As babies in our Gran’s house we were put to sleep every night under the dining room table John & I ~ bombs you see ~ this was early 1940's England. His Dad and mine were often away on duty but in that tiny council house lived Gran & Grandad, Mum’s little sister Peggy, John & his Mum (known as ‘big’ Peggy), our Mum and me. I have never managed to figure out who slept where, with the exception of John & myself.
From the under-the-table days until I was about ten we spent time together as cousins do ~ he visited us in Surrey and we travelled to Evesham to visit them. I was even sent up there alone a couple of times to spend a week or so. We swam in the local river with his younger brothers and sisters ~ we pinched (green, much to our dismay) apples from orchards and suffered the consequences ~ we went to get eggs from the nearby farm for his Mum ~ but mostly we just wandered in the daylight as little groups of children are wont to do & I looked up to my older cousin..
We never really knew each other as adults on a day-to-day basis ~ thousands of miles separated us ~ yet sometimes two people simply have a connection ~ he was always the one in touch when it meant something. I am sure he had his faults and foibles but I was not witness to them, all I see is the child, and even what I see may be romanticized just a wee bit. Our John was not a good ‘letter-writer’ nor was he ‘internet-inclined’ ~ no matter though, we saw each other over the years when I visited our grandparents, aunts and uncles. He called on my wedding day ♥ There were other not so happy transatlantic calls when we lost Mum, then his Dad, his beloved sister Kath and our Aunt Peggy, who left us much too soon.
The last time we saw each other was rather a special occasion ~ Dan, Maggie & I made a trip to Wales, it was fifty years since we had left & Dan had not been back. John drove down to meet the cousins he had never seen and to (I am sure) give me a hug. I can still hear him say “There she is!” with open arms. There was a wonderful family dinner, Auntie Peggy & her family, the three of us & John. We walked for hours round a car boot and then said goodbye in the parking lot because he was driving back home from there. We cried.
Recently I wrote John a letter, telling him of family news including the impending birth of my first grandchild – I never mailed it. A few days ago I mentioned the letter to Maggie saying that I would update it and mail it ~ well, now I cannot.
We lost John this morning, on the first day of the new year.
John was a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather and my heart breaks for those he leaves behind. To me, he was the childhood companion I will always cherish.
G’bless John ~ and maybe we will ‘gather’ more apples when I get there ..