My Grandpa and the War
I remember being very young when I found out that my Grandpa had fought in the war. My Dad (knowing I would question my Grandpa to no end) warned me not to ask him about it, that he did not talk about that part of his life. Of course, that only made me want to know more!
One thing you should know is that we (my siblings) we the first set of Grand-children in the family. Things changed as the years went on, but at that time, a visit to my Grandparents home went like this:
Rule #1: Do not speak unless you are spoken to.
Rule #2: Always remember Rule #1.
The problem was, Grandpa was a man of few words. I can remember him in his chair, reading the newspaper, and me sitting on the floor, waiting... just waiting for him to say anything. And then I would get to ask all those questions I had. Sometimes it would take an hour for him to finish with that paper, and now that I am older I know he was probably seeing how long before I would get tired of sitting there and give up and go outside to play with everyone else. But it didn't happen. Ever. I waited. Always.
The paper would get folded, and put on the side table and he would look down at me.
AH HA! My patience paid off. Every visit, the same thing. And it started off with the same question.
"Grandpa, did you find out what type of Indian we are yet?"
"Doesn't anyone know?"
"I'll try to find the letter"
The letter. That blasted piece of paper that would let me know about my roots. A letter inviting him to be a part of a ceremony, and smoke a peace pipe in honor of someone in our family!
"OK, I hope were are Iroquois" and "Or maybe our family knew Louis Riel!"
He wanted nothing more than for me to go away. My Grandfather was the last person in our family that you could look at, and know there was Native blood in him. His children all had dark hair but no distinct look about them, and once the grand-children came, well....I'm a red-head.
For whatever reason, he did not want to let me in on that part of his family. He passed away recently, and on my last visit with him, I was desperate, I knew this was my last chance to get an answer. I never did...he would "make a call and let me know." It didn't happen.
I later learned that being a Native in the armed forces when he was, wasn't easy. He wasn't even half-blooded. But the stigma (I guess that's what you'd call it) was there. My Dad said it was rough on Grandpa. Maybe that is when his reluctance to acknowledge his roots started? All I know is he was treated differently than other people in the Army.
When I got older he told me one thing about the war.
It was about a good friend. In one sentence he said, "I watched his face get blown off."
After that he said he stayed drunk and doesn't remember a thing.
My Dad told me sometime during the war, a man (high-up in the ranks) took a liking to Grandpa and got him to be his driver. Dad said that Grandpa spent most of his time driving this man to various bars and whore-houses. (Seriously)
It wasn't until his funeral that I found out he drove a tank. There was an amazing picture of a tank nearing the top of a hill, the front half of it in the air. Underneath it said he was driving it.
I asked if anyone found "the letter" or any information, when they went through his belongings. Nothing.
That's all I know. He wanted to forget. I don't suppose you can ever forget something like that. He lied about his age. He was 14 years old when he enlisted. When I look at my nephews, I can't imagine them at that age, fighting in a war. He wanted to go.
I spent yesterday thinking about him. Wishing I had the chance to call him up and thank him.
As I said before, he was a man of few words, but when he spoke, he had something to say, he never "went on" about anything. And it was always worth the wait. The trouble is, I'm still waiting for some answers, and if we "meet" again, he's still not off the hook!
So, thank you Grandpa, for everything.