I remember asking Dad about his experiences in the war, but he would always remain silent. He never talked about the war until I was an adult, but even then, he would only talk about it in general terms – never the gory details.
Mom explained that most of the soldiers that had seen action would never talk about their experiences.
I remember my cousin Jim Little from Calgary once telling me that he was a young boy when my Dad had returned home from the war. Jim and his parents were living in my Grandparent’s home on Ritson Road, and he remembers that whenever there was a severe storm – with thunder, Dad would be in the closet – taking cover – still thinking he was on the battlefield.
Mom told me that for years, Dad would wake up at night, screaming.
He was sick for the last year of his life.
Mom called me to say that Dad got rushed to the hospital in Oshawa and his heart was failing. A day or two later, my brother-in-law called to say that Dad wasn’t expected to live.
I made arrangements to fly to Toronto the next day and took a taxi from the airport directly to the hospital. My family was in his room – he was laying on the bed – eyes closed.
I asked my Mom if he was sleeping, but she sadly shook her head and told me that he wasn’t conscious.
I went out into the hall and spoke to the Head Nurse – “Is my Dad going to regain consciousness? Is he going to be okay?”
She told me that Dad could still hear and comprehend – but he wouldn’t be able to respond. I didn’t believe her though – she was probably trying to be a comfort.
I remember walking back into the room and over to his bed. I stroked his head and told him that I loved him. I had never said that to him – and Dad had never said that he loved me either.
I also whispered that I was sorry for anything I did that might have hurt him. I then went over to sit beside Ma and Linda, my sister.
I had just sat down when suddenly, my Dad sat upright and looked directly at me, raised his arm and pointed at me and tried to say something but it all came out garbled. It lasted only a few seconds – and then, just as suddenly, he laid back down.! It was a beautiful moment – one I’ll never forget. Dad did hear me and was telling me he loved me! Or at least, it’s how I interpreted it.
I ran over to him and stroked his forehead, trying to reassure him that everything was going to be okay.
Ma suggested that we leave for the evening. My brother Randy would be staying in the room with Dad and then I would return to the hospital in the morning.
We said goodnight to Dad, and as we were leaving, I glanced at the framed picture of my Dad in his army uniform – taken just before he went to the war in Europe. Ma brought the photo to Dad’s room because it was Remembrance Day – November 11th.
On our drive back to their apartment, I told Ma that I had never said that I loved him before, but I was happy that he was able to hear me.
But I knew that he loved me – because Ma told me so. He was brought up in a family that didn’t show their emotions – so it just wasn’t in his nature. We had just walked into their place, and the telephone rang.
I answered the phone; it was Randy. He said that Dad had just passed away!
Yes, he passed away on Remembrance Day, November 11, 2001 – – how befitting for a veteran.
And Ma, who was just a bit superstitious, would often comment on how strange it was that when she moved sometime later into a condo in Ajax, that it happened to be #1101 (eleven-o-one) and that Dad had died on 11/01.
And on September 26, 2010, Mom was reunited with Dad.
Rest in Peace, Dad.
Rest in Peace, Ma.
All My Love Forever and Ever,
Today’s Tune (from Danny’s library of purchased music):
Dedicated to my friend Dale Challice, a veteran.