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Saturday, July 2, 2011

China Garden

Grandpa had lots of stories to share from his morning on Lake Simcoe with my dad.  I learned that they forgot to put the plugs in the bottom of the boat before launching and almost sunk the boat right on shore.  I also learned that Grandpa was pleased to catch his own lunch for the day.  Don't ask me why, but he loves microwaved perch.  When I came home from work around 5 pm, I asked Grandpa what he wanted for dinner.  He said, "Oh, just some bread and butter will do me fine.  Don't worry about me."  I wasn't worried, but I couldn't serve him bread and butter.

"Grandpa, what if I took you out for Chinese?  Would you be hungry?"

His eyes lit up.  "Well, I'm sure that would be just fine."  Of course, I have gathered over the years that Grandpa absolutely loves Chinese food.  So it was a quick drive down to the China Garden for our buffet dinner to begin.

While eating, Grandpa shared many stories of his time during the war.  He talked about being in hiding for two years - in a barn - so that the Germans could not find him and send him to work in an ammunition factory.  The Germans had already taken all of his identification papers when they caught him once.  For some reason, when he was at a camp, he was asked to go to a neighbouring German camp to get some supplies, on a bike, and instead of going left to the camp, he went right to freedom. 

Grandpa stayed hidden until he became a volunteer soldier in WW2.  He went to England for three weeks of training before being shipped over to Indonesia for three years.   OVW 11RI was his platoon.  Grandpa fell in love with Indonesia.  The beauty of the country and the people.  He was a cook in the army and learned how to dig up tuberous roots to prepare for flour.  We talked of all the fresh fruits he ate - papaya, pineapple, bitter but delicious bananas, coconuts, and more.  He shared how he led a group of 30 troops through the jungle for 10 days and how they survived off the land during that time.  When they arrived at base camp he was promoted to Corporal for feeding the troops so well.

A young lady brought us our bill, and in her very broken English she asked Grandpa if he was from this country because she said she'd heard us talking about England.  Grandpa didn't have his hearing aid in, so he missed a few comments, but together, the two of us shared his story with a very interested server.  This young girl saluted Grandpa and thanked him for fighting.  She praised God that he was still alive.  She shared her story of moving to Canada 7 years ago and how she is in the process of studying for her Canadian citizenship exam.  The server was sharing how she just finished reading in her citizenship textbook about Canada's role in the wars and once again, she was so proud of Grandpa in his young 87 years. 

Grandpa left the restaurant with a smile on his face.  He enjoyed sharing his story, but never shared about the front lines.  I don't think he ever will.  The young lady sure did try to have him talk, but he kept changing the stories to share about army trucks losing their brakes in the mountains and tipping huge vats of rice into the bush when the truck leaned over.  They shoveled the rice back into the pots and proceeded to the next location to feed the soldiers.  (Who knows what sort of jungle grub was added to the rice that night, but the soldiers loved it.  They were extremely hungry.)

Getting in to the car, Grandpa mentioned that even though he arrived in Canada in the early 1950's, by boat, he didn't get his citizenship until 1972.  When the judge asked Grandpa why he waited so long to apply, Grandpa mentioned that he wasn't thinking about citizenship.  He was trying to survive, raise a family of four children, and build up a family farm.  The judge was proud of him for working so hard and gave him his Canadian citizenship.

It was great learning Grandpa's stories as we headed home to watch the "Happy Canada Day" fireworks together off the back deck.

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