remembrance day, and a Park who lived

11 November 2009

When my sisters and I came into this world, my mother had no parents, one sister and one first cousin.  Her cousin Allan Park was a half generation older than her.  Like most of our family, he was known to us more in story than life.  That scar on his head was legendary.  It was from a war. 

World War II  was mythology to us kids born in the sixties.  I have fuzzy recollections of my dad watching the news on tv and seeing footage from Viet Nam but that wasn’t real, it was on tv.  

Allan’s war, to us, was a story wrapped up in that scarred head we saw a few times over our lifetimes.  All we knew was that we were lucky he was with us, that his injury very nearly killed him and if it had everything would be different.  

In 1979, the story of that scar revealed itself via the words of national favourite storyteller, Farley Mowat, in his novel And No Birds Sang.  It was a different story than the one any of us had known.

The blanket that screened the shattered cellar door was thrust aside and a party of stretcher bearers pushed in amongst us.  Al Park lay on one of the stretchers.  He was alive, though barely so… unconscious, with a bullet in his head.

As I looked down at his faded, empty face under its crimson bandages, I began to weep.

I wonder now… were my tears for Alex and Al and all the others who had gone and who were yet to go?

Or was I weeping for myself… and those who would remain?

 – Excerpt: And No Birds Sang, Farley Mowat

You want to talk about how a story can bring new light to a family? 

To a nation on Remembrance Day?


10 Responses to “remembrance day, and a Park who lived”

  1. roscoedialogues Says:

    Veterans Day here in the states Jen, yes, let us remember.

  2. Jennifer Says:

    Oh yes, couldn’t remember if it was at same time, Mike.

  3. willow Says:

    What an amazing way to find out about Allan Park. I’m so curious to know how you found it. Beautiful post.

  4. Jennifer Says:

    Well he was still alive when the book was published Willow. I’m not sure if he had kept in touch with Mowat, if the author contacted him and the other men in the story to tell them they were in it. I only remember hearing about Al being in the book from my mom or my aunt. I’m sure once Mowat became famous, Al talked of fighting in the same regiment with him – but honestly, I didn’t know him well.

    Even though I didn’t know him well, my mother and aunt did – and it was a shock to read that book. It still is, even now that Al’s gone.

  5. ...Mmm... Says:

    Waht an interesting story and so very poignant.

  6. Cathy Says:

    Also poignant that he ended up marrying his nurse. I remember being so curious about that scar.. was so shocking and scary, but the other thing I remember about Al was his very warm smile and gentle way.

  7. Jennifer Says:

    Yes the warm and gentle way are what I remember too.

  8. Rena Helms-Park Says:

    Jennifer, my children and I were so very touched by your story about their “gramps”. You and I probably met at his funeral. I knew your mother and your aunt, of course, and they were generous, gentle, and good-humoured women.

    Could you get in touch with us? We’d like that very much. There’s so much to talk about, including Rowanlea.

    • Jennifer Says:

      Rena, thanks so much for contacting me. I’m glad you and the kids were moved by the story, and that they know there is family out there who still think of him. I’ll contact you at your email.

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