17. Monday 7 January. Your uncle George
My beautiful Byron,
You never met your uncle George. Let me tell you about him. This picture is from 20 years ago, taken on the last occasion I saw him. Wallace was just one year old. The most handsome Schnauzer in the entire world. He so enjoyed meeting Wallace.
George is 87.
His mother, Anna, was my Fathers sister. I remember her from when I was your age. She died about 48 years ago. She was very pretty. All of your grandads family were good looking. From Crete. Where, there is a village on the southern coast called Sfakia.
Handsome gene pool. And with one notable quality among the Sfakiani, and that is courage. It has come in useful for me from time to time. It will come in useful for you too. Especially because of Amlot/Adler and O’Leary.
George can credit Amlot for never having met you. And you can thank Amlot for never meeting your uncle George. That is, if you decide it is right to thank Amlot for his achievement.
George lives in George, in the Western Cape. Although I haven’t seen George for 20 years I have him on my phone contacts and I spoke to him when I was in South Africa recently, with Yaya, who likes George and his family.
I have never actually messaged or emailed George. Years ago, when I moved to California, George asked Yaya for my US number. George has texted me every names-day, 30 November is Saint Andrews day, and the biggest of days in the Greek Orthodox memory, And again every Birthday. He would send sweet messages on both of those days.
On Saturday, two days ago, George, the man, not the place, came into my mind.
One moment I was immersed in my book, pondering a grocers apostrophe and the next I was distracted by an image of my cousin George. So I put my pen down, took a sip of coffee, and thought.
“He is getting up there now. I’ll bet he would get a charge out of a happy message from me. I will send him a positive message to tell him I am thinking of him”.
I fired that off on my iPhone and turned back to my work.
What’s interesting here is that this was the first time I ever initiated a call to my cousin George.
This morning, as usual, I spoke to yaya, who said “I have some bad news for you. your cousin George died on Saturday.”
I have known George all my life. He was very close to my father, Manos Broulidakis, who died in 1971 when I was ten. I understand it was my father who brought the majority of his family from Egypt to South Africa after establishing himself there. And George was his favorite nephew.
About 1973, when I was 12, one day George arrived at my home in Bryanston asking to speak to me personally. Although we are cousins, through the vagaries of the time, there is an almost 30 year age difference. George introduced our agenda by presenting an envelope. I remember the meeting as if yesterday. He said.
“I have something that was given to me. But I don’t think it is right and I think you should have it.”
He showed me an envelope, the original envelope, from the British War Office. Drawing my attention to the seal. He opened it to reveal three medals. One was an Africa Star, awarded to all participants in WW2’s Africa campaign. The other two were awards for valor for Captain Manos Broulidakis.
“I was there the day this envelope arrived” said George.
“It was sometime in 1946 or maybe even 1947. Your father received it, opened the envelope from the War office, saw what it was, and he gave it it to me. He said. ‘George take this please. I do not accept this nonsense. Who do they think they are sending medals?.’ He was angry about it. I was so excited to have the medals.”
Not only did I accept the medals from George, I received the story and it had a profound influence on me at 12 years of age. I was still reeling from the loss of my father at such a tender age. He wasn’t just gone because a judge and two family lawyers did a number in family court. He was gone because he had a heart attack and died.
I was ten years old at that time and I didn’t have letters and hundreds of photos to understand who my father was. Here, in these medals, was an actual tangible thing to remember him by. Behavior he modeled for me to learn from. A whole treasure trove of possibilities for a 12 year olds imagination.
And what did I learn at age 12 from this?
Medals and flags and nationalism? Deceits to be scoffed at. You act with valor and dignity because it is the right thing to do. Not for validation by faceless bureaucrats safe in their Ivory pillars, untroubled by the inconvenience of having to shoot Nazi’s themselves. The positioning is all wrong. They do not get to decide what you did was worthy of reward. It is a political deceit. One whose purpose is to seduce young men into the idea that heroism and valor validated by government is a cause worth blinding your own common sense to.
You act with valor and dignity because you are a human being – able to validate what is right and what is wrong and then capable of being outraged by injustice; with a sense of value. You fight only to protect the weaker when they are being actually threatened by people with guns, bad philosophies and dark hearts. Not because some rabble rouser with a posh accent has played you like a ditzy clown to be a patriotic nationalist.
So, how weird is that?
Its almost as if when George died I sensed something. Or it is just because I knew he was getting up there, 87, and thought, I better send him a nice message before its too late. Who knows. But it is a nice story I think. I got to say a nice word to him before he left.
His last message to me is “thank you xxxg” which I calculate must have been sent very shortly before he died. That is a happy note to end our relationship on I think. An up tone.
I would have gone for the funeral, being held in George. But thanks to the fact that Amlot/Adler and O’Leary have stolen every last penny I ever earned, I will not be able too. Instead I am sending a some words and thoughts for his memorial, which will be on Thursday.
In each of his two messages to me each year, he always asked about you and about John. In every text. Every names-day and every birthday. “How is Byron?”
I guess George asked the wrong person He should really have written directly to Adler/Amlot and O’Leary to ask. They would know better. He would have been so excited to meet my beautiful Byron, but at least, by sharing this story with you, you are aware that someone you never even knew about, also loved you.
I am having a blood text today for cholesterol. I am making sure to look after myself, making good progress after the accident in June.
I am looking forward to seeing you in your summer holiday. That is my goal. That you spend all of your summer holiday with me. Let’s aim for that outcome.