Remembrance Day. November 11. The one day when we stop all that we do to remember those that have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our way of life.
I watched the television coverage of the national ceremony poignantly observed in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Afterward, I felt like a ride. Felt like getting outside. My father enlisted in the Canadian Army and was preparing to be shipped overseas when the Second World War ended. My maternal grandfather enlisted in the Canadian Infantry and fought at Vimy Ridge. I wanted to get outside. I wanted time to myself.
The weather was perfect for a ride. Sunny, cool and, windy. I followed a familiar route. A lap around Stanley Park, out to UBC and back. A 65 km ride. It was cold and windy but I was properly dressed from head to toe.
When I cycle in Stanley Park, I always stop at Third Beach. I stop to empty my bladder and re-fill my water bottle. In the warmer weather, I will lie in the grass and stretch. Today it was too cool. I stopped to take a few photographs and noticed when I pulled my iPhone out of my jacket pocket that it was exactly 11:11 AM. Exactly 11:11. The exact time the First World War ended on November 11, 1918. A coincidence? Perhaps. Third Beach is where I have stopped to reflect and relax for over 30 years. Fitting that I was there, of all places, to remember.
I returned feeling relaxed and, surprisingly, felt closer to my father and maternal grandfather. I was fortunate to have them in my life. They were significant figures throughout my formative years. I respected them. Respected what they did not only for themselves but their country. They always put others and their country first. I can only imagine what it may have been like without them.
I never had the opportunity to cycle with my father. Or, my grandfather. It wasn’t their thing. My grandfather, however, gave me my first bike. A candy apple red cruiser. I suppose, in a way, I cycle today because of him. And, it was my father’s bout with alcohol and subsequent health problems that motivated me to cycle. To adopt a healthier life style. I am deeply indebted to them both.