A new mini-series…
From Managing Editor, Kate
My grandparents worked and lived in Montreal. My grandfather was a radio personality, and my grandmother worked as a receptionist, though she did her share of on-air recording as well. They moved within the same, rather glamorous crowd in Montreal, and often met both professionally and socially, but they never ‘courted’ (that’s my grandmother’s word for it). When World War II broke out, and Canada was called to action, my grandfather wanted to sign up to Officer’s training, but he’d never graduated from high school. He may not have had a diploma, but he had lots of friends – one of whom was a principal. So my grandfather dropped his age by 5 years, and got a shiny new high school diploma. He trained in Canada and earned a Captain’s rank, but there were already too many captains on the continent, so he dropped down to a lieutenant rank before shipping out.
Before he left, he took my grandmother aside and told her that he loved her and that he wanted to marry her when he got back. My grandmother was a little taken aback by this development, but (these are her words) as he was such a tall and handsome man, she agreed.
Then my grandfather went off and fought with the Canadian Armed Forces for five years, eventually earning a Major rank. He and my grandmother wrote back and forth. When the war was over, my grandfather was devastated by the wreck that the war left behind, so he stayed behind to help with the clean up. He spent a great deal of time in the Netherlands, and some of the tulips that are in the Ottawa gardens are there because of him.
It was unclear when he was going to return, and my grandmother was not a patient woman. Every time he extended his say, she got angrier and angrier. Finally, he came home but he didn’t tell her which boat he was on. He had friends pick him up. She didn’t know he was home until they passed on the message.
He said that he didn’t want to go to her with the stench of war still on him.
She said that he was an idiot and that she didn’t know if she wanted to marry him.
We were never made privy to my grandfather’s apology (though, it should be said that my grandmother had a beautiful jewellery collection), but they were married later that year. They were the toast of Montreal, and held glittering, social parties. I still have a copy of the wedding card that Oscar Peterson sent to them.
And, just to add a romance novel style twist: my grandmother was never supposed to be able to have children. It’s why she was single to what was considered a late age at the time. However, 2 years later, my mom came along, a little miracle baby to cement a love that lasted until my grandfather died of Parkinson’s a year before I was born and then beyond until my grandmother died just over 10 years ago.
I love stories like this. I could spend hours talking about the past with my father. He passed quite a few years ago but I find I love telling my kids the stories he told me and some of my own and they love to listen to them.
Is that the Oscar Peterson the pianist? I grew up listening to him. My father was a huge fan. 🙂
sure was. He was a Canadian jazz pianist, and my grandparents were some of the first to get behind him and his music.
Beautiful story, and for me a connection as my parents, both Dutch, married during the war. Some in my family were resistance fighters. So touching to read your grandfather gave his valuable time to help clean up when he could have been at home with the woman he loved. It says a lot about the man.
Hey, wow, that’s very cool. My grandfather received a medal for his work, but he refused it. Said that nothing that happens in a war is medal-worthy. I’d love to hear about some of your family’s stories!
Ah, such a lovely story and talk about twists and turns…someone should make a book of it 🙂 Thank’s for sharing.
I love hearing stories of the romances that emerged despite those dark times. Thank you for sharing!