This morning I woke up with Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" in my head. Not much of it, just the first line: "Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun..."
I've been a Floyd fan for around 25 years, but today for the first time it made me think of my grandfather.
My family is British, and when World War 2 broke out everyone joined up. Everyone. My grandfather was 16 or 17, and went to enlist on Day 1. He wasn't old enough to know to lie, so when asked his age he told the truth. The enlistment officer flatly told him that he wasn't old enough to join the army. He would have to leave, walk around the block, and come back when he was 18. So what did he do? He left the office, walked around the block, and came back saying "I'm 18 sir."
He fought in North Africa and Italy. He was captured at Anzio and saw some horriffic things happen. Stories that I recently heard from my parents that are worse than you see in films.
When the war ended, he went home. He polished his medals and put them in the back of a drawer.
36 years later, he was dying of prostate cancer. He pulled his medals out of the drawer for the first time, shined them, mailed them to Canada and died. I was very close to my grandad, and it meant a lot that he wanted me to have those icons. I received them after hearing of his death, which was quite hard.
These medals sat for for another 30 years in a box hidden away in the various bedrooms I've had since then. For Christmas, my wife had them set into a shadow box along with my only photo of him. This display is mounted on the wall just as you enter my apartment. It serves as a memorial to my grandfather, and also as a reminder to live my life with the honour he did, to make his memory proud.
Thank you grandad, I miss you.