Monday, November 11, 2013

Smoke Always Rises


Grandpa is old, real old.  

Nancy knew that, he fought in The Great War, the war he said was so big that it would end all wars.  Then her pa went to fight another Great War, called WW2.  Nancy wondered if there would be a WW3 someday. 

Nancy watched as Grandpa spread out his left hand.  He had big old wrinkly hands, with rough callouses and gnarled fingers, like any old man.  But she had never noticed the drawn white scars of burns, horrible burns. 
  
Wwi stereo195
1917-1918
He lay a thin paper on the white scars, opening it with his other hand.  Again, she stared at it, in awe of the stripes and crude stitching it bore from wounds earned long ago.  That must have hurt, hurt worse than any scraped knee ever.

Grandpa reached into the pocket of his flannel shirt, retrieving a drawstring bag.  Fingers moved slowly, easing open the drawstring, and then pouring a line of tobacco.  
Grandpa
Copyright Susan Kane

His hands never shook, not for one second.  They held steady and still as Grandpa licked the edge of the paper.  Hands so badly scarred had continued for fifty years, working, caressing, holding hands, living. Fascinated, Nancy watched as Grandpa placed the cigarette on a lip.  

Oh my, Grandpa! Scars ran down the arms, but she had never seen them before. His arms were always hidden by flannel sleeves, obscuring a torturous horror experienced a lifetime ago.  


He struck a match and lit up, breathing deeply.  She stared at his thoughtful expression and troubled eyes.

An old man walked by, tipped his hat to Grandpa.  Grandpa just nodded back, not even looking at him.  “Who’s he?” Nancy asked.

Grandpa blew out a ring of smoke.  “He’s a Goddamn coward.  His pa paid some other man to go fight instead of his own son.  Sonofabitch, Goddamn coward…”  Grandpa stuck in some other words that Nancy didn’t understand.


A charge by Naval Division on the Gallipoli Peninsula on January 6th 1916.
Over the top

“What’d you do in the war, Grandpa?” Nancywhispered, fearing the answer.


He glanced sadly down at Nancy.  Turning his face away and  taking another deep drag, Grandpa mumbled, “I killed a whole bunch of men.  Too many men…”

Nancy nodded.  The two sat there, one smoking and the other gazing as the smoke disappeared around them.

Copyright Susan Kane
Grandpa, age 55

39 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh Susan what a perfect post for this day. I loved reading this and I am going to send it to some of my friends :)

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    1. I hope your friends can appreciate the sacrifice Grandpa's generation made. He never talked about those days with me.

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  2. Some came back but they were never the same.

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    1. So true of every generation that goes off to war; some return but not entirely.

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  3. Many who have served their country bare their wounds forever.

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    1. They can never forget what they saw, what they did.

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  4. Replies
    1. yes, war involves two sides which send caskets of soldiers home to the family.

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  5. What Ghost said is sooooo true. War is useless for the average person. Only the elite gain monetarily.Both sides suffer and lose loved ones.

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    1. Death is the great common denominator.

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  6. Replies
    1. thanks, Sarah. My grandfather had been a handsome young man, but he aged quickly, prematurely.

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  7. Gallipolis is the vortex of the horror that was the war to end wars. Sadly, the vortex of those that followed. With thanks to Grandpa and countless others who have served, knowing the cost even before they pay it.

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    1. When I first read about Gallipolis, I was absolutely horrified. I still am.

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  8. Sad, bad and too true. Thank you.
    Gallipoli is firmly embedded in my country's psyche and mythology. Ironic and appropriate that we remember a military disaster in this way.

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    1. Yes, it is ironic. I looked at that photo and saw so many young men facing certain death.

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  9. That really touched me. I felt like I was there listening also.

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    1. That particular memory of mine is so vivid, esp. since Grandpa seldom sat with a little girl on a porch.

      Once he allowed me a piece of chewing tobacco, and I tried it. Threw up.

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  10. War is ugly no matter which way you look at it or what side you're on. Thank God for the Grandpas of the world who went and fought not because they wanted to but because they had to. No one can return from war the same person as he was when he went. And physical changes are only the half of it. Why can't we ever learn?

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  11. Did you ever learn how he was burned?

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    1. Grandpa was "in the trenches" and suffered damage from the gas bombs. Burns, and also lung damage.

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  12. Wars are horrifying and the aftermath is always so sad.

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    1. The effects of war are almost forever, from generation to generation.

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  13. Susan, this is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. Sad but beautiful.

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  14. Susan,

    Thank you for sharing part of your Grandpa with us. It sure sounds like your Grandpa was direct and to the point. What a great man, he reminds me of my Dad. God Bless your Grandpa.

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    1. I believe men who have lived through such hell have strong opinions.

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  15. I bet if the "leaders" had to get out there and fight each other hand to hand, there wouldn't be as many wars. But no, the old men send the young men out to fight their battles for them. It's a waste, a terrible waste. We will never know what brilliant ideas/inventions have been lost in all the wars humankind has fought.

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    1. War seems to make quite a number of industries quite wealthy...if only those business men had to use their own weapons, hand to hand.

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  16. Rich man's war, poor man's fight.

    Happy Veterans Day.

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  17. My grandfather was a vet with the same strong and very vocal opinions (when asked). Thankfully, he did not have those scars. :(

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    1. Some men (like my father) bore those internal emotional scars all his life.

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  18. Dear Susan,

    Such a profound and timely reflection on your grandfather. And the horrors of war, etched into those who were there. When will humanity ever learn....

    In peace and hope,

    Gary

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    1. People will never learn. Wars are fought along so many ideologies, for reasons mysterious.

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Go ahead...it won' t hurt...I'd love to hear what you think!