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Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Daily Chai Gives You a History Lesson

Today's chai was a frappuccino and it was better than the best sex I've ever had. 'Nuff said.

This is a year of firsts as my ex and I navigate holidays, birthdays and other special occasions. I suppose it will always be like this from now on, trying to figure out how we still do things for the kids, but as separate parents. I've said in the past that we both have reasons for ending our marriage, but despite not wanting to be married to each other anymore, we maintain a decent relationship with each other. I would say that we do only for the sake of the kids though and not because of any abiding affection for each other. Today was no different, even though it was his weekend, we worked out that they would come with me to a Mother's Day lunch with my mum and my dad's side of the family. I am glad that we can work those things out and not be vicious to each other about who gets the kids when. The girls had so much fun seeing their second cousin again and meeting their other second cousin for the first time. The four littles got along so well, it was lovely to see.

Grandma was a war bride from World War II. She is now 92. I can't even imagine all the stories she has to tell, although I've heard plenty of them. My grandpa was a pilot in the second world war and we used to joke that it was a good thing he wasn't a very good pilot because otherwise he wouldn't have crash landed in Ireland and met my grandma. The last time I saw her I asked her how she met my grandpa and she gladly told me, her voice full of affection and love for the man who had crashed into her life.

He was taken as a prisoner of war because Ireland was neutral and handing him over to either side would have been a conflict of interest to their neutrality. So in Ireland he stayed.  My grandma's family owned a restaurant and all the prisoners of war would go to there to eat (sounds like being a POW in Ireland was a bit of a holiday!) and she loved to listen to their voices talking because there were so many different nationalities and different accents and while fights did break out, they generally got along pretty well, all things considered (I suspect the German POWs were kept separately from the Allied POWs, but she never mentioned Germans).

One night, my grandpa walked in and he was so full of life and so funny, she couldn't take her eyes off him. While she told me this part, her eyes became unfocused, she paused and then shivered. I asked her if she was cold and she said, "No, I was just remembering."

My grandpa, she said, was kind and gentle and could charm the birds out of the trees. He was also big and commanding and it wasn't long before she fell in love with him. He felt the same way and they soon married.  It was 1943 and she was 20. She knew if she married him, she would leave her family forever because he was a Canadian and they planned to live in Canada after the war was over, but that didn't dissuade her in the least. She loved him and she was perfectly prepared to start a new life with him.

Eventually the war did end of course and my grandpa was released and sent back to the Allies. By then, my grandparents were expecting their first child and my grandma stayed behind in Ireland with her parents where she would give birth to a little girl, my eldest aunt. When my aunt was nine months old, my grandma and she set sail for England to meet up with my grandpa, who was awaiting orders to return to Canada and eventually to civilian life. My aunt did not like being on the ship and wouldn't sleep unless she slept with my grandma, so by the time they arrived in England, they were fast and firm bedfellows, much to my grandfather's dismay, or so my grandma told me, "He wasn't too impressed that he had to share his bed with both of us. After all, he hadn't seen his wife in over a year!" Oh Grandma. TMI.

I'm not sure of the rest of the story after that, if they went on together to Canada, but I think not. I believe, after a brief amount of time together,  that he went first and then she went separately with hundreds of other war brides in ships specially consigned to transport all these new brides to North America.

My grandparents had five more children after my aunt was born and lived happily in Canada together until my grandfather's death in 1980. My grandma was widowed at the age of 57 and never remarried.  I always thought that spoke volumes about her love for him and her subsequent deep grief when he died.

It has always been interesting to me that despite the horror of war and the devastating losses both sides suffered, there are thousands of stories like my grandmother's. Men and women who met during this conflict that otherwise would never have crossed paths, their destinies forever changed. My own grandparent's story resulted in six children, 11 grandchildren 10 great-grandchild, none of whom would exist if my grandfather had been a better pilot.

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