Our Remembrance Day just passed recently here, and I did spend some time thinking of my Dad and my maternal Grandfather, and some other things…
My Dad, James Evan Love, served in the Canadian Army as a young man during World War II, and later in the RCAF. I was born late in my Dad’s life, so I have no direct memory of his military service or military life, but he always spoke proudly of his military service, the friends he made, and the education and experiences he had. I think military life really suited him.
As a young man, my maternal grandfather, Ernest Huntley Clarke, tried to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (World War 1), but was released on medical grounds. So, not long after that rejection, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and served as a Mountie all over Western Canada from 1918 to 1948. My mother was born in Victoria, BC in 1931.
These two men and their past service were the reason that Remembrance Day has a personal resonance. For the past two years, I’ve gone down to the Cenotaph in Victory Square to take part in the Remembrance Day ceremony. This year, I slept in and just watched it on TV.
It used to be a passion of mine to record my family history in my blogs and in a family tree, but in recent years, I have mostly given up that responsibility.
Not long after my Mother died in 1995, I felt a strong urge to record my family’s story. Something in me felt a burning desire to record our stories before they were forgotten. I would have been about 29 or 30 at that time. I was happily married since 1989, my career was exciting and unique, I had just started paying for my own condo, and I still felt like a creative person – almost like an artist-designer.
Well, now it’s over 20 years later, and I’ve practically lost my drive to write the family story. Originally, it must have had something to do with being young and driven, feeling like a standard-bearer, feeling like the one to whom this responsibility had been passed; feeling like I had to be the wise and responsible young man.
There came a day in my mid-to-late forties when I realized that of all the feelings I had about my parents and my upbringing, resentment and regret were the predominant ones. I simply resented our failed family and our unhappy, chaotic upbringing. After the true depth of my Dad’s secret crimes had been discussed and processed, I grew sick of it all. Sick of feeling afraid of him, and sick of my mother’s silence, absence and mental illness. My largest feelings became that they were just broken, selfish people, and it became hard to generate love for their memory in my heart anymore.
The other night, I tried to remember the month and year that Mum almost died from alcohol poisoning. This is a major mile marker in the road of my story, and something I’ve talked or written about a lot over the years. And I couldn’t remember when it happened. That was kind of terrifying. I’d always prided myself on my memory, and my ability to tell a story. Now, as I’d originally feared, little pieces of the narrative were starting to grow weak and fall away. Was it disuse, or just age? I turned Fifty last March.
Maybe I’ve burned out on Mum and Dad. Dozens of years after their deaths, perhaps we’re finally estranged. Maybe I’m the last one practicing my own oral history, and I’m starting to lose the words to the passage of time. Maybe it’s a natural way to let go of old baggage.
All I can think to do to counteract this is to keep writing it down. But now, I’ll tell myself the truth: I’m writing for my own sake – not for anyone else’s.