Discovering A Man I Never Knew

Tucked away in the top drawer of my dad’s bureau was a ceramic jar.

This time yellowed and crackled jar with a chunk missing from the lid was a treasure chest.

Inside always revealed a handkerchief-sized Scottish Lion flag and a few medals.

The only physical evidence my grandfather lived.


We rarely if ever spoke of him, largely because there were no answers to our questions.

My dad was nine when his dad died and much of that time was in declining health from being gassed in the war.

That’s all we knew.


Thomas Watson in his WWI uniform

The questions never died though.

Each year as Remembrance Day approached, thoughts of my grandfather and who he was came to mind.

There had to be answers somewhere. I needed to start asking again.


When my dad died suddenly, however, some day was gone.

Turning to my aunt and uncle for any memories of their father, a couple of stories surfaced along with a fairly thick envelope containing a copy of his war file.

Even these small snippets finally provided a glimpse into two slices of his life and the story behind one of those medals.


Thomas Watson, a sapper in the Canadian Engineers, returned home from WWI as a 23 year old with damaged lungs to become a farmer, marry and have a family.

He was a kind man.

He played tea with his 8 year old daughter after a tonsil operation and presented her with a purse and school reader for a birthday present weeks before he died.

He taught my dad how to drive a tractor at 7 or 8 and often led my dad and aunt on the horse back to the barn taking the long way around.


My grandfather returned home to a normal life, for what life he had left.

A life cut terribly short because he gave his gas mask to another soldier, leading him to be gassed himself.

One of the treasures in the old yellowed jar was the British Military Medal, awarded for bravery in the field.

No other details are known.


I can only begin to imagine what the other soldier was going through.

There seem to be no words to describe the kind of man who would give up his mask, especially knowing full well what the gas would do.

More soul searchingly, who would I have to be to carry out a similar act, and could I be that person.

Honestly, I don’t think I could.


Then again, this is all theoretical.

I’ve not been in similar circumstances where literally putting another’s life ahead of mine has been required.

Surmising what can be accomplished might best be determined at the moment rising to the occasion is needed.

Otherwise, I might all too easily talk myself out of what is possible.


Has there ever been someone in your life who is a mystery, and what you discover later changes everything?


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Lorraine Watson - on rustic porch

chief nudging officer


Crazy for cats and potatoes, Lorraine's insatiable curiosity of Life leads her to question, explore and push beyond the box. A self-professed "left-brained creative big picture" type, she has an intuitive knack for seeing beyond and beneath first appearances while at the same time nerding out on the details. Most of all she sees and holds others in their highest until they can see it for themselves.


  1. Sandra Vandenhoff on November 11, 2014 at 10:00 am

    Wow. Thank you for sharing. It is not surprising to me that you share genes with this man.

    • Lorraine on November 15, 2014 at 2:45 pm

      Thank you Sandra. I see better those same traits in my dad.

  2. Debbie on November 11, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Actually the mystery was about someone I thought I knew well–my Mom, and by extension, my Dad. My mom was very quiet and held her emotions close. She was very loving and generous of spirit, but she’d put her dreams on hold to take care of ailing parents. Then she got married and had children and that was that. After my Mom died, I found things in her files–things I had written that she kept in a special place. Now, she had a pile of EVERYTHING I’d written since I was a kid, but this file has stories that had special meaning to her. I had no idea. She also had one or two cards I had sent her in this file. But the real surprise was how my Dad changed. I always thought my Dad was strong and my Mom was content to sit in the background. The truth is, my Mom was the strong one. I’ve learned so much about her just by watching my dad and going through her files.

    • Lorraine on November 15, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      Wow Debbie, what a wonderful discovery to find what your Mom found most special to her and to see both her and your dad through different eyes. Amazing what can change everything from what we always thought. I hope every time you look through her files you discover something new.

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