Today is a day we commonly reserve for remembrance. Being a Canadian of German, British, and Icelandic descent, this day has always been about more than just honoring the surviving members of the Allied forces. In my family, the losses from the German side of my family were far greater, and far further reaching. Allied Forces members in my family were able to return to their home countries, while my relatives who were survivors of the German army were released from war camps only realize they no longer held a citizenship to any country. Furthermore only a few of my family were able to immigrate to Canada–as “Displaced Peoples”, or “DP’s”. Others were dispersed across a country that would fast become divided and isolated by a notorious Wall and Iron Curtain. To this day, I have relatives I am not likely ever to meet because the war, and the cold war, did such a thorough job of dispersing my cousins orphaned and displaced.
I do feel tremendously blessed to know and have known the precious few relatives I’ve met. Today, while many remember “The War”, I remember the survivors. I remember the stories my Tante told me of her life in Germany during the war, and as a “DP” after the war. My Tante was the tiniest woman I know, and she used to always tease me by saying “good things come in small packages”. My Tante was far more than a “good thing”: to me she was the epitome of strength, love, compassion, generosity, bravery, tenacity and grace. My Onkel was the “Veteran”, but to me they were both heroes.
The following is an excerpt from Survival of the Flirting Impaired that, I hope, sheds a little light on how the strength and tenacity of spirit of those we “remember” impact our lives every day:
…I remember discussing relationships a while back with my mom’s cousin’s wife. Her mother-in-law was my Tante. We were trying to pinpoint that magic formula Tante and Onkel had. My sister was in the throes of her divorce, and I couldn’t help but feel daunted by the rising divorce rate. After all, marriage seems to be the leading cause of divorce. My cousin shared with me what she learned thus far—and she emphasized the point that she was still learning and, God willing, would never, ever be done learning. She said that wine and romance is fi ne and still holds a place in a happy marriage—but it does not exist in the everyday. To expect that every day is to facilitate being single—in some way, shape, or form. She said that the vows identify both the wine and roses and the farts and burps. (Okay, she didn’t say “farts and burps” exactly, but that is what she meant.) That is what “for better or worse” is all about. She also reminded me that if we waited for people to be perfect before we loved them, we would spend a lifetime being lonely souls. These things are easy to talk about in theory; it is living them out that takes the real muscle. That, we figured out, was Tante and Onkel’s secret. They survived a world war, its aftermath, and immigration to a new country together. Through their challenges, they learned a lot about choosing their battles. After all, how important is it that he forgets to put the toilet seat down when you take into consideration the life-and-death battles fought in the years before they could afford a home with indoor plumbing? We are very fortunate because we do not know war and poverty as our older generations do. In some way, though, that lack of hardship makes our challenges a little more difficult: We have to work harder at building those muscles to the same strength.….