Thanks for joining me on the veranda. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, this post flows from a book review I did on Elie Wiesel’s Night, which can be seen here. But don’t wander off just yet.
I married into a family of holocaust survivors.
Being sufficiently narcissistic, I haven’t been able to avoid thinking of the profound impact this had on my life. I am married to the most extraordinary woman in the universe [my apologies to all other women, I’m sure you’re someone else’s most extraordinary woman] by virtue of the strength of a man who wrestled his way to the top of a pile of corpses, bleeding profusely from multiple shrapnel wounds, clawing his way out of a pit, and cleaning the gashes with his urine. That man was married to a woman, tiny of body but colossal of mind, who was in the group force marched from Budapest to Mauthausen. After the war, they had a child–my mother-in-law. Yada-yada-yada. I have marital bliss.
Not being completely narcissistic, I’m reminded that every one of our lives have been shaped by strong people who lived through close calls. Each of us comes hither as a gift from men and women who passed through a hail of bullets that bore no name. Some, like my wife’s grandfather, were riddled by bullets bearing their name, and still refused to heed their deadly whisper. Every holocaust survivor survived by a thin margin. Every battlefield veteran’s life is an execution order rescinded. Every prisoner of war was one germ away from an unmarked grave.
No pressure or anything, but that sounds like a heavy debt we all bear.
Telling this story in greater detail is one of my bucket list tasks. It’s a project I’ve had on the back burner for far too long. There are several reasons for this. The most feeble of which is a hope to find the right timing. Sadly, there are so many such stories that I fear it will be lost amid a sea of sorrow. Then there is my need to develop grace with language sufficient to do the story justice. In a way the two novels I have drafted, and whose mess I am now painstakingly trying to dance into shape, are practice exercises. Wish me luck.
On the plus side, my wife’s uncle had the foresight to have her grandfather speak his story onto about 20 tapes before he died. With today’s technology, there’s no excuse for anyone’s life-altering story to go untold. So I guess if there is a moral to my rambling post it’s this: don’t let anyone in your life with a spectacular story pass from this world without it being heard.