My George Pothier…

June has arrived!  It is a month of many birthdays and anniversaries in my family.  On June 25th my mother will be turning 94.  In honour of Mom’s birthday I would like to record some of the stories of her life, beginning with the romantic tale of Mom and George Pothier.  My mother, born Gwendolene Elizabeth Myatt, entered the world on June 25th, 1917.  She was the third child of Peter and Agnes Myatt.  Mom was twenty-two years old when WWII broke out.  At a time in her life when she was expected to get married and settle down, my mother was faced instead with life in a small Ontario town where most of the men of marrying age were overseas.  Soldiers from across Canada trained in and near Owen Sound throughout WWII.  The local girls, lacking local male companionship, befriended many of these young men during their stay in “the Scenic City”, providing them with a few happy memories to carry with them overseas.  In 1943 my mother started dating a soldier from Nova Scotia named George Pothier (…at least that’s how Mom spelled his name.  Given his francophone background, it is more likely his name was Georges Pothier.)  During wartime each moment is precious.  No one knows what will happen tomorrow.  Normal timelines fly out the window.  Such was the case with my mother and George Pothier.  Shortly after meeting, they realized they were in love.  They spent every possible moment together until, early in 1944,  George shipped out.

Mom never heard from George again.  She was deeply saddened.  He had promised to write.  When she heard nothing from him, Mom assumed he had been killed in action before he had a chance to write to her.  In 1947, shortly after the war ended, my mother met my father.  After a brief courtship, they were married in July of that year.  Mom loved my father, but not the way she had loved George Pothier.  My parents’ marriage was not a happy one.  My mother occasionally mentioned the soldier she had loved and lost.  When things with my father were especially difficult she would even speculate about what her life might have been like if George had come back to her and they had married. 

Three of my mother’s siblings (Uncle Harold, Uncle Len and Aunt Veronica) remained in the family home with my grandmother until her death in 1965.  My Aunt Veronica was the youngest sibling.  She was a young teenager during WWII.  She remembered Mom’s romance with George Pothier.  A few years ago I found myself sitting at my mother’s kitchen table with Mom and Aunt Veronica.  I had been going through some of my mother’s old photographs (which she was planning to throw out!) in an attempt to label them and get them into albums.  I came across the photo posted above.  When I turned it over, I found the following inscription in my mother’s handwriting.

Mom blushed.  Then she told the story once again about the great love of her life.  Once again she reflected on what her life might have been like if George had survived the war.  That’s when my aunt dropped the bombshell.  “He did survive,” she said.

Aunt Veronica then revealed the secret she had kept for more than 60 years.  With my grandmother and my father both dead, I suppose she felt the time was right to tell the truth.  George had written to my mother.  He had written often throughout the war and even when the war was over.  He had continued to write even though my mother didn’t reply.  My grandmother, however, didn’t feel that George was a suitable match for her daughter.  He was from a hard-working fishing family.  They were not affluent.  They lived in Nova Scotia and my grandmother feared George would take her daughter far away from her.  So she took the letters addressed to my mother and burned them in the stove.  In the fall of 1947 my grandmother wrote a letter to George at the return address on his most recent letter informing him that my mother was married and requesting that he stop writing.  There were no more letters after that.

We all sat there speechless.  It was a tragedy.  By the time the secret was revealed my mother was an elderly woman.  George, if he was still alive, would be a very elderly man.  Even if Mom could locate George, she was no longer able to travel.  Besides, both Mom and George had lived their lives.  They had very little life left.  I’m sure my mother felt that the little bit of life she had left would not be enough to share with someone else, even the George she loved so well.  No one attempted to locate George.

My mother now lives in a nursing home.  She suffers from dementia.  She probably wouldn’t remember George anymore.  She remembers very little about anything.  But the photo remains.  The brief time Gwen and George spent together spawned a love that has lasted throughout my mother’s life.  I would like to believe that it also lasted throughout George’s life.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. northernnarratives
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 17:08:50

    Hello from Minnesota. I just found your blog. Love it! Judy

    Reply

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