True Valentines: Proposal, four decades, marriage
A beautiful true story of love lost and found from Meghan Low, received as part of our BloodLines writing competition.
"The true love story of Grandpa St Germain" by Meghan Low
In 1915, my great-grandfather Ben St Germain was captured by German soldiers while he was serving for Canada during the First World War.
Before he left Ottawa, he promised his girlfriend Maud they would marry when he got back from Europe and presented her with a simple diamond ring. Times were tough and money was tight but he bought her the best he could afford.
It wasn’t soon after he arrived in Europe he was wounded and taken by the enemy to a German prison camp in Giesson where he was held for about two years. During his stay, he attempted to escape numerous times. He even tried to dig his way out of the prison camp, until his man made tunnel was discovered by one of the prison guards. His defiant behaviour was not taken lightly. Each time he was caught trying to leave, he would be punished and forced to stay in solitary confinement.
For days he would be left in a small dark cell, sitting on a floor consisting of only sand. Later he would tell his family, the only way he managed to cope and keep him sanity was by throwing a tiny pin in the air and letting it fall down into the sand. Then, he would try to find the lost item. This was his only source of entertainment.
The fourth time he tried to leave it was successful. He managed to walk and hitchhike all the way to Holland where he was then sent home. When his ship dropped him off in Montreal he had intended on taking the train to Ottawa to meet his waiting bride, but instead he met someone else, my great-grandmother Macdonald. Despite his promise to marry another, he proposed to his new found love instead, leaving poor Maud with no news.
They began a family and lived happily until one day Grandma Macdonald died of complications relating to her fifth pregnancy. Being a single dad to 4 children, he moved the family back to his home in Ottawa so he could have help from his mother and sisters raising the children.
Years passed, he dated but never settled down. Until one day when he was in his sixties he was helping some friends move their belongings into their new apartment. As he was hauling a piece of furniture, he caught a glimpse of a familiar object on the hand of a stranger. He quickly realized it was the very ring he had bought as a young man, right before leaving for the war. There was Maud, helping her neighbours move, still wearing it. Maybe she never took it off, somehow hoping her soldier would return. At sixty-six years old Grandpa St Germain married Maud some forty years after he had proposed to her. They lived together for two decades and died only a month apart.
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