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AFTER THE TEARS essay
by Richard L. Provencher
6/20/2008 / Relationships
You, Adelard Donat Provencher joined the RCAF as a Leading Aircraftman
Can.R154453 February 12, 1942. You joined hundreds of thousands of young
Canadians, in a great cause.
"I fought for your freedom," you told me when I visited you in the hospital after your lung operation in 1995.
You never thought you would make it to 80, chum. But you did, in spite of a lung cancer operation more than four years before. Love carried you right to the end. It meant being married fifty-eight years to your wife Mildred, my mother. And you left behind five children, twelve grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
I remember feelings of sadness mixed with memory burning inside my chest after your sudden death in Toronto April 26, 1999.
I'm glad you survived that extra four years. It gave me a chance to get to know you a little better, and ask forgiveness for not visiting you more often. I didn't know much about you when I was growing up. It was the same for a lot of kids whose fathers returned from the war.
Forty World War 2 veterans settled in the veteran's town site in Rouyn, Quebec. Since many men came back with so much hurting, all the children became part of one large family.
After your release from Active Service September 21, 1945 mom said you were a changed man. It was many years before you were able to tell me a little about the horrors of war. You had been assigned to British Intelligence working with our Bomber squadrons, in London, England.
"Terrible memories," you said filled your thoughts, especially during the Blitz on London, where so many died. You told me it was heartbreaking to see photo results from massive allied raids launched in retaliation against the foe.
Worrying about casualties among women and children on both sides must have torn you up inside.
In fact, after all the years I knew you dad, you really didn't want to speak about the war. Perhaps that's why you had a hard time, sharing your feelings. You kept too much inside, like so many veterans who were more comfortable turning to the Canadian Legion for understanding.
Such a shame the bottle was used as a way of forgetting.
I didn't make it to the November 11 Remembrance ceremonies in 1999. You missed out on the parade, and the dwindling ranks of old veterans marching to the beat of drums held by young military cadets. And you missed seeing the wreaths placed by dignitaries, surviving widows, and grey-haired vets.
Imagine, there was a two-minute wave of silence that year, from coast to coast. I remember that day so well. At the time, a poll taken indicated 87% of Canadians would observe November 11 ceremonies across this great country.
I could not be one of them, since you were not able to participate.
I stayed home, just sitting in my living room in Truro, Nova Scotia. And thinking about you as I watched your smile from a picture hanging over the fireplace mantle.
On November 11, 1999 there was only you and I in the room, father and oldest son. I wanted to spend some time alone with the father I love.
And to remember
Like the time you took me fishing in 1950 when fishing rods were scarce. We tied our 25 lb. test line to a rock held firmly under one foot. Then we flung the balance of the line along with a metal lure into the water before pulling back, hand over hand.
Of course, my knot let go causing lure and line to travel to the center of the lake. I was eight and you weren't angry.
Remember the day we went to Moose Bay Beach? You were so happy to see your family enjoying themselves. Sand, and sparkling water helped you forget that you were away from your family for three years and seven months, away at war. And that day, my dog Prince ate our pile of bologna sandwiches.
Boy, all of us took to the water very quickly, running from mom who screeched in an unhappy manner.
As a teenager I was very angry with you. I questioned your caring about our family, after the war, when you often had to go away to find work. Mining names like Kerr-Addison, Chibougamou, Seven Islands and Malartic were places stretched throughout northern Ontario and Quebec.
Love was your lifeline to us dad, through your paycheck. It kept us going, by paying the rent, and buying food and clothes.
I found out much later when I grew up and became a man, how many sacrifices you made. And how you risked your life everyday as a "dynamite man," tackling those veins of ore. Mom told me after the funeral, the Canadian Legion invited you a couple of years before to a supper in Toronto.
And you didn't go. You were supposed to receive a special award for your participation in the war. It was just like you dad, never one to brag. It was nothing you probably thought, simply doing your duty.
Well, I disagree dad. You're one special guy to me. You're my dad and I still love you so much. I know you're here beside me, right now as I write this story. And I know you'll be with me, and my wife year after year.
We did go to the Remembrance ceremonies the following year, to place a wreath with your name on it, because you were our hero. And we missed you so much. My wife, Esther and I laid that wreath in your honor, dad. It was a memory vivid in my mind, on Nov. 11, 2000 in Truro, Nova Scotia.
It seemed like everyone in town was there. And my tears fell in the grass. When they evaporated, I knew they met yours halfway. It was really a very special day for me dad.
As I think of that moment, with sounds of Reveille across the blue sky, I can still see your smile and hear your laughter in the room. And I still miss you.
Love, from your son.
* * *
Richard L. Provencher 2005
Richard enjoys writing poems; many of which have been published in Print and Online. He and his wife, Esther are also co-authors of stories and a print novel. They are "born again" Christians and very busy in their church, Abundant Life Victory International, in Bible Hill, Nova Scotia.
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