This Remembrance Day Thursday, I am thankful for my grandfather.

He’s the one on the left in this photo. He fought in Germany and Belgium in World War II, and apocryphal family legend has it that he was the only Captain ever to accept the unconditional surrender of a German U-Boat.

Most of what he did in the war is apocryphal. He didn’t talk about it much. I suspect he came back with PTSD, but we didn’t have a name for it back then. I only know that he wanted order and quiet at all times.

He was not a demonstrative father. My father’s childhood memories of kindly older, well, father figures, were not of his own father. I guess that’s why dad tried so hard to be a part of our childhoods, hugging and sharing and generally being there for us.

My own relationship with my grandfather was all right. He called me ‘pet’ and ‘sugar mouse’, because I used to steal pinches out of the sugar bowl. The monkey taught me that. I used to look at my grandpa’s wall of sabres and guns and knives and stuff (on display in the den, as you do), and wonder about my very pacifist household.

My favourite memory of him is a picture in my mind of him playing poker with his buddies. I had sneaked down the staircase at their house, where I was sleeping over. Looking into the oak-paneled dining room, I could see him focused on his cards and chips, wreathed in cigar smoke and lit by the purple stained glass lamp suspended above the table. He never saw me watching him, but older me strongly suspects that he loved poker night. It was a chance to find something ‘normal’ to do, in a world that was different from the one he expected.

I’m thankful for my grandpa and all the soldiers who fought to keep their children’s and their children’s children safe. Even at the risk of not knowing what to do with them, when they came home from the war.

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