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Another Vignette

My father was a picture on the living room wall in my grandparents? house. The living room was only used at Christmas and we also had to cross it in the dark to get to the bedroom every night. Periodically, my grandmother would take me into that special room during the daytime and show me my dad. When I was little, I remember her lifting me up and pointing at the two men in the photograph hanging on the wall. One man was my uncle whom I knew and could see in the flesh periodically and the other was my father whom I didn?t know. Both men looked very posed and handsome in their uniforms.

Then Oma would tell me again that my dad was in a far away country called Russia. I didn?t know where that country was, of course, but accepted the fact that he had to be there for some reason. My mother was in Holland where I used to live, my dad was in Russia and I was living in Germany with my grandparents. That was my reality and I just accepted it. These little photo-showings were always very special to me since we didn?t seem to talk about my dad at any other time.

Oma also had a few little photographs of my mom and dad and me and I knew that at some time we were all together because my dad is holding me in his arms when I was very little and my mom is standing beside us. But that was a time that I didn?t remember so to me he was just a picture hanging on the wall. By the time I was seven, I was tall enough to look at the photo by myself and I would surreptitiously sneak into the living room and just stare at him, wondering what he was doing so far away in that country called Russia.

I remember my grandparents as being very self-contained, quiet people who were continuously working in the garden or preparing food for storage. Mealtimes always seemed special. We didn?t talk much because we always listened to the news on the radio while we were eating but it was a time when the three of us spent time together. This was my little world.

Our quiet little world changed drastically one day because of something called a telegram. Both of my grandparents seemed to become different people immediately ? excited, talking non-stop and my Oma just darting back and forth as if she didn?t know what to do.

Finally she just grabbed me and said that my dad was coming home the next day. He had sent the telegram to tell us that he was coming. I remember just accepting that fact, being much more interested in my grandparents? changes in personality. Their quietness had completely disappeared. And I also figured that he must be a very special man because he had just made them so happy and excited.

The excitement in their faces and in our lives continued and we didn?t even listen to the news the next day at lunchtime. We talked about my dad coming home. After all the discussion it was decided that Opa was going to the train station that evening to meet my father at the train and that Oma and I would stay home and wait for them.

The door bell rang. Oma nodded at me to go and answer the door. I remember not wanting to leave our kitchen because everything was just so changed and excitingly different. The bell rang again and Oma just gave me a ?go? head wave.

I reluctantly went and slid open the door. And there he stood. The picture on the wall. His mouth moved, he was smiling at me. I heard nothing and just stared at him. He wasn?t supposed to be there. He was supposed to come by train that night. Opa was picking him up. Why was he standing there? He reached for me and I just turned, ran back into the kitchen and hid in the little space between the china cabinet and the wall.
I felt my grandparents? heads move as they followed my little run and then swivel back as my father stepped into the kitchen. Lots of noise. Lots of jabbering. I could tell by Oma?s voice that she was crying. I just tried to make myself as small as possible scrunched into my safe little corner.

Suddenly he was kneeling in front of me - saying something, smiling, reaching. I tried to move back further but the wall wouldn?t move for me. He stood up and said something to my grandparents. Suddenly he had a little brown paper bag in his hand. He took something out of the bag and knelt down in front of me again extending his hand. He was holding three candies in his open palm. I reached and then crawled out of my little safety zone.

(Addendum: My dad returned from Russia on December 9th, 1949 ? the month before I turned 8. Until we received that telegram, no one really knew if he was still alive ? no wonder that there was a ?little? excitement in the house!)
Unexpected Disaster
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Upload Date: 31/12/1969

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