Saving Gilbert

at 12:35 AM

As a post-World War II baby boomer, I had no idea that one of my father's stories about his time in France during the war would not only change my life, but would teach me deep and powerful lessons about what really matters.

During the war, my father took a seven-year-old French orphan named Gilbert under his wing. Dad took the boy through the food line in the officer's mess at the Navy camp and gave him time and attention. In the midst of the chaos of war, they shared something precious and good -- the love between a father and a son.

At the end of my father's five months in France, he tried to adopt Gilbert and bring him home. But he wasn't able to. Through the years and again just before my father died, he spoke about Gilbert. It was clear that he always remembered him with love.

In 1994, for the 50th anniversary of D-Day, I traveled back to France in my father's honor, to retrace his steps and to learn more about the invasion. I also wanted to try to find Gilbert.

I placed an ad in the Normandy Newspaper and thought it would take months or even years to find him, if I found him at all. So I put my home address in California as the contact, then left to travel around France. The next morning, Gilbert saw the ad and wept. For 50 years, he had told stories about my father's love and kindness and that someday, someone from America would come back to find him. By a series of miracles, we connected with each other. It meant everything to Gilbert that my father had never forgotten him.

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Looking back over my life, I know that one of the most important things that I have accomplished was to be a link again between my father and Gilbert. And that somehow, my father rests easier, with that piece of his life complete.

I also know that real love transcends time. And that it is the love that we have shared that matters most.

With a Perspective, I'm Diane Covington-Carter.

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Diane Covington-Carter lives in Nevada City and has written a memoir about her reunion with Gilbert.

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