This is my dad’s. helmet. Someone in his group painted their story on it. This article was originally published last year on D-Day, and was published in Write Angles Journal.
Early June brings my sister’s birthday and raises memories of D-Day. For those of you who didn’t have a dad that landed on the beaches, I’ll explain that my sister’s birthday is June 3, and D-Day quickly follows on June 6. While one doesn’t celebrate D-Day, because it was important in my Dad’s memory my sister and I still call each other to say, “It’s D-Day“.
Since my Dad passed away there have been books and movies about D-Day, but for me, the memories are quite different. They are safe, snuggly stories I heard when dad tucked me into bed. The telling was age-appropriate and felt very close to my dad.
Many stories were about when Dad camped out in Dartmoor near the river. It was beautiful there and I suspect it reminded him of Ireland, where he was born. He told stories of the waiting. There were ferns growing, rabbits ran by, and Dad once got a chocolate bar in his rations. It was a special treat, and he packed it away in his pup tent to save for special. Later when he retrieved it, he found the mice got to it first…. it was almost all nibbled away. Each time I nibble on chocolate, I think how dear that chocolate bar was, and how sometimes we hold onto things that are precious too long.
Dartmoor sounded like paradise. I imagined rabbits and mice dashing through the field of ferns, and a small tent to snuggle into at night. And all the stars to see above. And then I’d drift off to sleep, holding my Dad’s hand.
I heard how the troops landed on the beach and scaled the cliffs. Later, I heard how they marched into Paris There were photos of him and his companions at the Eiffel Tower. He kept in scant touch with his brothers, all fighting in different countries.
I remember one story about his group walking down a road in France as the Germans were leaving. Everyone was hungry and tired. They came to a farmhouse and didn’t know who might be there. It was their good fortune that the Germans had recently left. The French farmers were hiding in the cellar, not knowing who was coming down the road. The farmer family was happy to see this group of Americans and shared their food. And like them, I share this smattering of what I have to offer, old memories.
After his return to Boston married, and soon there were myself and my sister, and the stories of D-Day began.
Years later, I was on a retreat in Totness, and I traveled downstream to Dartmoor on a passenger boat. You could have knocked me over with a feather when the Captain pointed and said, “That’s where the Yanks were camped waiting for D-Day”. I had come to that field of rabbits and fern and was able to walk there myself.
May all beings heal, May we all dwell in Peace.