I found this story under a rock a while ago.
…Which is fitting, because it’s a tale of things hidden under a rock.
It starts on a farm
My Granddaddy John grew up on a farm in Virginia. It was a big farm. It is possible that his family owned slaves before the Civil War – I don’t know when they acquired the property. Anyhoo. He grew up in the country doing a lot of physical work and hunting and so on. He graduated from UVA when he was something like 17, so they made him wait a couple years before attending their medical school. After medical school he moved to Chicago and met my Grandmother, Jennie, who was from a posh family. She was considered fun but not bright. The closest thing her brothers did to work was playing polo. So they got married and bought a house, had 3 kids, then WWII started.
So, John enlisted and was sent to the east coast of Australia to train as an army doctor in the Pacific Theater. While he was there, he fell in love with Australia. He loved the kangaroo hunting and the strong, outdoorsy people. He felt very at home there. And, he fell in love with a nurse. I don’t know if she was a fellow American or an Australian nurse.
When training was over, John went into the Pacific Theater and endured the horrors of sewing up young soldiers until eventually he contracted such a bad case of malaria that they sent him back to Australia to recover and discharged him, or the war ended – more facts I’m unsure of. At that point, he decided that he was not leaving Australia and planned to start a new life with this nurse. But his older brother wrote him a letter, reminding him that it was his duty to return to his wife and children in Chicago, and basically shamed him into returning.
John was a very strict father. He returned to find Jennie and the children (my mother was the youngest) living with her parents. The children had a live in nanny. John thought they were spoiled and made them work outside while the other children in the neighborhood were playing. Also, he loved the opera before the war, but never attended again when he came home. He drank too much whiskey. Jennie loved parties, but stopped entertaining because John became embarrassingly drunk. He was a mean drunk, and his children did not cross him.
By the time I came along, he had mellowed out. He spent most of his time in his favorite red chair. My entire life, he had two watercolors hanging on the wall next to his chair. I always assumed they were landscapes of Virginia, but once he died, and my grandmother died, and my mother died, and my father died, they came into my possession. Then, I looked up the artist and discovered that they were landscapes by an Australian painter which he brought back with him. My entire life, while he sat in his favorite chair, he was looking at Australia.