I’m not particularly nationalistic and neither was he. Dad marched every year on Anzac day, mainly to catch up with his old mates from his WW2 army battalion, followed by a few beers together afterwards at a pub in the city, a once a year activity for him as he was not a pub person. As the years passed, the veterans’ numbers thinned, and then he passed too. I wonder if any men still remain from his unit.
My shrine in the living room shows Dad as a young digger in his army uniform. He was blond-haired, blue-eyed, of slight build and height, with a ready toothy smile. He also had graceful elongated hands. He wore that uniform for five years, the time he spent in New Guinea, but I don’t recall seeing it as a child. He did keep the hat. Dad wrote to my mother every day throughout the war. She would often receive 5 letters at once. He spent his evenings hand drawing and colouring little cartoons of everyday army life onto envelopes. He also drew extras to sell cheaply to other chaps who were keen to impress their loved one back home. Dad was so artistic. Mum stored all these wartime envelopes in an album and I loved looking at them as a kid. He also kept his old coloured pencils in his gentleman’s robe along with the medals and a few other small mementos from the war. I can still smell his wardrobe today, the faint whiff of tobacco, a slight musty aroma, and see the gleam of his war medals hanging from short lengths of colourful striped cloth.
My mother recently had replicas made of my father’s WW2 medals – five sets in all – which were distributed to his five male grandchildren. The rest of us, his three daughters and three granddaughters, missed out! So I grabbed this little photo of Dad in his uniform and made my own shrine and surrounded him with some of the things that he loved- smalls rocks and gemstones and his ‘long life’ pendant, the one he wore every day for 29 years from the age of 60, the one I gave him for his birthday. I don’t know if Dad would like all the other paraphernalia close by, broken bits of a fire damaged Buddha and old Chinese wooden panels, probably not, but he would love those gemstones. I must add another little crystal to his shrine today. Sometimes I scatter the petals of a flower on the mantelpiece or light a scented candle. There aren’t many solemn or mindful moments in my life but this is one of them.
Past Anzac Day posts: