A story from Vietnam era Hard decisions Pressures of society Reunions and Remembrance.
| Forget Me Not
Standing in the Florist shop, I looked at the young bright-eyed assistant, Joan, serving the gentleman before me. Her sparkling manner made her a pleasure to be around. I wondered what made her so cheerful, but I never asked. I had always been told it was impolite to pry.
The gentleman left with a dozen red roses, Joan thanked him and turned to me.
"I have some new flowers this time Mrs. Jackson, I hope you'll like them," she said, excitedly, before disappearing into the back room.
Reappearing, carrying a large bunch of flowers, Joan said,"These are some lovely native flowers I managed to get in. I hope you like the arrangement?"
"Oh! They are magnificent." I exclaimed. "I love native flowers and so did my George," I told her, a small tear began to appear and a warm feeling swelled inside me. I paid for the flowers and asked Joan, "Would you please arrange a small wreath for Anzac Day?"
"I sure will, Mrs Jackson." she replied, as I headed for the door.
Riding the bus home, passengers admired and commented on the wonderful bunch of flowers. At home, I arranged the flowers into a crystal vase, then sat admiring the arrangement.
There were Waratahs with Kangaroo Paws and Banksias set against a backdrop of Wax Flower and Spinning Gum. Some Purple Stasis added a nice colour to the setting.
I began to think of my late husband George. Anzac Day was approaching. I always place a wreath on his grave, on this day, in memory of a wonderful man.
I remembered the day he left for Vietnam. George had been conscripted, but was not afraid to do his two years and return to a new life with me. We had agreed to become engaged on his return.
At the Naval Dockyard, we stood hugging one another. I promised to wait his return and he promised to come home safe. I recalled his boarding the ship, he had a look of adventure on his face and bravado in his voice. He appeared, to not have a worry in the world.
It was a time of trepidation for me. I had found out the week before his departure that I was pregnant and hadn't told him. I didn't want to worry him. He had enough to cope with, leaving his family and going to war.
I realised, living in a large country town, it would be difficult to hide a pregnancy, along with the shame of a child out of wedlock, I couldn't handle that. I decided to stay in the city, have the baby and adopted the child out. It was the hardest decision I have had to make.
With heavy heart, I recalled the day Ann was born. I held her for a short moment, then papers were pushed in front of me to sign and she was gone. I was so alone and had a huge void within me.
I had arranged accommodation in a boarding house for women and had obtained work in a city hotel.
George was writing that things were quite atrocious in Vietnam and his stint had been extended. I decided then to work hard and save for our wedding and a fantastic honeymoon.
Twelve months later, George was medically evacuated from Vietnam. He had been in a vehicle that was blown up by a land mine and was seriously injured. We worked hard for two years, helping him recover. During this time George never told me about Vietnam and I never told him about Ann.
Three months after his recovery, we were married and had a wonderful honeymoon on the Barrier Reef. We worked hard for four years and with the aid of a service loan, bought our little house. Unfortunately, we never had children but George put a lot of time into supporting others, through Legacy.
Every year, He would remember his mates by marching on Anzac Day. The Government and a lot of people didn't recognise the efforts and sufferings of Vietnam but George never would forget.
Six years later, George passed away. I had promised him that I would never forget Anzac Day. I never march but I always place a small wreath on his grave and wear a sprig of rosemary.
I smiled at the wonderful flowers and lifted the vase, moving them to the dresser. As I placed them down, I noticed the long brown envelope.
Reluctantly I took it and looked at the emblem on the front. My hands shook, then once again, I took the letter from inside and re read it.
It was from a private investigator, Mr. Taylor. He wanted to discuss an important matter. From the information written, I knew it had to be about Ann, the child she had adopted out.
He wanted to meet at the Harlequin cafe at 2 p.m. on April 23rd. Normally matters of this nature were not done this way, but there were extenuating circumstances, he had written.
He had already seen me from a distance, whilst carrying out his investigation and if she had no objections to a meeting, he would be pleased for her to be there.
He would wear a white carnation in his lapel, making it easier to recognise him. I was amused at the cloak and dagger business. Gathering the letter, I smiled awkwardly and slipped it into the envelope before placing it in my handbag.
The day of the 23rd arrived. I was nervous, riding the bus in to town, actually hesitant about it all. It was then I decided, If nothing else I owed it to George.
Alighting from the bus, I slowly walked along the street, fighting a nauseous feeling. Stopping outside the Harlequin cafe, I glanced in the window.
Most faces were unfamiliar. However, I noticed Joan from the florist shop sitting alone. I felt encouraged and entering, I moved to her table. I was apprehensive about being alone and asked if she minded me joining her.
"Oh no! Not at all," she replied. "In fact, I would be grateful for the company. I am waiting for someone very special, and I'm quite excited." she added.
I smiled, thinking, how wonderful. This nice young girl was waiting for her special man. I could see she was quite excited but she didn't tell me who he was or when they may be getting married. I didn't want to pry, I was somewhat nervous about my own meeting.
I ordered a large pot of tea for us both, from the passing waitress. Turning to Joan, I said. "Thank you for that glorious bunch of flowers, The comments I received, riding home on the bus were wonderful. Joan they are exquisite and I admire them every time I pass them." I told her with pride.
"Thank you, Mrs Jackson. I'm pleased you like them, Oh, I've just about finished your Anzac Day wreath." She said. Then added. "It should be ready by noon tomorrow.
"Wonderful,." I said, "in plenty of time for Anzac Day." I added, glancing up, once again, at the clock.
I kept glancing at the clock on the wall and I noticed Joan kept looking at her watch, I wondered if Mr. Taylor would soon appear. he was already late.
A further thirty minutes had passed. I offered my apologies and made to leave. "I hope your friend won't be long," I said.
Joan placed a hand on mine. "Thanks for the company. "I am sure he won't be much longer. I hope he hasn't forgotten," she said with a waver in her voice.
"Don't worry," I said, "Your time will come to keep him waiting." It's traditional for the bride to be late.
"Oh, I " Joan began, then noticed a tall young man standing at their table.
I immediately stood to leave, then I noticed the white carnation and before I could speak. He said, "I am sorry to be so late, but I see you two have already become re united."
Joan looked at me, excitedly exclaiming, "Mum!"
"Ann," I whispered, with tears filling my eyes.