When I was in middle school, I loved WWI stories, especially about the flying aces like the Red Baron or Canada’s Billy Bishop. My Gran loved to talk about waiting at the Perry Sound train station for Billy Bishop to come home from the war.
My grandfather was a WWI veteran, a trauma surgeon.
Maybe these are what made me into a WWI buff. I loved the flyers, but I also spent a lot of time reading about trench warfare and the huge battles, but didn’t really process how awful it must have been until much later.
My father, as his mother before him, rarely speaks of his father, and the things they said lead me to believe that my grandfather was deeply damaged. How else could it have been? WWI era surgery was primitive, without anaesthesia or antibiotics, and that war was brutal.
As a child I saw the way other dads played with their sons, and I was jealous. I never resented the fact that my father was so hands off, but I didn’t like it. When I got older I came to understand it. Dad was doing the best job he could, considering the time restrictions of his profession, and the example of his father.
In fact, the greatest compliment anyone has ever paid me came from him, “Andrew, you’re a good father, a better father than I was.”
I have burned that into my memory, because it was the highest of compliments.
I know that as a father, I’ve made mistakes, and some pretty bad ones.
But like my father before me, I’m trying the best I can, and I hope some day I can say, “Kid #, you’re a good father, a better father than I was.”