Copyright © GJ Kelly 1999
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Many people are blessed, yet many know it not, that they are born into close-knit families with grandparents still living, great aunts and uncles still spry and sprightly, and names in the family bible dating back so far the ink has long since faded green. In such a familial embrace, tracing one's roots is usually a simple matter of asking "Mum, what did grand-dad do in the war?" and receiving the reply "Go and ask him, he'll tell you all about it."
I, like many others, am not so blessed, and like the many who share this in common with me also, it wasn't until I was staring forty in the face like a bank-clerk staring at a shotgun over the counter that I realised I knew little of my own personal upbringing and the characters whose genes have shaped not only my outward appearance, but doubtless my personality too.
Why is it I never asked, when those who could answer were still living? A lament heard often, and always too late. Snippets of conversation are recalled, fractured memories of family reunions, the odd glimpse of revelation ("…of course, old George was never the same after that business with the Spitfire…") before being packed off to bed while the adults continued their gossip. It never amounts to much, and certainly never enough, and memory is a terribly fallible thing as the years tick by…