Lazuli Green Island Mama

Lazuli Green Island Mama

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

the story of brothers

Get yourself a cup o' tea. I'd like to share a story which comes from the ancient blood of my heart.

It was the late 1930's. Ina (a Scottish immigrant) and Chick (of good convict stock) were a cheerful enough couple, living in NSW, Australia, with a very young son. For reasons of which there are rumours, but I don't know which are true, in 1940 Chick enlisted in the Australian Army and off he went to war. I'm sketchy on these details but Malaysia may have been the first stop for training camps. I've seen grainy sepia photos, of Australian soldiers, all dapper and smiling, laughing together.

Around the same time, Norman and Josie (both born and bred in London, UK) were a young couple in love. They had been childhood neighbours and were engaged to be married when Norman enlisted and went off to war. Somehow, he ended up in South East Asia.

In a very short time, Chick ended up in Changi Prison, Singapore, as a prisoner of war. There he met young Norman, who was also a prisoner of war. There they stayed, their states of health - mental and physical - declined, for long months which became years, as their families yearned for them back home. A bond was formed. It grew and it grew. It became so tight, the thought of it brings tears to my eyes. They became brothers of war.

Eventually, Ina heard of Chick's whereabouts, through newspaper snippets and God only knows how else. Isn't it just amazing that any news reached anyone during 1940's war years, let alone the news for a wife of her husband's detention in a prison camp in Singapore? Even more astonishing, is that Ina somehow heard of Josie, Norman's love back in London. Another bond was formed, this time between women, who were not next to each other, but were thousands of miles apart. And it grew and it grew.

One happy, happy day, Chick and Norman were both released from Changi Prison, and both went back to their homes. Chick returned to Australia, fathered two more children, and eventually became the grandfather to eight more. He was my Pop and I loved him with all of my heart. I love him still.

Norman returned to England, married Josie and fathered two children, and eventually also became a grandfather to four more. He became my Grandad when I adopted him as such in 1985, the year Pop died. By then Ina (Nana) had also died, and Josie became my adopted Gran.

And now, more than 70 years after Chick and Norman went to war, their bond lives on. At some point, in the life of a friendship, one forgets where blood stops and soul begins. For three, now four, generations Norman and Josie's family has been a part of Ina and Chick's family. In my mind, the two families are one. I ponder very often, that bond between two men, who became brothers of war. It brings me no end of happiness that their personal torments resulted in such a friendship, and I hope that, somehow, they are both aware of the far-reaching consequences of their time spent together. Their brotherhood has enriched my life in immeasurable ways. Surely they could not have seen that coming. And if that one amazing thing came out of World War II, surely millions more exist too. Ahhh, the infinite power of human connection.

Today is Josie's 90th birthday. My beloved Gran. And I'm going to the party! On my return, I shall bring stories of a little trip to London, which is adding a chilly (but heart-warming) twist to my February.

Who was it that said "Expect the unexpected"?

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