Last Thursday was ANZAC day. According to Wikipedia, ANZAC day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served.”
Originally 25 April, ANZAC day was established to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
Attitudes towards ANZAC day differ. In his blog, Public holidays: honour or habit?, Philip Patston says he: “can’t see the point of clinging to and continuing to honour these events in history, from centuries and millennia gone by, just for an excuse to have a day off. Particularly when they are unevenly distributed throughout the year, giving us months with several days off and stretches of months with none.”
I think this makes sense. But I also appreciate that a day has been set aside to remember. I don’t particularly think of war, or the large numbers of men, and women, who died in pointless violent engagements. I do however remember my grandfather, or as we all called him, Poppa.
My Poppa was a soldier in WW II. He survived the war and returned to New Zealand to settle down and have 4 children. Then subsequently 9 grandchildren, 8 great grandchildren, and 2 great, great, grandchildren followed.
My Poppa passed away in February 2012, at the grand age of 91. He undoubtedly had a jolly good life, leaving a brilliant legacy and growing family.
So I take ANZAC day, but not only this day, to remember Poppa. He was the best story teller, because his stories were exaggerated versions of true things that had happened to him. As he told his stories he always had a twinkle in his eye, like he was reliving the moment.
Poppa was deployed to the New Hebrides to be the first defence against a Japanese invasion (which never happened).
He regularly told the story about his time in the army where “we played soccer and tennis; and cooked french toast and fried bananas for breakfast.” War never seemed that tough or scary from Poppa’s stories.
Poppa would tell us about the time he was doing the washing up and felt eyes watching him. He would grin cheekily and say “I slowly looked around and realised it was the native people, so I pulled out my false teeth and they all took off back into the bush.” Poppa would laugh and laugh and finally say “They’d never seen anyone pull out their teeth, until they saw me that day!”
Although I think of my Poppa and his stories often, ANZAC day is a lovely day to remember and retell Poppa’s ‘war stories’ – as non-warlike as they are.
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