Sunday, February 18, 2018

Camped out

For three reasons, this chair has been my home for the past few days.


First, I have been positively immersed in the past, first reading letters between my grandmother, Irmgard and her mother, Adele – correspondence that continued from 1905 to Irmgard’s untimely and tragic death in early 1944. After I finished those 603 translated pages (thanks, Ulli!), I read both books my dad wrote, and now I’m reading family letters (most also translated by Ulli), dated 1945, the year of my grandfather’s equally untimely and tragic death, to 1983, the year I got married!

I’ve read all of these works before but it is this time, perhaps because I will be in Chemnitz in less than a week, that I feel that I’ve come to know and understand relatives who I never met or barely knew. My grandmother Irmgard exuded optimism, hope, and undying love and protectiveness of her family. It is only between the lines of her writing that one gets a sense of the enormous burden that she carried, as she, by her sheer existence as the non-Jewish partner in a “privileged mixed marriage,” was all that stood between her Jewish husband and mischling (“half-breed”) children and almost certain death.

I know how her story ends and yet I tear up every time I come to the place where her letters mention more and more persistent symptoms of what turned out to be a brain tumor – and then suddenly stop.

I have also come to the realization that, had my grandfather survived, I definitely would not exist. This is hardly conjecture; I have no doubt that it’s true! My grandfather would have never accepted my mother – not for a second. Mom, with all her feisty, almost defiant, independence and her devil-may-care attitude, was the absolute antithesis of what my grandfather expected for his son. My uncle, Dad’s idolized older brother, seemed to speak for their dead father when he wrote, “Edith comes from a bourgeois background; she is Bohemian,” followed by “one should always stay in one’s box.” Suffice it to say that the elitist attitude that I often called Dad out for was something that he was exposed to his whole young life.

The second reason that I lived in the easy chair all weekend is nowhere near as interesting: the nerve and muscle pain in my leg has been giving me such problems lately that I was afraid that I couldn’t make two 13-hour flights, just five days apart. Rest and an electric blanket seem to have done the trick, though! I have no pain at all now! Now if I can just keep things quiet for the next two days…

And third, even more mundane: I have developed a slight cold. As I’ve been sitting under my heated blanket, book in hand, I’ve been positively downing the Emergen-C and Cold-Eze!


It’s cold in Chemnitz; I don’t want to bring my own cold on top of that!

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1 comment:

Margaret said...

I'm so glad that your pain has diminished, but a cold, really? I am a bit sniffy and quaffing the Vitamin C. It sounds like you have gotten a lot done in your reading and preliminary research.

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