KEEP STO­RIES ALIVE

THE AC­TIONS OF THE SELF­LESS FEEL PAR­TIC­U­LARLY CLOSE TO HOME ON DAYS LIKE RE­MEM­BRANCE DAY

The Chronicle - - Weekend - WORDS: MICHAEL JA­COB­SON

When the guns fell silent a cen­tury ago to­mor­row, In­former’s grand­fa­ther had been home from the West­ern Front for a year. The bul­let taken from his shoul­der was in a jar on the man­tel­piece, the flesh and bone had healed, and he kept the long pur­ple-red scar hid­den from view.

In the years that I knew him, he never both­ered much with Re­mem­brance Day. The ache in his shoul­der was re­minder enough most days. Any­way, No­vem­ber in Tas­ma­nia kept him busy in the gar­den. No­vem­ber is for plant­ing spuds, ar­ti­chokes and toma­toes. Per­fect for roses and tulips. Plus he loved the late spring sun, warm­ing the ache away.

In the gar­den, he told me sto­ries that I would one day gather into a larger story, a novel that did quite well.

One he told was about irony, con­cern­ing a young gar­dener who swapped his spade for a gun, then as soon as he ar­rived in France they swapped his gun for a spade and or­dered him to start dig­ging.

“I could have stayed home and done that, and no one would have shot me,” he said.

As for my fa­ther, his irony is that as much as he wanted to serve, he couldn’t.

Too young for World War Two and Korea and too old for Viet­nam, not serv­ing is his wound, his ache, and it has wracked his whole body his en­tire adult life.

Now in his 80s, Dad has lasted a decade longer than his fa­ther; my grand­fa­ther.

Per­haps his longevity is down to a life­time breath­ing that pure Tas­ma­nian air, drink­ing that heav­enly Tas­ma­nian beer, and never trav­el­ling be­yond the place.

Lately though, Dad’s been on about vis­it­ing the Aus­tralian War Memo­rial in Can­berra; a pil­grim­age of sorts. I can hardly blame him. It’s a mag­nif­i­cent place and my broth­ers and I would love to take him.

Trou­ble is, travel is dif­fi­cult for some­one who has never left Tas­ma­nia and who copes poorly with dis­rup­tion.

His age, too, poses chal­lenges, as does his im­pa­tience. Then there is the memo­rial it­self, be­cause I won­der how much he will be able to bear.

My fa­ther is the tough­est man I have ever known, which is cu­ri­ous be­cause his fa­ther was the gen­tlest. But in re­cent years Dad has grown more emo­tional than at any time, es­pe­cially re­gard­ing the sac­ri­fice be­hind to­mor­row’s re­mem­brance. As much as I worry about what he is miss­ing if we don’t go, I also fear that the war memo­rial will break him, and that the sheer weight of his emo­tion will be too much for his sons to hold. When he sees “Ja­cob­son” on the Roll of Hon­our, what will he do? There’s a few of us there.

But if we do go, what I fear most is that it will pro­vide the com­ple­tion he so wants and needs, and that he will feel his life has been lived long enough to no longer op­pose its end­ing.

Still, I’m be­ing selfish and to­mor­row, Re­mem­brance Day, is about the ac­tions of the self­less. And who am I to stand in the way of my fa­ther’s own sense of ser­vice?

So, we have de­cided. Not to­mor­row, but an­other to­mor­row not too far down the track, we are go­ing.

It will be some­thing to re­mem­ber.

“LATELY THOUGH, DAD’S BEEN ON ABOUT VIS­IT­ING THE AUS­TRALIAN WAR MEMO­RIAL IN CAN­BERRA; A PIL­GRIM­AGE OF SORTS.”

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