Do you remember the movie The Great Escape? With Steve McQueen?
It is one of our family’s all time favorite movies.
So…last Saturday, I was putting grocery bags in the back of my car when I noticed the license plates of a car next to mine. It read POW.
I waited until the driver got out of the car and, because I am a nosy writer, I asked the woman if her husband had been a POW.
“Yes, he was,” she said. “He was a pilot who was shot down. He ended up in a German prison camp for 2 1/2 years. It was the camp where they dug the underground tunnel.”
What? The Great Escape? I asked her.
She nodded and said she was so glad that he didn’t end up escaping with the others because no one made it (unlike in the movie, where Steve McQueen made a clean getaway on a motorcycle).
She said her husband refused to ever eat another boiled potato. She talked about how they had to hide the dirt from the tunnel, which was sand, so they figured out a way to put it in their pockets, then drop it carefully into the vegetable garden where another fellow quickly tilled it in.
I was just nonplussed–to think there was a local man who had that kind of story to tell! The ingenuity, determination, survival skills…those men were heroes.
I asked her if her husband ever shared his story.
“He did,” she said, with a sad look on her face. “But he has Alzheimer’s. He can’t talk anymore and doesn’t even remember that he was in the war.”
She told me that coping with her husband’s Alzheimer’s is the hardest thing she has ever done.
I gave her my business card and I hope, hope, hope she will call.