As the early morning mist began to lift we walked from the bunkhouse leaving behind our uneaten breakfast and empty cups of tea. We each checked each others oxogen before we boarded the Lancaster. I sat behind the pilot and co-pilot and unfolded maps and various ariel photographs. The ariel photographs were of the usual standard. Buildings partially obscured by clouds, points of interest missing or German defences NOT detailed in our mission brief. As the Lancaster lurched into the sky my stomach fell, as it always does, followed by the feeling of trepidation. Will we return this time? I gave the first heading and we made our way through the skies, over the English channel towards Germany.
My Grandfather never spoke to us what he did during the war. He was a navigator with the RAF’s infamous bomber command from 1942-44 (I think). I don’t know how many missions he flew, too many. The above is only my interpritation of what might have occurred and just some of the feelings he might have felt. He joined the RAF when he was 18/19 and after two years he was discharged; he was considered a veteran…A veteran and still in his early 20’s.
Sadly he died about 10 years ago, so I never got the chance to have any kind of adult discussion with him. I remember taking family holidays with my Grandparents, being given ice cream and sweets and I always remember him playing scrabble and cards with my father and uncle. I longed to join in, but at age 7 there wasn’t much I could bring to the table. During my teenage years whenever they came over to visit I would always say my hellos, make my excuses and leave. Something I now deeply regret. This theme continued until I left my teenage self behind. But by that time it was too late. I often wonder what kind of stories he could have told. His life experiences must have been unfathomable. But I do know where I get my excellent sense of direction from, just ask my wife. We almost never get lost and I rarely have to ask for directions. The sat-nav always sends us the wrong way and I could have gotten us there quicker…if only I had a map.
How many times have you been stuck behind an elderly person in the queue or walking down the pavement and been frustrated or said something under your breath? Stow your frustration. They were once in their twenties, tearing up the town, going from pub to pub, picking up girls, or boys; or bombing the shit out of Germany or planting explosive devices along German supply lines in north Africa. The elderly population will always have a great deal to offer the world, their life experiences far outweigh ours. They have seen it, done it, designed the T-shirt, saw the original and read the book.
If you still need more proof. Then just imagine yourself, as you are now. Think about all you have accomplished, all you’ve learned and all you have to offer…now add 50 years MORE experience and you should arrive at where our current pensioners are at now. It’s a sobering thought and to have that life experience disregarded by anyone is an insult. I for one am enjoying the long road to wisdom.
If you are lucky enough to have your grandparents around then I urge you to ask them what they did when they were 21, or the first time they got drunk, have they ever been arrested or who first broke their heart.
I would also highly recommend watching ‘The great art robbery’ the latest Derren Brown offering. Which illustrates this point perfectly and was the inspiration behind this post.
“Time, as it grows old, teaches all things.”