A few weeks ago, I promised to tell the story of my mother’s man (lover, partner) in New Zealand – and no doubt you’ve been waiting with bated breath. So here’s what my husband calls ‘the long version’ of the men in my mother’s life.
In 1942, Jack Hyndman travelled from New Zealand to Canada to train for the air force. During WWII, a significant portion of Commonwealth pilot training took place in Canada and men from all over the world travelled to our country for these programs. Because he was a cousin, Jack stayed with my grandparents whenever he was on leave and fell in love with my mother. Throughout the training program and later when he went overseas to fly bomber planes, Jack and my mother corresponded. Unfortunately, his plane crashed one night while returning to England.
In May 1945, just before he was to go overseas, my mother and father married. They had known each other for a number of years and Dad had waited patiently – or more likely, not so patiently – while Mom had been involved with Jack. Ten years later, my mother had three children and a busy life keeping house, entertaining, and doing a range of volunteer work. Just like most women in those days.
And every year, she exchanged letters, photos, and cards with Jack’s sister Molly.
After 36 years of marriage, my father died at the age of 58. Mom was 54. It took a long while for her to dust herself off, pick herself up, and get on with life. Months of dark clothing and glum looks gradually gave way to a brighter outlook and a woman who was once again engaged with friends and family. When she booked a trip to Australia and New Zealand, my brothers and I were thrilled.
“I’m going to visit Molly,” she said, the map of New Zealand spread across the coffee table one night after dinner.
“That will be lovely,” I said, racking my brain to remember who Molly was.
Mom patiently explained the connection with Molly and the man called Jack who had visited Canada so long ago. She went on to mention Molly’s husband, George, and five children and a dairy farm on the North Island with more than 300 cows. I’m sure I smiled and nodded at all the right places.
“George was Jack’s best friend,” my mother added at the end of the explanation.
After that very successful trip, my mother met Bernie. In less than a year, they were married. Letters continued back and forth between New Zealand and Canada and a few years later, Mom took Bernie to visit that beautiful country. Unfortunately, Molly had passed away, but George welcomed them and once again, my mother came home enchanted.
Two months after Bernie passed away, my mother announced that George was coming to visit. She didn’t look too pleased and I hoped that by the time September rolled around, she would be in a better frame of mind. During his three-week visit Mom took George all over the place – Niagara Falls, Montreal, Ottawa, cottage country north of Toronto – and introduced him to family and friends. When my husband and I had dinner with them the night before he returned to New Zealand, we both noticed the hand George laid on my mother’s thigh and the wink my mother gave us from across the table.
That was twelve years ago. Mom was 77 and George 82. And the rest, as they say, is history.