I was watching the service at the cenotaph today and seeing everyone there marching to remember those who have died in conflicts in the past, reminded of my father who fought in the ‘forgotten war’ – Korea. As a member of the Middlesex Regiment, he was one of the first to enter Korea.
He never talked about it, although he did say to my mother that one day they would join in the march at the Cenotaph with the other Korean veterans. He now has alzheimers and lives in a home, and I visit him once a month when I return to my home town to see Mum. Given that I am very much a believer in the mind body connection, I dwell on what it is that he wanted to forget so much. Sometimes, I wonder if it were the horrors he witnessed in Korea.
I always manage to feel guilty at this time of year too, should I wear a poppy to the ‘glorious dead’ and honour the part my own family have played over the years and what they gave to our country, or should I consider this ‘state sanctioned’ act of glorification something to be avoided. In the end I try to do both – I buy, and wear the red poppy because I don’t want those who gave their lives to be forgotten and because I would like that sacrifice to make a difference to our lives and the way we view the world today; but I also carry the white peace poppy on my handbag because that is what I long for amongst the violence and reality of living in 2007.
My father now lives in the present, he doesn’t worry about the past and he has no angst about the future – he has achieved what many of us seeking enlightenment hope to achieve. But it is at great cost because he cannot share himself with the rest of the family – because he doesn’t know he has one. In some ways it is sad to see this man like that, but in others I have learnt so much simply through spending time with him and as a result I am much calmer myself and can see the beauty in the simplicity of the life he lives.