When it comes to knowing who one's parent(s) are and were, what they did, were like, what made them tick and how they dealt with the vicissitudes and joys of life, the next best thing to oral transmission is the written word.
So few of us parents, siblings and family members bother to write down for those generations to come any sort of personal record that might leave a little more detail than the short, sparse dash between two dates of entering and exiting that end up adorning a grave stone, plaque or other rememberance and evidence of existence.
As a family we were at least lucky enough to be bequeathed a slim volume of my father's reminiscences, rememberings and musings over the period that covered his first 30 years. Although a modest, incomplete version of how he saw and experienced his life, it contains valuable, amusing, emotional and thought provoking material for anyone family or other to glimpse a snapshot of one person's experiences on this plane.
The chapters around his war time experiences and subsequent incarceration at the pleasure of the Japanese in Hong Kong is, unlike many harrowing tales of those surviving a similar fate, albeit in far harsher conditions, hilarious, uplifting and positively enigmatic. It certainly reflects the enduring memory I have of my father as one who in spite of all the slings and arrows thrown, got up, dusted himself down and chuckled at the variety of self inflicted wounds we humans are always prone to gifting ourselves.
For me one of the most enduring revelations was to hear from him first hand that his first action when given his freedom at the camp was to address each and every Japanese guard personally thanking them for his sujourn and forgiving each of them for the sins of their commanders to whom he acknowledged they had honourably obeyed in truest Japanese style.
I sense this action from him allowed my father to hold his head high throughout an eventful life, making it a good and healthy one without the trauma of PTSD, cancer or any other medical afflictions so many were to suffer or subsequently pass far too early after these events. Forgiveness was something my father found easy to administer, not least forgiving himself, as he readily admitted for self inflicted errors of his own ways. A state of mind celebrated and actioned by all who acknowledge we are all on one long, gifted and very practical learning curve called life.
His admiration and adoration of an uncle he regretted knowing only too briefly did not prevent him encouraging me and supporting my own gifts of wordsmithy to include 'Toto' Trapman's own story into what is developing as The Freedom Cycle. This I eagerly took up and Dreams and Realities with Toto's own impressive part etched into it was the result. That it expands on a lot of what my father and his family were to come to experience in their lives is unsurprising yet also confirmation of a continuing belief my father had that it is up to the individual alone to make changes within to help achieve those we search for in the world. Support others surely but unless we have changed ourselves from the inside out we can expect nothing of true impact to manifest in our world. Alongside that if an individual refuses to acknowledge any need for change then all we do is chase our own vanity to change others.
Toto's story then becomes a prequel acting to launch what completes as a heptology of human journeying in all its sharp contrast, suffering, pain and angst toward hopeful redemption.
The title of my father's book comes from a love of that great man, wit, Irish poet and playwright. Oscar Wilde. One of his attributed witticisms "Parents are the last people who should have children" was always much uttered by my father to express the impossible task of rearing offspring and knowing the outcomes!
If nothing else this slim volume can encourage many to write down their lives, history, events so that their childrens' children and history be the richer for their escapades, experiences, pain and joie de vivre.
There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. Oscar Wilde
Toto's parents and siblings each in their own way helped, encouraged and stimulated him to press on with his research.
William Trapman, his father, (left) led a life of such travel and adventure as to inspire Toto to do likewise. His wife Eliza (Toto's mother, bottom right) was not only a very beautiful catch for William in the Carolinas but served as a feminine pinnacle her son could measure relations with.
Leila and Louis (top right) would become the supporting financial arm allowing Toto to deepen his research and discover hidden secrets and truths - you could say it was a family affair!