It is real

Soldiers, war, veterans, the military – all of these were abstract concepts growing up. They were pieces and parts of other people’s lives, other people’s histories, other people’s experiences.

Sure, our Pepere, our mother’s dad, served in the Navy. And yes, our Avô, our father’s dad served in the army. But that was ages ago, long before our parents were married and before any of us were twinkles in eyes (EW).

It wasn’t talked about in great detail. The sepia pictures of them as young men in uniform adorned shelves in their respective living rooms, certificates were brought out sometimes, but the idea, the concept, the reality never ever sunk in for me. It happened then to them. Such a long time ago, such a great distance ago.

In school, Remembrance Day was a time for us to reflect on the sacrifices of others who did heroic things in the name of our freedom that we enjoyed in the present day. History class was filled with complicated explanations of politics that lead to wars that lead to young men and women serving in capacities that are beyond understanding for someone like me who has never had to endure any sort of conflict of that scale. And literature was filled with imagery and emotion and recollection spun in story and portrayed again in a distanced sort of way. Out there, back then, not here, but for us. 

And then I met and fell in love with Ben and his family. His military family. The family where most of the men, the majority, the rule not the exception, had served in some capacity in the army. Overseas and here at home; in active duty and in the reserves; in the middle of a war zone far away and training troops a province away; in the past, now retired and presently, currently as I type; fathers and sons; cousins and brothers. It was no longer an abstract concept. It was real. It is real. 

Nathan - Military

Nathan and crew

When Ben and I got married, his brother-cousin, Nathan, was in the bridal party and almost had to be in his military dress for the ceremony because he may not have had time to get his tux before coming home from training for the wedding. Brother-cousin Olen trained troops in Manitoba and served in other capacities as a reservist. We attended Ben’s cousin, Albert, and his beautiful wife, Becky’s wedding on the military base where Albert was serving (they’re now in Alberta on another base serving in a new capacity). Cousin Chris served in Afghanistan. Both of Ben’s uncles have served and since retired from the military. Both Ben’s brother Todd and his cousin Alex survived basic training and worked as reservists. It is real. 

Albert - Military

Albert and crew

These are not small things, even though they didn’t make headlines and no one is in the middle of a war zone at this very moment. And beyond that there are men and women serving right now in various capacities, in various countries and regions and situations, trying to make a difference, fighting for freedoms that aren’t obviously in danger, helping people shore up against famine, disease, disaster, and political upheaval. Lending hands to the world and serving us at home, away from their families and their homes and their comfort. Dying and living in service. They have been, they are, they will be. And it is real.

Chris - Military

Chris and crew

Remembrance Day means something more for me now than it used to because I have faces and names to people fighting and fought, serving and served, but the thing is, it should have always meant something because for every troop and their family it is real. Even if you don’t agree with the battle being waged, the reasons for the serving, the government that sent them, or even the people that are being served, it is real. 

This year, every year, every day remember that somewhere someone is giving of themselves for a greater something and their loved ones are left behind, sacrificing along with them without them. And that they are not treading a new path. That they are walking in the shoes of all those who fought and served before them. And that they are lighting the way for future service.

It is real. And it is yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Pin your poppy and stand in silence tomorrow, but remember always.

~ Julia

P.S. I know that this video is a Christmas song, but the voices of the troops sending love home makes it real for me over and over again. I pray for the day that they’ll all be home, all at once. I know it’s a fool’s dream, a wish for heaven, essentially, but it’s in my naive heart all the same.

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Boys

So, we have someone staying with us. Joe works at a shop as a first year apprentice mechanic. His boss is an awesome guy who treats Joe and me like family. When Joe’s cousin Mike was having trouble at his old work (he is a fully licensed mechanic), Joe and I invited him to come over for the weekend. Joe usually works or hangs out at the shop on weekends, and his boss has told me countless times that I am welcome to hang out whenever. So with that fateful weekend, we all went to the shop, and Mike and Joe worked on an intake for a van, and Mike had a job offer.

It seemed perfect – Mike was cool with picking up Joe in the morning and they carpool to work, and we were all good with Mike staying with us when he wanted. I didn’t think this one through completely.

I love Mike – he is a great guy, treats me like family, and I can talk to him about anything. It’s easy semi-living with him.

The hard part is me. As my sisters can agree, I am not a joy and sunshine to deal with or live with. I am difficult and sometimes very uncaring towards other people. I have worked on this greatly since high school when I last lived with them, and moving out in college and living with strangers helped this. I have worked on being more patient with people, and while I don’t mind having him around, it’s more I don’t have a chance to actually be my morning self, which is less than the upbeat person I am after a coffee, or at least a tea. I am not a joy in the mornings, and most likely all you will get from me is a grunt. The first day I woke up and wandered out to the living room, I was immediately bombarded with questions about if I was okay, if anything was wrong, if Mike could help in any way, and then he looked to Joe completely worried. Joe patted his cousin on the shoulder, shook his head, and said, “Welcome to Andi in the morning.”

The other thing is that now I spend quite a bit of time alone. I like hanging out with friends, or spending time with people, and I miss the alone time that I used to get with Joe. I miss our dancing in the living room when dinner is just finished cooking. I miss getting the singular play by play of the day, but now I am treated to the double whammy of Joe and Mike both telling me the same story, and often more than once because they seem to be getting more forgetful.

Now, I am complaining a bit here, but on the other hand, I love having Mike around. When I don’t feel like playing video games Mike is always up for another round. When we all have gone out grocery shopping, the boys don’t let me carry anything up to our apartment, or out to the vehicle. It is also really nice that I have more than one person enjoying my cooking.

So, while it is an adjustment to having another body around, and another person to talk to, and another person to hang out with, it is bittersweet. I get to know Joe’s favourite cousin more with each day, but I still half-miss the nights alone, just me and Joe.

In the end, though, it comes down to the fact that I get to spend time with some new family, and I get to see Joe enjoying having his cousin around.

Now, if I could only stop worrying when they start beating each other up and when they gang up on me, then everything would be awesome.

*sigh*

~ Andreah