A Post For My Dad
First posted May 2016
Last weekend I had a very profound experience. For years my Dad, Roger, has been talking about taking a rather important trip to Normandy, where his dad, Eric Faulkner is buried. Eric was killed, after D-day, on July 18th 1944, when Roger was just 9 months old. Dad has never seen his grave, so my brother Sean called me last year and expressed the importance of making this happen. So we put a date in the diary and Sean got it sorted.
Though I knew it was an important thing to do, I had no idea how it was going to be. As a family we all get on really well, but I can’t remember the last time just my brother, my dad and I had spent any time together. I knew it would all be fine but there was a part of me that thought that I might find the museums and ‘war stuff’, the things we were doing other than the cemetery visit, a bit boring. It seems I was rather wrong about this.
The morning after our first slightly boozy evening in Caen, we headed to the war museum. We opted for the audio guide and, to be honest, in my slightly tired and hung-over state, there was part of my will that dipped when there was a mention of it lasting a number of ‘hours’. I psychologically prepared and mentally strapped myself in. However, it soon became apparent that this was to become a very important day for me.
When I was growing up my brother was into all things military, big time. Being into Action Men when I was more into Mr Men, reading Commando when I read Beano, and dreaming of joining the army (A dream that was, unfortunately not to be, but he became an amazing fire fighter, to the gain of many), when I wanted to ponce about on stage. Making him far more of a man than me, I think you’ll agree.
I normally find museums a bit boring to be honest, so I was expecting to feel the same when we began our tour. What followed were three of the most fascinating hours I had experienced in a very long time. Of course I knew the basics about the Nazis, the rise and defeat of Hitler and the events on and surrounding D-day, but my knowledge was, and still is, very limited. As the images, the audio commentary and the information around me filled in the gaps, it felt like I was experiencing a paradigm shift. I was starting to get it. We talk about bravery and heroism a great deal in our culture, so much so that it can slide off the tongue without stopping at the brain. For once, my mind was given the time to try to understand what that really means and it became very important that I learn this stuff, more important that I had ever really known.
So, emerging very much more enlightened (well, me anyway), we drove to St Manvieu war cemetery, 13 kilometres west of Caen. The sun was shining and the location was beautiful. Dad endearingly and respectfully changed into a shirt and tie, a nice touch, and we began looking for Eric’s name, which, after we had been through pretty much all of the headstones, Sean thankfully found, as I was, to be honest, getting a bit worried.
So we all processed what was happening, took some pictures, and left Roger to have a long overdue moment with his dad. His dad, who was one of the thousands of people without whom the world, and our lives, would be very different. I had never realised how close it came.
This was a huge learning experience for me, and not just because of my newly acquired knowledge and interest in this subject, but because of how lucky I am to be where, and who, I am today, because of the man that you see standing at his father’s grave in the photo.
As I got down to take this photo, Dad asked a question that I didn’t really answer properly, and I can’t get out of my head.
My dad asked ‘do you think he would be proud of me?’
Dad, I can’t think of a better man. How could he not be proud of the most genuine, loving and caring man anyone could ever have the pleasure to meet. Yes he would be more than proud, as I hope you will be of me. And when we next talk, don’t go on about it, I’ll get all embarrassed.
Thanks for reading folks and indulging me, and give a thought for the people who put their lives on the line for us every day and get paid way too little for it. Now, off me soapbox and thanks for reading. Steve
Thank you to Joanne McAnuff for taking time out from her very busy life as a teacher to proof this. A very clever lady and what a lovely thing to do! Any mistakes are due to me not listening.
Also, please feel free to share this, to make me feel all special.