The above image was sent to my Gran Anna by my Papa during the time they were separated. The kiss is 68 years old.
It’s been exactly a year since we lost our Papa. It still stings. My heart still breaks a little when I see his picture. When I hear one of his favourite songs. When my little sister still hurts. When my Gran Anna is sad. I want to tell him about how I went to Cuba. To rage with him about Trump. I want his opinion on Brexit (I’m sure he’d be disappointed). I want to tell him about my new job. How hard it was to let go of my business. I want him to ask me about my taxes, my earnings and question my finances. I want him to tell me about the war. Talk to me about Germany. Tell me his love story again and again and again. Because I never ever would have tired of it.
To commemorate his death, I’m sharing the Eulogy I wrote the day he died. I read it, choking through tears at his funeral. I’m in floods of tears just writing this. I can’t write any more. Xx
I never thought I’d have to eulogize my Papa. As our family figurehead he seemed immovable, immortal and often our saving grace.
As the self appointed family history keeper, over the past few years, through infrequent visits, I have made an attempt to understand how this man became my Grandfather. The following is what I have learned.
Born in 1929, he happened into a career of surveying, aged 16, after his uncle wrote a letter of recommendation to a friend who owned a construction company. He was paid 26 shillings a week, most of which went to his mother, begrudgingly, for room and board. The rest took him to and from work and to night school at Regent St College and left him very little for play time.
It was through his work as a junior surveyor that the British Army took notice. He was called to a job at St Thomas hospital, the hospital had been damaged by a bomb and Papa went to survey the damage. The British Army deemed him an invaluable resource and he found himself on his way to post-war Germany as part of the Royal Engineers, to rebuild a country that eventually he grew to love as his own.
He recalled to me, that, as a young man, sitting on a wall at his barracks, he looked out over an expansive blue sky. He said he could have sat there forever. Looking out into the endless horizon, he said he felt like life could always be like this. He also said that little did he know Anna was waiting for him on the other side of that same blue sky.
The army took him to the ski resort of Winterberg, He lived quite the life in Winterberg, his day’s were easy and he recalls feeling lucky to be in such a place and with such a girl.
For it was in Winterberg that Papa met the love of his life. Our dear Gran Anna. Gran Anna, who was working for the British Army processing wages, was in need of a safe, and it was Papa’s job that day to install one. Gran Anna stood at the top of the steps, Papa at the bottom. They were instantly struck.
Gran Anna – the daring woman we all know her to be – made the first move. There was a cinema in town that was only frequented by the army and she wanted to go. So naturally, she asked Papa to take her. Their courtship continued with dances at the hotel (turned army quarters) until eventually Papa was assigned elsewhere. Undeterred by distance, Papa would sneak off the army barracks with the post and ride in the army post truck, a canvas covered truck, “it was cold I’ll tell you” – he told me, and into Winterberg. In Winterberg he claimed he stayed with the other officers, Gran Anna will tell you another story, but that’s her secret to tell.
It was love. True love, evidently. When it came time for Papa to return to England, he proposed to his dear Anna and left her with the funds to join him in England.
His mother, initially was not pleased, and asked that his cousin Frank take him out to meet someone else. Of course he did not. Gran Anna joined him in England and in 1950, they were married. They were married for over 60 years and had three children, my Dad, Ian, my Aunt Sue and my Uncle Robert.
This should be the end of my story, now you know how this man became my Grandfather. There are a million more anecdotes I could tell you, like the time he was honored by the Queen for his work on Windsor Castle or the time he turned down a company car and apartment out of loyalty (and a pay raise) for his old company. But i think what I want to be the take away here, is that this man, who we all know as a stoic patriarch. The man who was logical, reasonable, rational. The man who supported his family, provided for them and was stern when it mattered, and sometimes when it didn’t.
This man was, for all intents and purposes, a dreamer, a drifter and a hopeless romantic in his heart. He met the love of his life aged 20 and he stopped at nothing to marry her, despite the controversy of bringing a woman from Germany to post-war Britain, he loved her and he knew that with her he could spend the rest of his days under that endless blue sky and life would always be like this.
So thank you Papa. Thank you for being both a rock and an inspiration. I love you so much, may you rest in peace under the blue sky. You are so loved.