You might think because of the suffering my ex caused me I don’t have a very high opinion of men. Not true, I don’t have a high opinion of him, but I’ve had the privilege of having some amazing men in my life.
I was lucky enough to have incredible male role models growing up. From my Dad, who unfortunately died suddenly in a boating accident when I was 21 to both my grandfathers, my brother and my uncles.
My paternal grandfather died young too, my memories of him are of a gentle happy soul who would dance with us around the living room to Bony M. His wife, my nana, was a strong Irish woman and the matriarch of the family. So clever and so wise, she kept it all together and worked right up until her late 60’s. I see myself in her because she taught me well, schooling me from a young age to be independent and think for myself. She was truly selfless when it came to her family.
My maternal grandfather Fred was a real character. I want to say IS a real character. Because I don’t believe he’s gone just because he died – his soul still exists, he still exists. What a strong soul he is too. He went to war young, like a lot did in the second world war. He died there too and came back; it gave him the key to seeing others pass through that gate later in years. I spent all my school holidays at my maternal grandparents, as soon as we would wake, we’d pile into their bed and watch White Island (a volcanic island in the sea) smoke from their large bedroom window. It was totally normal for grandpa to say such-in-such has just died. Then we’d get the call later in the day to confirm it via the usual communication route of the telephone.
He adored my grandmother. Every second of every day – he adored her. This was my normal growing up. He was an escaped prisoner-of-war and got over the border to Austria where my grandmother and her family hid him on their farm. She would steal out every night to his hiding place in the barn to bring him food. She spoke little English and he’d only learnt a little German in the prison of war camp but that didn’t stop them falling in love. The language of love goes far beyond words.
They had incredible stories of that time, which I grew up on. He promised her when he returned home to New Zealand, he would send for her. As it turned out it wasn’t that easy as they were on opposite sides of the war from a political viewpoint. He wasn’t a man to give up, he eventually found a church that agreed to marry them and campaigned the government to let him bring her over. And so it was, she travelled many miles to another country to board a ship that brought her to the other side of the world, at 19 years old. She was always a brave and courageous woman.
After they married, they had their fair share of difficulties thanks to what we now know to be PTSD, but they never wavered in their devotion to each other.
My grandfather Fred was a big personality. He loved practical jokes, and everyone loved him. Grandma worked in a charity shop as a volunteer one day a week. On that day Fred would be lost, spending the whole time working with us grandchildren to make everything nice for her return and counting down the hours till she was back. My grandmother never spent a day not knowing how adored, loved and needed she was by her husband.
He adored and loved me, his first grandchild, too. I could do no wrong even when I was behaving like a demon child. Later, when I was older, he’d hold slide show evenings and lovingly narrate slides of me throwing terrible toddler tantrums with, “that was the day when I didn’t get Josephine her ice-cream fast enough because there was a queue of people”. What! I was being a total brat, that’s the truth – but not in his eyes.
My dad was a morale, intellectual person. A closed book but a good man. My brother is the same genius level of intelligence and a loving father and good provider. All the men in my family share great senses of humour, there was always banter and laughter with them.
So, here’s to all the great men, the good guys – let’s hear it for the boys!