Letter Grandad Might Have Sent Me, 23rd February 1945 by Sue Evangelou
Dear Susan Jane,
When you are older your Mother will show you the photo. It’s a sepia print and the size of a postcard. We all, myself, your Grandmother, your Aunt Dolly, your Uncles Billy, Bob, Pat and Peter and your Mother, little Violet, are looking quite solemn. For it was taken in 1916 and I had been volunteered by the other doctors in Mansfield to fill the post of Medical Officer for two newly formed Tunnelling Companies of Mansfield miners. What a grand bunch of lads they were. I was proud to serve with them.
But, I am getting a little ahead of myself. Your Grandmother was furious when she found out I was going to France. I was in my 46th year with a wife and six surviving children aged between 16 and 5 years, all relying on me to provide for them. The photo could have been the last of us together but I lived to tell the tale until a few short weeks before your birth today.
I won’t tell you about the sights I saw, it was said to be a war to end all wars. Yet here we are as I write in the midst of another war. It seems like the tide is turning now and my wish for you is a lifetime of peace.
Ironically, I was better able to look after my family whilst I was serving. For the first time I was getting a regular salary. During our early years of marriage, I afraid I was very reluctant to charge those who I knew could ill afford to pay for my services. Unfortunately, this meant that your Grandmother had to take turns bestowing her custom on the shops of Mansfield in order to spread her credit. It was only when I had been called upon to attend richer patients, whom I had no qualms in charging, that the money came in for your Grandmother to settle the bills. There has been talk of a system where no-one has to pay to see a doctor. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing? I hope you live to see that happen.
Whilst I was still in France, even though the war had ended, your Mother, like so many, contracted Spanish Flu. I felt helpless. We had already lost Maynard when he was six and Philip when he was just a few days old. I am sure that your Grandmother will tell you when you are older that you were born on the very same day and month as Maynard. I have a feeling that your Grandmother will love you all the more for it.
Where was I? Yes, I was telling you about your Mother catching flu. Even though she was a skinny little thing, she survived and I sent money for her to have a little jug of cream each day whilst she stayed with two of your Great Aunts by the sea to recuperate. Your mother still likes cream to this day and you may find she has the habit of skimming off the top of a bottle of milk and I say good luck to her. She’s a hard worker and will be a wonderful mother to you as my Lizzie was to our children.
I wish you a life where you never forget those less fortunate than yourself and realise that money isn’t everything though I am not sure that your Grandmother would agree. Please don’t forget those who sacrificed their lives on our behalf.
By the way I am sorry I didn’t ever manage to invent a device for perpetual motion even though I spent many long hours in my surgery trying to do so. Remember it is the trying that counts. Never give up. Life is full of challenges. Embrace them and learn from them.
William Henry Gray,