My name is NJ. I am your fifth grandchild, and if you were still around, I would probably be your favourite. Just ask your wife; she knows. We have never met, but I wish that you had been around long enough for me to give you a hug.
When I was a kid, I would ask what happened, why did you die? The answer was always the same, “Because of the war.” What did the war do to you?
I’ve been told that you got married to Nana on a Friday at the courthouse, then had your weekend-long honeymoon, followed by your deployment to Africa. Nana was a mighty fine lady, one of my most favourite people in the world, so I trust that she wouldn’t just marry any old bugger. That must’ve been hard, saying goodbye; not knowing when you’d come back, not knowing if you’d come back.
Dad told me that you were posted in El Alamein during World War II. He told me that your father was there, too. That he had put his age up to go to WWI, and then put his age down to join you in Egypt, to escape from your mean step-mother. I hope that you don’t mind, but I’ve read one of your letters to Nana. It was full of wit, charm, and inside jokes. There is no doubt that I am clearly your descendant. I’ve heard that your father sent his wife postcards of buxom beauties, musing ‘Wish you were here!’
I understand that you were stellar at cricket, and captained the NZ war team, in Egypt. I’m pleased that you managed to entertain yourself during those times, that it wasn’t all sand and gunfire.
What was it like to be at war, Grandad, to be serving for our country? To sleep out in the cold, and hunker down in those dusty trenches? To hear explosions pierce the sky? To be away from Nana for so long? Sorry, I won’t go into details… it must be too hard to recall.
I loved the sentiment of when the war was over, that you buried everything except the clothes that you were wearing, under an olive tree in Cairo. I really want to visit there one day, to visit that olive tree. But I guess the dogs are best kept sleeping.
I’m thankful that you made it back home; to Nana, to try and make the best of a ‘normal’ life. To have kids, one who’d become my father. I look at your photo, framed on the wall; handsome – I can see the family resemblance in Dad, Uncle, and my brother who carries your name. I’m glad that you still knew how to smile, after you came back. It must’ve been hard, to adapt again; knowing what you knew, having seen what you had seen, having felt what you had felt.
I guess that’s why I wish you were still here, so I could give you a hug; to take some of those bad memories away, to say ‘thank you’ for being you, so that I can be me.
Thank you, Grandad.
This coming Anzac Day marks 100 years since New Zealand and Australian soldiers, ‘The Anzacs’, landed on the shores of the Gallipoli peninsula, to capture the Dardanelles. The campaign was unsuccessful with thousands of lives lost. April 25th has since become a day of remembrance for those fallen Anzac soldiers, commemorates New Zealanders who have died at war, and honours returned servicemen and women. Lest we forget.