|Roylston Frederick Lowrie 1901-1919|
Yesterday I remembered Roy Frederick Lowrie, my grandmother's brother. I couldn't get him off my mind. I was in the car on my way to get our oldest daughter a wedding gift and the music was on. This song, "Tears In Heaven", by Eric Clapton was playing. Memories of my son leaving for Argentina years earlier flooded in. I was distracted by the thoughts only a mother can have of the transitional moments of her childrens' lives.
Turns out, those thoughts and feelings connected me to Roy's mom,Olga on a deeper level than I'd expected. You met her in one of my posts, My Family History / "Booger Snots!". She has felt so distant and aloof to me for so long. Yesterday she became a mother to me. Someone I could relate to very well.
Sometimes it takes someone leaving for me to know how much their presence in my life affects me. I was overwhelmed by the grief I felt when I saw my son's plane take off, knowing I wouldn't see him for two years. I walked into his room that afternoon to pack up his stuff and get it ready for the next oldest sibling to move in. But I couldn't. I just sat on his bed and cried. You have to understand something about me. I'm not what some people call a "helicopter" parent. I probably border on being called an "absent" parent because my children are so curious and I'm so trusting that I usually don't know what they're up to until way after the fact. And there I was, crushed with heartbreak, seeing my son's smiling, trusting, innocent face everywhere I turned. He was so young! So full of life. And he was gone. It took me days and a lot of deep breathing to tackle that room. I packed away his stuff in boxes and my feelings way down deep in my gut.
How did Olga feel sending her son off to fight in WWI? He was only 16 when he signed up! I have documents that prove he lied about his age so that he could enlist. What motivated him and his brother to willingly engage in the war? Did Olga shake her head as I do so often when my children tell me of their next grand adventure? Notice I said TELL not ASK!
What could it have been like to receive a telegram that told her he'd been killed in action on a battlefield in France? He'd turned a young 18 a month before.
But there's a treasure only God could have arranged for Olga. Her other son Vic, who'd also enlisted, was sent to France as a member of the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. Just like Roy. The two of them, by luck or fate or as a gift from heaven to a future grieving mother, met on that battlefield the very day that Roy was killed. Can you imagine that? Two young brothers maybe taking a minute if they had it to embrace and regard each other one last time. Vic would be able to tell Olga how her son looked, what he said, and possibly give her something more than most get with an impersonal telegram.
My boy came home. I ran to the airport and hugged him as he laughed. His pants were covered with Argentine mud. Everything in his suitcase was covered with that land's soil. I soaked those clothes in the bathtub and got them relatively clean. I pulled the lever and watched the muddy water swirl and empty down the drain. My throat caught and I wondered if I should have saved some of that dirt as a token or memorial? But it was too late. My boy knew he'd been there. He had his memories. We'd talk about them once in a while. They'd become a part of who he is as he moved forward with more grand adventures.
Roy didn't come home. He lays buried in France. All I have of him is the leather satchel that was given to all soldiers. The one that holds a few pictures and a miniature Bible. One that Olga may have held as she sat with Vic, listening to him recount that last meeting with her oldest son. A boy who was just becoming a man. A boy who would more than likely have married and started a family of his own.
A boy who made this mother cry! One who I'll see one day on the other side.
I can imagine him asking, "Do you know my name?"
I'll squint and wonder if the picture did him justice.
"Yup! I know you!"
And there will be tears for a different reason.