(The beauty and burden of memory – Sarah Ferguson 7.30 report)
There is one experience many of my generation had that I did not. I never had to hold my breath in the hope that one of my four brothers might come back safely from war.
My Dad was born in 1914. He had a congenital bone condition that made him medically unfit for service. As a family we never had to deal with what is now recognised as PTSD as the result of military service. We were blessed.
That is not to say that my Dad never left home!
Dad was a journalist. He started out as a copy boy and ended up the editor. His career took him all around the world and he always came back!
His first overseas trip was with 5 Australian based journalists, sponsored by the British High Commission. It marked the beginning of BOAC flights to Australia. The trip lasted 8 weeks. I was terrified about his safety.
I was thirteen.
I used to earn pocket money by playing the organ at weddings. The fee was two guineas! I remember purchasing a set of rosary beads, without my mother’s permission, in the hope that he would return safely. My mother had a fit! But my Dad came back!
He took those beads with him everywhere he went after that, at home and abroad.
When he flew to South Africa as a journalist representative I was convinced Kruger National Park would get him. It was the time of apartheid and he was deeply confronted by what he saw. I was terrified he would be eaten in the national park or arrested in Durban! But my Dad came back!
He returned to England and then to France in 1972 to visit the Concorde factory. He didn’t get to fly in it. However, the fear of my Dad travelling at supersonic speed in a foreign country had me terrified again. By that time his first grandchild, my daughter, had arrived. Just a few months old, she was held by her grandfather and she goo-ed and gurgled her recognition of him all the way home. My Dad and her GrandKen came back!
After Dad retired he was able to fulfil a long term dream. He took my Mum to Italy and England. Their tour guide, my brother who had studied in Rome for four years. They missed out on Ireland because of a ferry strike, but they both came back!
My Dad died in 1999. Alzheimers took him away from us. He became a cranky, swearing stranger. My Mum was convinced that staff at the nursing home were teaching him to swear! “How are you today, Dad? “Up the shit!” was a frequent, deliberately enunciated and delivered fortissimo reply! My Dad had worked as a reporter attending dockyard and steel workers’ union meetings in his early career, to say nothing of working with journos! None of those words were new to him!
In July 1998 his first great grand daughter was born. Her mother was his first grandchild, my daughter, Patricia, the baby he had cradled in his arms on his home trip back to Newcastle.
Patricia took Gabrielle to meet him in the nursing home. The baby was a cloud in pink ruffles, six months old, chubby and smiling. Emitting glee and gorgeousness!
“And who is this?” Dad asked. “This is your great grand daughter” was Patricia’s reply. “Did I have children” he asked. “Yes! You did! You had six and I am one of them” from me!
“You seem to know more about it than me. What’s her name?” “Gabrielle” mother and grandmother replied in unison.
“Gabrielle…… G-A-B-R-I-E-L-L-E. Is that correct?”
THE EDITOR WAS BACK!
That dialogue was repeated about six times and then came:
And my Dad came back!