Quite a few years ago now, I was living up at Yonge and Eglinton, my least favourite neighbourhood in the city, in an awful city-run apartment building with cockroaches and crazies. The rent was cheap. The commute was easy. I was also working in the financial industry and trying like mad to get some of my writing published so that I could simply call myself something other than a "customer service representative."
My brother often stayed in the tiny apartment that I shared with another girl (keep in mind it was a bachelor; I don't know how we all fit) because he was going to school in Toronto at the time and living in Markham. We were up late one night talking about war and Robyn said, "I don't believe in war," or something of the like. My brother turned to her and said that if it wasn't for the Second World War he wouldn't be here at all -- and that's just the plain truth of the matter.
My maternal grandfather fought, as his father had in the First World War, for the Allies. He met my grandmother in London, where she was born and raised, and they married even before the war had finished. I have copies of their letters to his parents and they are gorgeous. Full of the first blush of love and the kind of happiness that comes just after one gets married, the letters are a wonderful time capsule of their lives. Yet, they're also so representative of the spirit of the times; I think, at one point, my grandfather writes, "In case you haven't noticed, we're fighting a war over here..." to his father. Young men in uniform and young women fighting beyond the homefront. Lives forever changed and generations existing simply because these young men and women were brave enough to make the sacrifice.
Living through a war, I would imagine, is not something one easily forgets. For years my grandmother did not waste anything. She washed and bent the tin cans so they could be easier reused. She made our clothes. She gave me cups of tea and a half an aspirin if I was feeling poorly. But she never really talked about the war. And because she died before I knew enough about the history to ask, I read her letters and feel as though I know her better. I miss her every day. So now when I listen to the pipers on Remembrance Day, I think of all of my relatives here in Canada and abroad who made it possible for me to type these very words you've just finished reading. Lest we forget.