I’ve seen a lot

Being from a family of twelve kids, I didn’t get a lot of one on one time with my dad, except for the wrestling. I don’t know how my parents did it.

I try to spend as much individual time with my four kids as possible. I’ve been privileged to travel the world but all too often saw the sights through the window of a speeding vehicle racing me to some arena or airport. I’ve wanted to go back and really take in so many landmarks, recently with a new determination. Gaining back my mobility after my stroke has made me live the old adage, don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today. So, a few days ago I flew off to see the battlefields of France with my youngest son.

I’m a history buff and it’s rubbed off on Blade. The first time I visited Germany was on a wrestling tour in the early 80’s and I returned several times throughout the 90’s as world champion. No one was more surprised than me when my popularity in Germany grew to where I was voted athlete of the year three years in a row by Bravo magazine and was chased in the streets like a rock star by mobs of girls. Upon seeing it Jimmy Hart once remarked to me, “Someone should film this. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

So, last night it was a sharp but pleasant contrast for me to be sitting quietly in a small restaurant in Manheim, Germany enjoying the local cuisine. Much to my surprise the restaurant owner recognized me despite my ball cap and well worn jeans. He seemed at the same time shocked and amused when he exclaimed in broken English, “You are still a living legend here. No one would believe you are just wandering the streets!” I was actually a bit embarrassed by his overly kind descriptives.

I’ve seen a lot of changes in Europe in my lifetime. In the car (which you drive on the same side of the road as in Canada ) crossing the border into France I was delighted to experience first hand that all the walls are down in Europe. The French and Germans were very laid back and now have the same currency and even speak the same broken English.

So the battlefield at Verdun made perhaps even more of an impact, to see over 130, 000 dead bodies - French, German, American - all piled up in a memorial they call The Bone Room. I had to wonder how these people, who all live together in harmony now could have slaughtered each other . When I expressed that sentiment they said they wonder the same thing too. And then there is the immaculately kept American cemetery with it’s countless rows of tombstones and crosses. Young men with an average age less than twenty - from places like Idaho, Nebraska, and Montana .... all having died here in a war they fought bravely but barely understood. Of course there is respect for their sacrifices but the motivation behind the great wars isn’t so well understood any more by those of my generation and younger who now populate Verdun and the surrounding area. And maybe that is a good thing.

My son has experienced so much in just a few days that it’s like he’s eaten an encyclopedia. What a great education - for both of us! He’s seeing that the world is much bigger than he ever could ever have imagined. His eyes stay wide like saucers and just from his amazement I have learned so many things.

You don’t have to go all the way to Europe to instill a sense of history in your kids. There’s Fort Calgary, The Glenbow and Heritage Park.

Right now there’s a slow train to Paris waiting ... and by Canada Day I should be in Vimy.