I’ve had the honour lately of reading many of the letters my biological grandfather wrote to my grandma while he was overseas during WWII. He and grandma married about two months before he was shipped overseas. They both turned 21 while he was over there. The letters talk of his different postings and “joe jobs”, getting and giving the latest “gen”, the shows put on in the local town for the boys and the friends he’d made both in training and while over there. But mostly they talk about his love for grandma, his contentedness at being a husband, his loneliness for her and frustration with the distance between them. They read almost as a diaryand as the letter dates move onward, I can read how he is changing, become more mature and changing from a lovestruck boy into a husband.
Perhaps most striking to me is, however, how much he is a part of me. The way he writes, the things he chooses to write about, his outlook on life, and even the “blues” he suffers from time to time, all ring true in me. I feel I know a man I never met almost as well as I know myself. But perhaps that’s the romantic in me too.
Of course, I’m also armed with the knowledge of how long he ends up staying over there, how long it will be until he can hold his “little wife” in his arms again, and how short his life would be after he arrived home. His dreams of a couple of children and a home of their own….well, they were not to be. They did conceive one child before he fell so very ill and died when that child was just 13 months old.
So I wonder what he would have been like as a grandfather, what type of person he would have become as he aged and how our lives may’ve been different had he lived.
Grandma did not like to talk about those times or about him, which, frustrating as it was to me as family historian, I’m beginning to understand a little better now. They must have been wonderful & yet painful and frustrating times. From being a new bride being left alone for several years, to finally having him home, to his falling ill and being in hospital for months before he died. And those last ones happening while she was raising a toddler. Memories left lying quietly, not relived simply because a granddaughter keeps asking questions.
Luckily grandma did find love again, and married the man I know as “grandpa”, and he too was a wonderful man who took us grandkids to the local corner store, pointed to the candy aisle and said “pick out what you want”. So while I will never really know my biological grandfather, the grandpa I had was a kind and marvellous man in himself. Even if I don’t have his genes to give me some extra height.