("Bless Them All" is an old war song that my father used to sing on car trips with us. I could never remember all the words but I remember finding it amusing and the tune always appealed to me. The following lyrics are courtesy of my second oldest brother and I think there are other versions of the song but this is the one that our father taught us.)

Bless them all, bless them all
The long, the short and the tall
Bless all the sargeants and WO1s
Bless all the corporals
and their blinking sons

So the ship is sailing Bombay
Bound for blighty shore
You'll get no promotion
This side of the ocean
So cheer up my lads
Bless them all














Bridge on the River

My father fought in World War Two. Many men did as well, most of whom were very young and inexperienced. Many fathers, brothers, grandfathers, uncles, sons. Many also never returned such as my father's younger brother, the uncle that we never knew because he died before we were born. But my father returned. He survived his experience as a prisoner of war and returned home to his family.

And whether or not it's related to the memory of my father, that era still holds a bit of a fascination for me. It is old and yet, timeless.

And because he also helped to build the bridge on the River Kwai as a prisoner of war, even those documentaries never fail to elicit some sort of response from me. A recent viewing of such a documentary brought back my father's memory again. And watching these old men -- those prisoners of war who had helped to build the bridge as well -- made me wish I could be watching my father telling of his own experiences of the war.

I miss him still.

Did all of these men who returned home after the war lead productive, respectable lives? Did any of them have secrets as well? It was hard to tell. And I wondered what my father went through before, during and after the war, to mould him into the man who later became my father.

After my father passed away, a rumour went around that he would have liked his ashes to be scattered over the river Kwai. It was a romantic notion, of course. It made for a good family story and we all talked and wondered about it. But did my father really have such a wish? Was it something he had mentioned to my mother? I suppose that I liked the idea of it, that perhaps I could have been one of the chosen ones to travel to that region and scatter my father's ashes. Ah, then and only then would it have made for a great family story to hand down the generations. In the end, however, his ashes remained closer to home. Closer to us.

I asked my mother for war stories about my father. He told her that, as a prisoner of war, they used vaseline -- as they didn't have any oil -- to cook cockroaches to eat. I would have liked more stories. I would have liked to sit with my father and ask him to tell me of his war experiences. I would have liked to converse with my father about anything under the sun.

I miss him still.

I miss the father I had. I also miss the father I never had. Most of all, I miss the father who passed away when I was seventeen. He died on his hospital bed. And all his experiences and memories died with him. He will never tell me his stories. They are second-hand stories passed down from my mother instead. And they will have to do.

I am holding on to a memory. That is all that is left of him now. I only knew him for a brief seventeen years. That really isn't very long when one thinks about it especially when the experience and knowledge I had of him were not always pleasant ones. I am also an older woman now, perhaps a little too old to have such childish fancies. And yet, I know that I will always miss my father, for all kinds of reasons.

Well then, so be it.


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