On Wednesday at the airport I took people watching to a whole other level, I people chatted and not really people I person chatted to this guy.
I can't tell you his name I don't know why I didn't get it but he could tell you mine and that my beautiful baby girl was called Rudy, He started chatting to me when he sat down in the seat next to me in the Air New Zealand departure lounge. Taking an interest in Ruby or 'Rudy' like a lot of elderly people do we struck up a conversation, it was the type of situation where you think you will yarn for a few minutes about how fast the grow up then you will go your own ways.
I talked with this man for an hour or so, I had no idea when he sat down next to me that I would hear his life story or that I would be consoling him as he sobbed into his hands with so much heartache in his eyes.
He came to New Zealand when he was twenty two, he had a thick accent and I asked where he was from. He told me he was from Poland and grew up on a farm with his siblings and parents, he was the youngest. He spoke with so much love and also so much sorrow his father was able to work the farm for one and a half months before the nazis came and took him away to a concentration camp where they later learned he had been killed. He had tears in his eyes as he recounted what he had dealt with but then another blow his beloved mother whom he sat with on her death bed died only three months later of a broken heart. He looked at me and then over at my own mum who was doing laps with Ruby to keep her happy and with so much sadness in his eyes he told me to always be grateful and show love and respect towards her because your mother is not always going to be there. He broke down and he cried not just a few tears but he sobbed with my arms wrapped around him he silently shook as he thought about his early childhood, this all happened to him at the age of eight. He was in a war torn country with just his sister to look after him and they had nothing, they were forced to walk well they tried to bike but didn't make it far because it was winter and the ground was knee deep with snow. I wish I made notes but because I was so engrossed in what he was telling me I didn't think too.
They walked for over 1000km just him and his sister until they reached their destination I want to say they went to Holland but I honesty don't remember there his sister met her future husband and his future brother in law whom he spoke fondly off I guess in some way this man saved him?. His sister and her husband were heading back to Poland and he wast able to go, because he didn't have the correct papers they had to leave him behind in a camp with all of the other orphaned children. He said one day an army vehicle arrived to collect him, they were taking him back to Poland he said he didn't ask any questions he didn't care where they were going and what would happen he just went! I suppose it was better than where he was. Turns out his brother in law had connections in the army and when they got home he was able to send a vehicle to collect him. He told me as he was the youngest sibling he is the only surviving member of the family.
When he came to New Zealand he settled in Whakatane he still lives there now and would never live any where else, he met his wife she was also polish? but I know was definitely also an immigrant to New Zealand. They have five children spread out I think two in Wellington, one in Sydney and a son in California? There are Grandchildren he was noting the similarities in Ruby and his youngest Grandchild a seven month old boy whom he was tasked to name.
His life didn't get easier in New Zealand he went through a bought of Depression which he said he battled with for a lot of his life, he was sent to a mental institution when his first two children were only young he said they were 18 months and four months. Whilst in the hospital he received Shock therapy which was common in that time, I had heard things about shock therapy and none were pleasant experiences however this man credited his life to shock therapy. He said immediately after he couldn't remember things like his work colleagues names but it all came back to him, he said it was like it reset him and it was far better than being on too many drugs for the rest of his life. He told me one day he just woke up and decided to leave he knew his wife was at home alone dealing with a toddler and a baby and he needed to be there to support her, so he drove home and that was that. He saw his doctor and said I don't want to be taking all these pills every day and was prescribed one medication only, he told me the name of this drug but I don't remember it was the only pill he had to take daily as he weaned off all the other ones he had been taking and he thought was un necessary this drug he also spoke highly of as far as balancing out his emotions and depression.
He worked in the Whakatane paper mill, he recalled the day of the Edgecombe earthquake to me. He was working as a cleaner in the mill as he was nearing retirement and he noticed his bucket of water sloshing side to side then before he knew it he was thrown to the ground until it was over. They weren't to effected there but as he drove home along the river the level of destruction was obvious. He had damage at his house and told me insurance was a nightmare to deal with then and I said from what I know its still a nightmare now.
He told me of his beautiful wife who he had lost ten years earlier after a battle with cancer, again his eyes welled with tears and his love for her was obvious. He had traveled a little after her death he visited his son in California and took her ashes home to Poland?
I might not of gotten his name but it didn't matter he wanted to talk and I wanted to listen, I feel so grateful that he chose to share his story with me a 25 year old mother of two when he could have written me off as someone with to much time for technology and not enough time for human interaction. He was charming and witty he asked me to guess is age and I told him no thank you I'm not playing that game you could be a 21 year old who ages terribly he laughed with me. There is so much us as young adults can learn from a man like him, he has witnessed more devastation than we could imagine and yet we still complain about not having the latest iPhone or expect that the world be handed to us on a silver platter. We are so engrossed/obsessed with materialistic things that we forget what our elders have sacrificed for us, I have no time for rude people especially young people who are rude or demeaning to their elders. I can only imagine how their children will treat us if they are being taught that its ok to act in such a manner around our older generation.
I would love everyone reading this to think about it, think long and hard about how you treat people but especially how you treat our elders. Are you encouraging behaviour you would be happy to be at the receiving end of one day? because that is what will happen. I am totally on my phone too much Im 100% owning that but I also know and have been taught the importance of respect I am not going to be more interested in my device when I can take part in a conversation with as much history as this one. Take a step back and look at your families and how your children respond to people have a conversation with them about the importance of respect teach your kids young so that when they are young adults you can be proud of the way they treat people .
To this man in the picture Thank You for reminding me what is important and Thank You for sharing me with you story. I cried with you and I laughed with you. My mum also told you that you could keep me to which you responded oh I'd tell my daughters I had recharged the battery which was bloody hilarious I said I'd have to bring the two kids and you said you'd have to reconsider.
Mum joked he might just hang out at the airport telling that story to suckers like me but he had informed me he had just come back from a three week cruise with his friend who was next to him the whole time buttttt he was quite deaf so I guess he had a lot of talking to get out of his system haha either way he reminded me of some home truths and there were many hidden lessons in his story.