I'm not sure just how different my brat upbringing was due to my relationships with my grandfathers was from those without grandfathers, but I know I got a lot less time with them than most of my civilian friends did with theirs.
Many of my memories of my grandfathers are positive, most. They were men from a different time, tended to be a lot tougher and more serious than I am as a grandfather. I believe that was shaped by their wartime experiences. Both went to Europe early in WWII and neither came home until the conflict was over.
My mom's dad was an infanteer with the Royal Canadian Regiment and, rumour has it, he was a D-Day dodger, shunted off to Italy while the liberation of France was started. Through my studies, I know these men had no easier time digging the Germans out of their defensive lines as they pushed north, than the men storming the beaches of Normandy. I have not been able to confirm much of this grandfather's service as the archives were not able to locate any record for him even though I have his regimental number. Likely this is one of the fallacies of having a common name, James Campbell.
Too, I have no memories of him ever sharing any of his wartime experiences with me. As a kid, I would have drank up that knowledge so I guess he was like so many of our veterans, just happy to have survived the event and unwilling to dwell on it. He has my highest esteem for whatever part he played.
My dad's dad was a Kangaroo tank driver, sometimes elevated to commander. I know this because I have read Action Reports that he wrote. Also, he shared with me, one time only I believe, about some of what he experienced during his service. It wasn't pretty and he was scarred. I believe when he shared with me about some of his crew-mates being killed when his tank was hit by enemy fire, was the first time I had seen a man cry. There was no shame. I was actually quite proud that he could share that with me. I remember it whenever life overtakes me and I shed a few tears of my own. No shame in that.
He was also an accomplished boxer, golden gloves if what I have heard is true. I know he could use his fists from stories related by my grandmother, his wife, about his antics after he returned from the war. He possessed a considerable jealous streak and would not abide any man being inappropriate with his wife. And being inappropriate could be something as minor as speaking with her. Lord forbid a man put a comforting arm around her shoulders when she was upset due to him fighting with some other man. He wasn't very big, so most of those he took on were larger than himself. He wasn't deterred and, I am told, he never lost.
Now, none of this is to say my grandfathers were saints. They were human, just like the rest of us. I do recall one coming home after a night at the pub and not being very pleased that this grandson (me) was still up, watching TV. He proceeded to turn the TV off with his boot. Not one of my fondest memories. I learned as well that one of my grandfathers sired a son while in England. As I understand it, this wasn't too uncommon a consequence of lonely men away from their families for such a long time under extremely trying conditions but, times were different then, values more stringent. My grandmother never forgave him, although she never left him. However, they are buried in different cities. I don't judge these men by their history, but I keep it in mind to temper my overall images of them. I am sad that there is a blood relative overseas that I have no chance of connecting with.
Both of my grandfathers smoked heavy, drank too much, and could be short with brat grandkids. But they also gave good hugs, imparted wisdom, and let their hair get messed by little hands. I am sad they died too young. I would have liked to speak with them as an adult.
Best though, they helped raise my parents to be the wonderful people who raised me.
I will hold valuable, my memories of fishing, cutting their grass, helping to insulate the shed, sitting on the front porch while marrow is dug out of a beef bone with a small pocketknife and fed to the dog. These men are a part of me and I try to reflect their best parts.
What fond memories do you have of your grandfathers?
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