My grandfather was a bit of a war hero, apparently. But that may only have been in the memories of his children. But it is only in the memories of children that heroes really exist, don’t you think? I knew his children, of course. One of them was my father…. and he was, without question, a war hero. I have all the medals locked away somewhere in case I have to prove that to anybody one day. But why would I have to prove that? Certainly my father had no particular interest in proving it.
But neither my grandfather nor my father were killed in their wars (they took it in turns not to be killed, in fact), and I am very grateful for that. They both came back from unimaginably horrific experiences of human conflict and told jokes for the rest of their lives. I still tell some of their jokes and pretend that they are my own.
Anyway …. when D’verse suggested 144 words based on a particular quote from a D.H. Lawrence poem I tried to think about the possibility of my grandfather killed in the war that did not, as it turns out, end all wars.
We look at him through the wrong end of the long telescope of time, as slowly he moves further out of focus. Little reflections bouncing off the walls catch our attention, but vanish before we can capture them and treasure them secretly as memories of our own. So we paint pretty pictures of him in our minds and pretend.
An innocent little boy writing love letters to his mother from kindergarten.
The joy of a toddler introduced to his new baby sister.
The nervous little hero in his army uniform.
The lens becomes misty in the fog of our collective recollection. Or perhaps is it a tear in our eye that distorts the picture.
For now he is forever gone. Taken by an enemy that he never really knew or understood.
And suddenly we realise that we never really knew or understood him, either.
Incidentally. The first few lines of this (as required) come from the D.H. Lawrence poem ‘Hummingbird’. Coincidentally, a very close friend of Lawrence, Henry Miller, wrote a book entitled Stand Still Like the Hummingbird, and I commend it to you all.