It was a time long ago. It was a far away place. Ancient and far away. I've always liked the sound of those words. It brings to mind a different time and place; a different generation. It is even a world that is no longer, a place that once was and will never be.
It is an old piece of paper, filled with words about the man who would be my father. It is a Memorandum, a folded sheet with dried ink that my mother gave to me. And it is precious.
"Mr. _______________ is personally known to me, and was employed under my supervision in the ______ Road Camp as Medical Dresser during the time the Camp was used as a home for Displaced Persons.
From my knowledge of his work, I have no hesitation in saying that Mr. _________ is hardworking and reliable, and capable of tackling any job that may be given to him with energy and intelligence.
I have pleasure in recommending Mr. ________ for any responsible job as an overseer - clerk."
It was signed by the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare. It was after the Second World War and before he met my mother. It was a time and place that no longer exist. Even the man who wrote it -- and the man it was written about -- are no longer alive. My mother gave it to me probably because I'd often mentioned that I wanted something of my father's.
I felt proud of that man. And I wished I had known him better. And that Memorandum, in its own minuscule way, helped to bridge a gap between my father and I. It didn't close it entirely, of course, for I don't think that's ever possible. And no doubt that piece of paper would still be precious to me even if my father were still alive and if he had never touched me.
The man that is written about on that piece of paper would one day be my father. All this happened before I was born. All this happened before he met and courted my mother. It was a different time and place. I still have questions, wondering what he went through, what he endured, what really happened...
It is easy to reminiesce and to wish for what once was and will never be.
I am almost forty-five, no longer a spring chicken, as they say. I haven't completely laid the ghosts to rest, I know that. And sometimes there is still that familiar, dull ache within.
The scars remain. The memories do not die. They resurface every once in a while. And this happens even when one is reading an old memo from a time long ago.
I thank my mother for having kept it all these years and giving it to me. I thank the Assistant Secretary who wrote it. And I thank God that I could share it with my husband (who understood and advised me on how to better preserve the piece of paper that had travelled far and wide) and for this part of my journey.
Even now, twenty-eight years after my father
s death, I can be both moved and haunted by the past.