November 11th, 2010

It’s Remembrance Day here in Australia.  We’re on the other side of the world to the UK, so it starts before the UK even wakes.
ANZAC day is far more widely remembered here but Nov 11th still has a special place in all our lives.

Today I wanted to share my story with you.  This is my grandfather, Eric.

He was a RADAR operator in WWII in Burma. He was the first person there to operate RADAR in fact.  He’d be sad to see what’s become of Burma at the moment.  He always said it was a beautiful country.
He survived the war, thought I don’t know how.  At his point of exit from Burma, he had Yellow Fever and was put on the train as a dead man.  It was only due to the intervention of someone on the train who realised he was still alive that he was bought home for medical attention.

He died a few weeks after my daughter, Cate, was born.
Cate and I drove to Manchester when she was a few weeks old because I knew that he was dying and that she would never know him.
I got lost just outside Manchester and shot a red light in my confusion. The day was hot as only a hot British summer can sometimes be, Cate was crying and I was at the end of my tether.

Then the police pulled me over and I thought my day could not get any worse.  I explained what I was trying to do – get to the hospital to see my grandfather before he died.   The lovely Manchester policemen escorted me, with blue lights flashing, right to the door and delivered us to the ward before leaving us to it.
My grandfather was unconscious when I arrived. The nurses said he wouldn’t wake up, and so we sat there for a few minutes before I said ‘Grandpa, it’s Annabel. I bought the baby to see you.’

He opened his eyes wide, fully awake, looked right at her for a few seconds and then closed his eyes gently again. We stayed for as long as we could,  I talked to him about things, the important stuff you talk about I guess, when you’re with someone who’s dying.
He died a few days later. I was just happy he’d seen Cate and she’d seen him. I put her baby hands in his and I know he felt that.

He was a great and funny man, a loving grandfather and a wonderful kind, caring, compassionate person who is thought of much and missed even more.
He had a wonderful life. He was a consummate joker and laughed all the time. He passed his love of sports and Morcombe and Wise on to me. 😀   He was everything that a grandfather should have been. We were very lucky to have him.

He could never talk about the war.   It was too painful.

This goes out in remembrance to all those soldiers all over the world today who are caught up in wars, who give and who have given their lives, and for the parents and children who never got the chance to say ‘goodbye’ like I did.