Remembering My Father. 1995

We travelled south, in convoy, because of incidents on the road,

all the way to the Limpopo River.

Then, after driving for many miles along a railway line,

we found the halt called Ypres, and crossed it,

taking the brown road to the big farm in a grove of eucalyptus trees.

My father was “home”, the first time in 25 years.

The old lady, confused by the sight of two men, said:.

“Which one is Patrick?”

“It’s me, Aunt Hester”, he said, “that is our son”..

Later she showed me the photograph,

a boy of seventeen, in shorts, a gun crooked over his shoulder,

and his catch in his other hand,

a boy on the verge of another life, cricket for Western Province,

a family law firm in Cape Town.

But the torrent of history took him away, up the beaches of Normandy,

to Falaise, where he lost his best friend, whose name and school I inherited,

then to Berlin, where he took charge of thousands of ex-POWs from the East.

(I have a pencil portrait presented by Colonel Juk and his Officers.)

At Naboomspruit, they grew poplars for matchsticks, and water melons that popped in the sun.

On Christmas morning, the workers danced, and we went among them, with sweets for the children.

I never cried when he died, but on a sunlit day in June, at one of the great anniversaries,

with the old planes groaning overhead,

in a military graveyard on Wiltshire plain in England,.

I wept without control,

for the lost dreams of youth

and the honours so seldom accorded to those carried far from their homes

and all the things in the cell of each life

that we can never show or share.