My dad was a veteran. He fought overseas in WW2. He was in the Canadian Intelligence Service and essentially, was a spy chaser.

He was stationed a good part of his service in Italy where he learned to speak fluent Italian.

He and one of his buddies arrested an Italian woman thought to be a Nazi sympathizer. Turns out she was coerced into being a translator for the Nazi’s. My dad’s buddy returned after the war and married that woman. Later on, they bought the farm near to our cottage and I had the pleasure of enjoying her pasta.

As the years went by, the farm was sold and I lost touch with that family.

I met up again with that Italian woman at a lecture at York University when I was in my young twenties. I recognized her immediately as much by her accent as by her looks. She didn’t recognize me as I was then a much slimmer version of my childhood self.

However, after I introduced myself to her quietly, she stood up amidst the lecture and declared, “I knew this a-boy when he was just this a-tall and this a-fat. He used to eat up all of my a-pasta.”

Loved this woman.

In order to keep up his Italian, dad sought an Italian barber. The barber owned the shop in the Yonge/Bloor subway station. Those two developed a tight bond and were mutually supportive of each other. During my father’s demise, the barber would come to the hospital to give dad a haircut. Friends to the end.

Dad did a number of quiet, yet extraordinary things. Of the many, he gave residence to a German man, post war. With a room to let in our basement, this man lived with us for a few years and my father helped him get established in his business. It was unheard of for a Jew to show such support for a German. That man also came to love my father and when I was in financial difficulty at a point in my younger life, he paid my father’s support forward and offered me a job.

Dad had a nickname from his war years: Sandy. Sandy McTavish.

Dad was the only Jew in a regimen of mostly Scots. In the 1950’s/60’s, they would get together at our house once a year or so and this is where I learned of Dad’s nick-name. It turns out the Scots had a difficult time trying to pronounce his true name. So dad was OK with them not being able to relate to Edel (Yiddle-Chiam) and was happy to be known by these other men who loved him, as Sandy McTavish. It was only on these occasions do I recall my dad with a drink in his hand and then, only one.

Upon his return from the war, dad married mom in Winnipeg and they moved to Toronto. They had a loving relationship that carried through to his passing with him at age sixty.

So with Remembrance Day coming, here’s to you my father, Sandy McTavish. He served his country proudly, taught me the meaning of love, acceptance of others as well as how to take a joke.

Aye. Sandy McTavish.

Author's Bio: 

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
(905) 628-4847
Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America and was the first social worker to sit on the Ontario Board for Collaborative Family Law.