Sunday, November 09, 2008

A day to remember

Here, and in other Commonwealth countries it is Remembrance Day. Colloquially known as 'poppy day' this is a day originally set aside on the date of the Armistice in World War 1 to remember those who lost their lives in war.
On the nearest Sunday ( today) there is a formal parade along Whitehall at which representatives from political parties lay wreaths and then there is a walk past with wreaths from all the service organisations. Military bands play.

I make it a habit to watch this, especially looking out for the group from BLESMA ( British Limbless Ex Serviceman's Association). My maternal Grandfather, a career officer and keen rugby man, fought with the Scots Guards in the Second World War. In Italy he stepped on a landmine and lost his leg. He returned to find that all the money he had sent home to his parents to help him establish a life with the woman who was to become my Granny had been spent.
These circumstances did not deter him. He trained as a social worker, specialising in mental health work and moved around the country, building up to his final position as Director of Social Services for Cumbria ( a large country in the North of England).He often helped people with problems on his own time and with his own money.
He also played tennis doubles with my Granny ,with her covering the net and him making the ground strokes from the baseline. One day they were resoundingly beating a man called Jim Boardman and his partner when Grandad overreached and fell to the ground. Granny rushed over to him and shouted, "He's broken his leg!". Jim jumped the net to rush to help and was rather disconcerted when Granny said, "I'll just go and get the spare from the car boot." Jim apparently was later heard in the club house muttering, "It was bad enough being beaten, its even worse now I know it was by a one legged man."

When I was twelve I had done a project at school on monasteries. I had gone to town on it producing a file of reporting that went far beyond the requirements of the assignment. Granny and Grandad, newly returned and taking the opportunity to visit friends across the country turned up at our house unexpectedly a day or two later on their way home. I showed him the file and the commendation my teacher had given me. I remember him sitting looking at it and seriously discussing my naive declaration that I was going to write a book about monasteries. He made me feel it was entirely sensible that I should declare such a thing.

Just a few days later he died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 62. The loss of his leg did put strain on his body and his ability in later years to continue the exercise he had been able to manage as a young man and no doubt contributed to his death. I miss him still. I never did write a book about monasteries but when at the age of 25 I got my first book contract ( for a self help book about domestic violence) I dedicated it to him. Today he is not here to parade but he is not forgotten.


Herbert Eric Causey, you are remembered with love.

8 comments:

Jude said...

Thank you Helen, what a wonderful post. Brings it home,all the trials many men and their families endured.

Gerrie said...

Thank you for reminding us of the heroism of those dark days. In the States, we have Veteran's day and lovely elder veterans and their spouses sell poppies with the proceeds going to vet's needs.

Denise in PA said...

What a story. He sounds like such a wonderful man. Brought a tear to my eye.

Jennifer said...

Beautiful, Helen. Thank you very much for sharing this. I'm not surprised to hear such stories about your grandfather because I hear flashes of you in all of that (I think he would have had a good laugh and a story to tell you back, had you been able to recount your tunneling-out-of-the-loo story to him).

Let's do plan a day, soon, for collaborative work and encouragement; any dates seem good to you?

Laura Jane said...

Great story Helen, having a bit of a sniff. He sounds terrific, I'm glad you remember him so clearly.

I have a great uncle buried in a war cemetery in France from WWI. I can see his grave over the inetrnet, as the Australian War Graves crowd have put it all online.

Lest we forget.

whitestone said...

What a lovely tribute to your grandfather. What a lovely man he must have been.

Kristin L said...

That tennis story cracks me up! What a strong man he must have been and so deserving of our remembrance. Thanks for sharing.

Diane said...

That's such a nice remembrance of your grandfather. Isn't it interesting how the people who took us seriously as kids really resonate? I have an uncle about whom I have similar feelings for that same reason. And I do love the tennis story -- I'll think of that next time I hear someone talk about breaking a leg!