Friday, November 7, 2014

A season's end

Last commute of 2014, Monday, November 3, 0-C.

Or was it? Or is it?

It's hard to say really.  You don't know it until commuting ceases to be an option for a certain number of days.

Taking the scoot out for an aimless tootle, or a trip to the doctor, or a jaunt to the store is always a possibility.  But commuting is another kettle of fish.  I have to look at the hourly forecast in the morning and decide.  If there's rain forecast at either end of the day, and the mercury is hovering around zero, it's probably not a great idea.  That's why I admire Steve and Keith.  They commute on those days, whereas I sit them out behind the wheel of my Civic.

Oh well.

Wednesday I worked from home in the morning because I had a doctor's appointment.  Taking the Vespa to see my GP was a no-brainer.

I took a long-cut on the way home and rode over to the military cemetery in Pointe Claire to visit my grandfather's grave in the National Field of Honor.  There wasn't another soul.

Soldiers give so much, and yet, in death, their graves are among the most modest.
There are a lot of soldiers buried in this place.  The common denominator for the majority is that they served with Canadian or British forces in World War I, World War II or the Korean War.

The only sign of recognition on this day are dozens and dozens of Polish flags marking the graves of free Polish servicemen. These soldiers escaped Poland at the outset of Word War II and enlisted with the British army.  Poland has not forgotten their service, even though their final resting place is here in Montreal.
"Capt. George Terroux / 1877 - 1947 / 22nd Regiment C.E.F.".  That's all the inscription says.  The Royal 22nd Regiment of the Canadian Expeditionary Force is the storied Van Doos regiment that made a big name for itself in the second world war.

The headstone, like all the others here, is level with the ground, overshadowed by the grass, and littered with wet and rotting leaves.

I remember coming here when I was four, with my grandmother, my mother and my father.  On Remembrance Day.  We always came here on Remembrance Day.  My god how the cold and damp penetrates a four-year-old's body here on Remembrance Day.  58 years later on November 5th, it has the same effect, or would have but for my riding gear.

If you come here on a Memorial Day weekend in late May, you'll see countless American flags fluttering discretely across the cemetery, more numerous than the Polish flags I see here now.  The US doesn't forget its servicemen either.  There are a lot of flyers here.  Most of the Americans here served in the RAF and the RCAF before the US joined the Allies in World War II.  It's a surprise to see Poles and Americans buried here.  There's no doubt a hundred stories well worth the telling buried beneath the lush green grass.

Georges Terroux (his first name is misspelled on his headstone) was gassed in France in 1916, but survived.  Otherwise I wouldn't be writing this.  My mother told me of long walks she took with her father along lonely dirt roads in the country.  She never said exactly where.  My grandfather walked with a German officer's Luger in his hand.  My grandmother told the story of how my grandfather came to own the pistol.  It's a tragic story, but as a child I thought it was neat.  Along the way, my grandfather would shoot at crows as he walked with his daughter.  When my mother would tell that story, I always thought it peculiar.  What would my grandfather have against crows, I wondered.  Only much, much later would I understand.  I wonder if my mother understood.  I imagine she did.  We never discussed it.

My grandfather would be relieved.  There isn't a crow in sight here.

In a few days' time, there will be soldiers here.  An honour guard.  A twenty one gun salute.  And then a lone bugler will play the Last Post.  I'll be in the office, 30 kms away, but my thoughts will be here.
The flag on this last outpost flies at half-staff.  We lost soldiers on Canadian soil just a few days ago.  The memory of what it means for a soldier to serve has been brought home in all its stark reality.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

8 comments:

  1. Nice post about Remembrance Dave! As to season end....just ask Steve W which type of snow tires he gets for his scoot....you'll be fine.

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    1. Heidenau, I think.

      I rode into town today. When I ask Siri what the temperature is, she says "Brrrrr! It's three degrees Celsius".

      Delete
  2. Nice, thoughtful post. And time to look for the Snowtex scooter tires...

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    Replies
    1. There's a law here making snow tires on all four wheels compulsory after December 15 unti March 15. Most people think that rules PTWs out. That's because they don't know that such things exist. Most cops don't know either.

      Riding after December 15 would likely mean contesting a ticket.

      Delete
  3. As we approach our Veteran's Day I salute your post!

    I love to visit cemeteries and ponder the lives of those who've gone on before us.

    What if we had a way to "know" all their stories as we gazed upon their headstones? That would be something.

    Thank you for sharing...

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    Replies
    1. Deb our blogs could survive and tell as much of our story as we care to tell ourselves.

      Bob's blog has transitioned after a fashion.

      How long before many headstones have QR codes?

      Delete
  4. I look forward to the day I can once again ride commute.

    These are good things to remember David, thank you.

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The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.