I have been feeling a bit sad and sorry lately because we have to go away for 8 weeks for our rural rotation, and I'm going to miss my family and friends. I went for a visit to my parents yesterday, who live more than an hour's drive away, so we slept overnight.
We had a lovely time, drank just the right amount of good wine, roasted marshmallows in their fireplace and had a lot of laughs.
We stayed in my old room, which has been redecorated as a guest bedroom. There are pictures on the side-tables of my father's parents from before and after the second world war. My grandparents met and married just before the war, and one of the pictures is of my grandfather looking very suave, fit and handsome in his uniform, with his collar turned up, looking off into the distance, with my beautiful grandmother sitting next to him with a half-smile on her face. They both look very young and were a handsome couple.
Soon after that, my grandfather went off to fight to the north of Australia, to Singapore and beyond and was captured by the Japanese, spending years in prisoner of war camps. He endured the Burma Railroad and Changi Prison Camp, becoming so malnourished, maltreated and ill that he would be disabled for life. He lost most of his eyesight, was nearly completely deaf and suffered many other physical and psychological scars, including shrapnel that was never removed - a surprise for the staff at the crematorium.
Fortunately for us, he survived the war, and went on to father five children with my grandmother, living until he was 88 years old.
Anyway, the point of this story is that my grandmother had to endure all of these years, too. She had no idea whether or not he was dead or alive for the entire time that he was a prisoner. I can't imagine anything worse than not knowing whether your husband is alive or dead at the hands of an opposing army who have a reputation for cruel and terrible treatment of prisoners.*
I was there last night in my old room just looking at these pictures and remembering their story. Then I thought about what I am about to do, and I woke up to myself. I realised that it really is nothing in comparison, and will be over so very quickly. I will have phone access the entire trip, frequent visits and support all around me, both from family, and from the people I will be around.
It will be a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to it. I will still miss my husband, but it won't be too bad. After all, I'll be seeing him again in the blink of an eye. :)
*As a side note, there were apparently not a few men who came back after years of serving overseas in WWII, to find that they had been declared 'dead' or 'missing' and their young wives had remarried and had another family. This is a story that you don't commonly hear in those WWII documentaries!