The journals of Doc Alexander – one year in.
It’s been a year since I began posting my grandfather’s Second World War journals online.
I did not know my grandfather. He died two years before I was born and for years I have wanted to write his biography as my way of getting to know him. But as life goes, it’s busy and finding time can be challenging, if not impossible. The death of my aunt, Jill Huffman, sadly was the catalyst that pushed me to begin this project: sharing these journals. It’s not the biography I had always envisioned, but it’s a step forward and it is leading me in the right direction.
This blog, which will continue right through into 2015, is allowing me to learn about my grandfather, through research, through my family and through the people who are contacting me. Recently, I talked to Sharon, whose mother, Win Hood, worked for my grandfather as his receptionist and office manager at his Calgary office in the J.J. Kirkpatrick building on Stephen Avenue Mall across from the Hudson’s Bay Co. in downtown Calgary.
Sharon described my grandfather, a man they knew as Dr. Alex, as a tall, barrel-chested man with a big personality.
“He was a good sized man,” she told me recently. “I think he looked even bigger than that because he had a big personality. He definitely had a military bearing, straight as a ram rod. When he came into a room, and he just dominated a room, but he was always warm and gentle and nice.”
He was well loved by his patients, his staff and his friends as a result, and for good reason. He paid attention to everyone he came in contact with. Like any doctor, his patients were often forced to wait for him, sometimes for hours as he responded to an emergency or delivered a baby. But any resentment anyone had melted when he arrived with a big smile and a warm greeting for everyone, making each person feel special.
“There was nothing pretentious about him,” Sharon said. “He accepted people for what they were. He didn’t make people feel they were of lesser value than he was. He accepted you. You were there because you needed some care and he was going to do his best to do that.”
With comments like that, I consider myself very fortunate to have had a grandfather like that – even if I didn’t know him. It warms my heart and makes me very proud to be his grandson. I used to be proud of him only because of his military record, the rest – what little I knew and understood didn’t seem to matter as much – but comments like Sharon’s make me prouder yet of who he was as a person.
So as we move into 1943, my grandfather’s journals will take us next to invasion of Sicily in June and Italy in September. From there, through to 1945, it’s France, Belgium and Holland. Even though we’re two years into the war, this story is really just beginning.