Tuesday, April 29, 2008
ANZAC DAY 2008
My fingers slowly trace the rough, sharp surface of dad’s Memorial plaque.
2/6 FD.REGT. R.A.A.
The early morning sun is glinting brightly off the gold lettering, and behind me, a few families wander in and out of the brick walls of the Garden of Remembrance, holding Australian flags and bunches of fresh flowers, looking for their dead.
I didn’t bring anything for dad, but I think he may have appreciated small rum, to start his ANZAC day. I can just seeing him grinning cheekily, and raising his glass to me in a silent toast. Cheers mate! This is the 4th year he has been gone, and as a result, our 4th ANZAC Day without his booming voice lifting the hymns, and his gentle touch on a weary Vets shoulder.
I miss him, of course, but only on special days like this. Every other waking day, he is simply with me, in spirit. How can you miss someone who hasn’t left you?
Today started at 4am, on the knock, my alarm buzzing urgently to say “Get up! Time to remember!” I decided not at attend Dawn Service in the city this year, my sons are not able to be with me, and I don’t have the energy to drive in by myself.
Grief and remembrance needs company and loving arms to hold, so this morning I will sit in my own kitchen and listen to the radio, live from ANZAC Square.
It doesn’t seem right to turn the lights on, so a candle is lit, and I sit in the cool morning’s quietness, listening to Spencer Howson, listening to 10,000 people breathing as one. The air crackles with silence. Every now and then, the radio crosses to another chat show, somewhere in Australia, perhaps Sydney, perhaps Adelaide, who knows?
I think this is an automatic backup by ABC Radio, to fill the lack of announcing on-air, but I don’t really know, and whilst intrusive, it reminds us all that life does indeed go on all around the world, in different cities, with different voices, discussing different topics; a brief snatch of time to peer into their world, before returning to Anzac Square to resume our own Dawn Service.
Although my candle is soft, radiating a yellow glow, my kitchen technology blinks back at me like a dismantled Christmas Tree. Lights glow from the microwave, the radio, the computer, the speakers, the modem, and on it goes, I count 9 separate lights, blues, greens, reds. It’s too silly for words, really. Earth hour should happen every night!
Each Dawn Service follows the same format. The drummers, the speech “They shall not grow old” and I hang my head and determine not to cry. The Governor makes her speech, and another hymn, “Abide with me” calls through the crowds and reaches me – sitting by my candlelight – in my kitchen. At one stage of the Service, there is another long, uncomfortable silence, the kind that makes you imagine what our young Diggers were doing. Busy yelling; busy charging; busy running; and busy taking their time, dying where they fell.
Spencer tells us that someone from the crowd has yelled out impatiently “What’s the holdup?” and I have agree, what is the holdup? Life sometimes takes her own sweet time, regardless of what brand watch we wear, or how much we need people to rush. Wreaths are laid, choirs sing, and the crowd disperses.
Our memories of ANZAC Day 2008 have begun! Time to visit dad.