One always thinks of their Dad as this strong man who just loves you, well at least this one always did. He’s there for you right, wrong or indifferent he’s the one who you look up to, he’s your own personal tower of strength, your protector, your wise man, your hero. Well, that is how I think of my Dad.
One never thinks of him as the little boy who hid with his mother and brothers in an Anderson Shelter during World War II, as another nation dropped bombs on his homeland. You don’t think of him ever worrying as a child. That he lived in fear of one of those bombs destroying his home, or potentially killing his family.
Growing up he’s “Dad” your “Father”, he takes you swimming at beach, camping in the mountains, introduces you to the wonders of the world while preparing you towards adulthood. He’s there to support you as you grow from a child into an adult. Since, he did not reflect much on his childhood, you assume it was a happy one.
Yesterday my Dad sent, in an email, a link to this news article about children of London who a hundred years ago lived a life of Grime. They lived in the slums of London. The pictures were of children, washing windows, selling wood they had turned into kindling and vegetables they had procured from either their own garden or elsewhere. The pictures taken of these children were heart wrenching. Their little feet often barefoot stained with the dirt of the city.
I wrote a note back to my Dad: “that’s a horrible life those children had. The photography is amazingly brilliant though. Capturing both the innocence of the children and the horrific lives they endured.”
What he wrote back caused me to see him as I’ve never pictured my father before. Not as a boy growing up in the slums of London, but as a child growing up during World War II. Dad wrote “It wasn’t a whole lot better in south London when I was a young boy.” Unlike the children of the slums he had the stability of having both his parents to care for him. He didn’t have to wash windows to get a bite to eat. Even though he had a loving home and family, he still had to endure the fears created by a horrendous act – war!
His Dad, my Grand Dad had a job, rescuing the injured, or removing the dead from bombed buildings, then going in and securing the buildings so they did not collapse and injure more people. They received coupon rations for a bit of meat, often the size of a deck of cards – for the entire family. Sometimes, those rations would need to last for entire week. Nan mostly used it to flavor meals. Their rations were subsidized by the Grand Dad’s garden.
Dad and his brothers also had a job. Theirs was to collected horse manure from the milk man’s horse. Grand Dad used the manure to make fertilizer tea to grow some lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers as well as some other vegetables that he and Nan grew to feed their boys. Enabling them to have an occasional sandwich made of cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce. Sometimes they get a bit of cheese to go with their sandwich.
Dad didn’t tell me all this yesterday. I’ve heard bits an pieces over the years, but never did it hit home like it did yesterday. When looking back at the pictures of the Anderson Shelters I envision my Dad, his brothers, Grand Dad and Nan, huddled in the shelter. Waiting as the blare of the air raid horn fills the air, then hearing the whistle of bomb falling through the sky, listening for the explosion hoping upon hope it didn’t land on them.
Although, I’ll always picture my Dad as the man who gave me horsey rides, taught me to swim in the ocean, fish and ride horses. I’ve been given an insight to his childhood that I’m thankful to have never experienced and sorry that he did.