To the editor:
I always see my neighbour Jackie across the street when I’m strolling with my daughter or watching my son run his RC car. He’s usually mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, or raking leaves; and mostly it takes him the whole afternoon because he moves at the speed of a glacier. Well, a retreating glacier may be more correct given the climate change crisis.
And every time I walk over to say, “Hi Jackie, how’s everything?”, he replies, “Still alive—not bad for 95 years old huh?” To which I always respond, “You’re looking good Jackie—really good. And your yard is beautiful!”
Jackie starts by talking about the trees that he planted 40 years ago, and goes into detail about their variety and why he chose them. He tells me about his lifelong career with the school district as a landscape foreman. “Well, that was after I came home from the war,” he reminds me. You see, Jackie is one of those few remaining living soldiers that landed on the beaches of Normandy on that fateful morning of June 6th, 1944. D-Day.
Jackie spends more time talking about his yard, his son, and his trees, than he does about the war- It wasn’t great for him. The memories surge and swell in his mind like the crushing waves of a cold English sea. He struggles to remember the details; or chooses not to. He drove a munitions truck, and so he wasn’t the first to rush into the barrage of German gun fire. But offloading a heavy military truck onto the blood soaked sands, and trying to navigate the tires around the beached corpses of men who raised glasses the night before can leave a man escaping. I suppose we choose what to remember and what to leave buried. They say it’s a coping mechanism so that we can move on, and lead fruitful lives.
Remembrance Day is over now as I write these few words. But I think that I write this in honour of Jackie. When the world puts their poppies back into their top drawers, closet shelves, glove boxes or recycling bins; we tend to forget. And when we see an old timer like Jackie, pushing his mower, one wobbly step at a time, we need only to know that he continues to live his Remembrance Day; and does so each day of his life.
And as Jackie nears the end of his life’s journey, his only valuable message is one of peace, harmony and love. He says that God gave us such a beautiful world in which to share; and that we should embrace each other, and not hurt one another. His final message is always the same as we say goodbye, and he returns to his yard. And each morning, when I draw open the curtains, I see his majestic trees, and manicured lawn and I’m reminded of his words, my great fortune, and the value of remembrance.
Saverio Sasso, Kelowna