He was just 17 when he left, but he looked every bit of 15. With his heart set on saving the world from Nazi Germany, he joined the army. Mommy cried and so did Daddy, but he never told anybody. In those days, men were strong and didn’t go crying. I still remember Joseph walking down the concrete walkway Daddy and him poured just last summer.
Joseph was always mommy’s favourite. She denied that she had a favourite, but we all knew better. All 7 of us kids were proud of our brother and despite the tears, mommy and daddy were proud of him as well, plus he promised to write every week.
It seemed as if Joseph was gone forever. At times we doubted whether he was ever coming back. Mommy kept track of all his letters, most of them stained with dirt and sometimes even blood. We knew it must have been hell over there, so far from home, nobody he knew or even trusted, but he stayed anyway.
A few of his friends came home early, either in body bags or with some part of their body broken or gone. Oh the town celebrated their return, but in time they were forgotten; just cripples who hung out at bars and usually caused trouble.
We got news reports on the radio about how our forces were doing, but the reports spoke about the army in general, never a specific person.
In the six years he was gone, things sure changed around here. Daddy was sick a lot. TB or something; at least that’s what the Doc said. Daddy couldn’t breathe very well, and couldn’t work. Mommy had to take jobs outside the house, mostly cooking and cleaning for the big shots in town. We almost starved.
I remember the day they made the announcement. The war finally ended. We anxiously awaited the return of our brother. When the bus pulled into town, we were there, mommy and all us kids. We waited patiently for all the soldiers to exit the bus. Joseph wasn’t there. Mommy cried her eyes out while trying to screen us from the terror she felt, but we knew how she was hurting.
We lost Daddy that summer too. What a bummer year. After all those years of dealing with TB, it finally took him.
We still wait for Joseph, hoping that one day, a bus will arrive and he will step off and hold us in his arms.
I help mommy lots now. She has to work for all the big shots, keeping their kids fed and their houses clean. I do all that now, I am boss here over all the little ones, but I still miss my brother.
A few years back, while volunteering at a senior retirement facility, this story was relayed to me. Annie, a very sweet old lady reminisced about her brother, and how they lost him at such a young age. The workers in the home thought she was crazy, always talking about some guy named Joseph. I listened to her and found that she was quite sane; even at 97, she never forgot one detail of her young life or about her brother.
I presented her story here, for the world to read. I feel that since tomorrow is Remembrance Day here in Canada, it would be a good time to tell her story. Lest we forget not only those who lost their lives fighting for freedom, but also for the families who like Annie, anxiously awaited their loved ones to return home.