Cathy lives in Auckland surrounded by whanau. She is a lifelong reader and loves to write, play with her mokopuna and hear the stories of other people.
I well remember the wide open space of my grandparents’ front hall and the smell of spiced apple wafting in from the kitchen. I can still feel the joy of a visit ‘all by myself’, where I had the luxury of time with my gentle grandfather. Grandpa and I would wander hand in hand to the little stream running near the house to play ‘pooh sticks’. We would then return via the large shed in the backyard where walnuts from their tree were stacked in hessian bags.
As time went by, I became more aware of my grandparents' shared history going all the way back to the little township of the farming community of Keith in South Australia. They both came from large families of people who settled and struggled on the land. Grandma was a very efficient, loving but at times hard woman with an acerbic energy, who didn’t always find it easy living with the slower paced kindly Fred. He was a second choice for Gladys after her first love was killed on ‘Flanders fields’. Somehow her discontent showed itself to us all and I know I thought of Grandpa with a warm protective kind of love.
He grew up the youngest of six children in Streaky Bay, the most south western corner of South Australia and it was a poor hard existence. His sadness at the death of his beloved, favourite sister Maud, at the tender age of eighteen from appendicitis, lived with him until his death at 98. They had been too far from medical help.
Later he went to Jerusalem as an ambulance bearer and the experience stayed with him, leading to an emotional breakdown in his early forties. Much later when my husband and I took him to see the movie Gallipoli, he sat with tears rolling down his cheeks. “It was just like that,” he said. “They took the best of us.”
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