When I was younger Mom would say that my Uncle Stan was “not very nice” to my Aunt Lucy. Occasionally, if for some reason, we weren’t allowed to see her, another phrase might be added, “Stan’s a drinker;" or, "They’ve had a rough week;" or "She’s not feeling very well.”
When my uncle left his wife and four children, my cousin, at age 13, got some work at a corner store and delivering papers to help out.”
As I grew taller and my curiosity more persistent, other phrases crept into the picture.
“Stan was never the same after the war.”
And later still, “Dieppe did him in.”
Only decades later, when Gaye and I stood on that rocky beach at Dieppe, looking up at the bluffs that, in WWII, were armed with machine guns and artillery, did I have even a glimmer of what that day in August 1942 must have been like. Of the 6,000 men who made it ashore, almost 60% were either killed, wounded or captured.
The last I heard about my Uncle Stan was from my Dad, “Don’t know what happened to him. I heard that he died in a Salvation Army hostel in Edmonton.”
Phrases, sentences - hardly adequate for years, lifetimes, of challenge and decision and the tsunami-like waves that often spread from such times.