War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

vets and their "ladies"

the other night I dined with a passel of Patricias. a modest affair. Legion grub. a bday cake happy 96th Patricias and a score of ret’d Generals, Cols., L.Cols., Senior NCO’s, a few serving, and their good women (emphasis on good ). there were no women Patricias present. I’m not sure how many there are but the ones I’ve met are either in A’stan or Whistler.

it was good to spend time with the women who had spent their lives married to the Patricias (“we’re the real bosses” one of them said to me half-joking). a few of them wore beautiful Patricia badges (platinum with diamonds). I didn’t ask, but I expect they were given them in recognition of their service (unpaid) to the country. either by country or husband.

“27 moves in 25 years” ret’d Maj. Gen. says to me, “always the same. pictures up first. and down last. no matter how damned tired I was, she had to have her pictures on the walls.”

and I turn to my NBF’s wife, C, and ask her how it was. “we wives and mothers helped each other. looked out for each other. but we had fun. we had to. and it wasn’t easy. especially the new brides overseas. day 2 in the new posting and husband comes home and says ‘I’m off for 3 months’ and that was it. gone. new country. no language in common. no internet. no long distance telephone. and the babies came. and we were father and mother to them.”

this shindig happens once a year around the Patrica bday (and St. Patrick’s day). the women have known each other for decades and hug each other. laugh. catch each other up on children, grandchildren, health… and they laugh and laugh and poke fun at their old infantrymen though their admiration/pride in them is clear.

these are women who obviously were in it for the long haul. no quitters here. lots of courage. lots of guts.

I sat next to an 81 year old. he turned to me and said, “see these hands? they never got dirty in any support trade. always a rifleman.”

and another, a former clerk originally from the U.K., “off the boat, down to the recruiting centre. a lifetime as a Patricia. and it was good.” (though I’m sure he being a good soldier had his days of complaint. “I worry when they don’t bitch” an officer once said to me).

I spoke briefly to a Patricia from Sask. he is 1st Nations or Métis. I didn’t ask. don’t care. except that I want to tell people someday of the Aboriginal participation. it’s big. but that’s for another day. this fellow was full of war stores from Korea. Korea that’s right. there were a bunch of Korean vets who moved on and became cold warriors. stood on guard for thee and all that. his wife sat demurely, as did many.

during the evening we toasted the Queen, Lady Patricia etc. and then the women received their toast “to the ladies” without insult as apparently a younger generation has objected, (“sit down Suzanne” my NBF said when I rose to toast, “you’re one of the ladies”) and the women of the Patricias who knew how to wield a hammer, a saw, raise a family almost single-handed a long way from home were gracious in their acceptance. (and I’ll bet these women could have and probably still can fix a house, feed an army, keep kith and kin together).

and I wonder about this generation of vets. the Afghan war vets. so many of their marriages couldn’t bear the strain of distance (literal and otherwise) despite email, FB, sat. phones. and HLTAs. or perhaps the conundrum of dual careers (though the irony in this is that it is exactly because these women were independent/sure of themselves/capable etc. that they coped with husbands away either in body or thought for so many years).

but maybe this is a sign of the times. it simply was not an option to come home one day to one’s wife and say, “I’m done. we’re done. I’m unhappy. someone else is going to make me happy. you and the kids will get over it. [and anyway, my happiness is most important].” no. this wasn’t an option for this gang. they served. and they still serve. my NBF soon to hang up his official title. his wife serving alongside him. all the way.

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled vets and their "ladies". It was posted here on March 21, 2010.


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