Dad, I’m lying next to my baby son, your third grandchild. He’s sleeping in our bed, and his warm little body is pressed up against me, and I can hear him making that noise that’s somewhere between breathing and snoring. He’d be in a cot, but since you died my motivation to spend more time with him has become like a glowing ember. Missing you has made me try so much harder to live with a sense of awareness and contact with others. Even in death you keep giving me gifts of knowledge and wisdom.
I remember the last time we went camping, and we took my eldest son, my sister and went to the Wollondilly River campsite we had discovered some ten years before. We spent two nights there, and a memory that I’ll treasure always was of us singing with my son around the campfire. He would have been maybe three years old then. That trip was great fun, and I look back and realise that somehow we found the spirit of how we once were as a younger, happier family.
Until on the way home we got badly stuck in traffic, and added another hour to an already significant drive, especially for a toddler. I was using every trick in the book to keep him occupied and calm, inching forward in traffic. And then you snarled at me “How can you always be so patient?”
I had no answer, didn’t really trust myself to speak, because it would have only lead to a fight. But your frustration puzzled me for a long time. Lashing out under stress had been a part of who you were for many years. Looking back, and knowing more about who you were, that’s perfectly understandable, and not something I’m bitter or angry about anymore. But how telling it was that you targeted what most would see as a virtue. How can I be so patient?
Lying here now, feeling the heartbeat of my son, I think I can unravel the essence of why that incident held so much weight over these lat 14 years. You perceived patience as a deficit of yours and envied my own abundance of it. Yet how long you waited to tell your story to me. How hard it must have been to make that step to healing damages done not merely between us, but those figures some 70 years ago who walked into our family home and perpetrated those evil deeds, those deeds that were as much a part of the legacy of the horror of post war Europe as any other atrocities. And yet through your efforts as well as that of your own mother and grandmother, now we have reached a place where those demons are mere shadows in our history. 70 years after the war crimes that spiralled into the abuse and ostracisation you suffered, you told your story.
How did you manage to be so strong and patient?