A letter to my grandfather
James Handley Fearn 1891- 1980
Did your heart break that day on the 1st of April 1947?
I remember the day so clearly as if It was yesterday. I never saw you or spoke to you again, granddad. And I loved you so much. My only excuse is I was so very young and didn’t understand. Canada was just a name, not a destination.
I know you were trying to be brave and strong for us all. Brave for my parents, my grandmother, my uncle, my brother, and me.
You had seen people head for the new worlds of Canada, Australia and New Zealand. You knew that there was most often a one way ticket. There were even more after the second Great War.
England had so little to offer it seemed that the new worlds were very tempting to ones who had lost everything in the air raids,. They had taken so much and so many.
I remember my mother’s brother holding my mother so tight and his shoulders shaking. I thought he was laughing. With the wisdom of the years, I know he was sobbing on her shoulder and hiding his tears from us. I held his ankles. As he had often held mine as he help me tight and dangled me over a brook to pick a wild flower, or a pretty rock.
My grand dad spoke in the old tongues of the Friends and said to my dad “It is nay too late lad, thou canst change thy mind thou’st knows .Non ay thing worse of thee.”
I remember wondering why they were not as excited as I when I saw the busy airport and the large planes taking people to new lands and new adventures.
I was more interested in the Nabisco shredded wheat box that was packed with games and books to entertain us on our long flight. It didn’t seem long from Manchester England to Toronto Canada.
My brother was enchanted with the pocket knife my granddad had given him. A mark he was a man now and would carve a place for himself in Canada.
This was no nine hour trip in modern jets. It took us a total of four days in a turbo prop, to get to Toronto.
By the time we landed in Labrador, there was a gale that grounded us for three more days.
Now I stand in my Grandfather’s shoes.
I have watched my son; his wife and children leave me.
They too are going an impossible distances, to a land I will never see and it is likely I will never see them again.
They are immigrating to Australia.
This is the son I offered my own life to deliver when we found I was not only pregnant, but I had cancer.
We manage to both make it through. We both gave a lot for his survival. The cost was very dear, but I never regretted it.
He was a son to be proud of.
I am still proud of him. I tried to raise him with wings in his heart so he could fly as far as his dreams could take him.
And I tried to raise him with his feet of the ground so he would always know he is a good at man, who will take care and respect the people he is responsible for.
Now, as he unfolds those wings to fly to foreign lands, I wish him a safe journey,a happy landing, and the strength and peace to carve out a good and decent life for himself, and those whose lives are now his responsibility.
As he spread those wings in the age old migration of man, I, like my grandfather before me, will hear a sound deep within my soul as my heart breaks.
I am sorry Grandfather. I didn’t understand. Forgive me.