Change is inevitable. Some changes are so massive that they can change one’s life – dramatically and permanently. In Forever Changed, Cheri Helstrom relates how a series of changes affected her father, massively and permanently.
In this work of creative nonfiction, Cheri tells the story of her father, William Richard Scott, as if he is telling the story himself. Known better as Ritchie, he lives with his parents and six siblings in Alameda, SK, where his businessman father is the town’s first mayor.
As the title suggests, Ritchie experiences several changes that forever affect him. The first is when his mother dies. Then the Great Depression changes everything. There are further changes when his father dies. World War II brings more changes. But perhaps the biggest change, and his biggest challenge, is when he gives up alcohol.
One of Ritchie’s great joys as a youngster is going on a trip with his father to the Banff Springs Hotel, where he later works for the summer as a bellboy. Later still, he works as an office boy at the Coca-Cola head office in Toronto. When World War II breaks out, he enlists in the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals as a radio operator.
Ritchie points out several ironies of the war in Italy. In one encounter, both Germans and Canadians take turns sharing the only freshwater well several times a day, and they get along splendidly. On another occasion, Ritchie comes literally face to face with an enemy soldier about his own age. Both stare at each other, wondering who will shoot first.
Ritchie relates some exhilarating escapades. On a reconnaissance mission in what appears to be a deserted Italian village, he and his buddy come across a woman going into labour. Risking their lives amidst whizzing bullets and artillery fire, they stay and help her give birth to a baby girl.
Ritchie begins to realize that the only way he can survive the war is to desensitize himself to its horrors. After an assault fails miserably, Canadian troops pull back when the Germans counterattack, leaving Ritchie and his buddy behind. Both men are wounded in a daring rescue, and the army surgeon casually announces he will have to amputate Ritchie’s foot.
Illustrated with thirty black and white photos of Ritchie, his family, and his wartime experiences, Forever Changed is Cheri’s first book. Encouraged by her colleagues in a creative writing class at Regina’s Lifelong Learning Centre, she wrote it as a tribute to her father. This book is a legacy, not only for her children, but also for surviving veterans and their families.
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