Another grey day
Of solitary walkers
Hidden in their thoughts
Coming down the path.
“Watch out! That’s not 6 feet.”
My world has shrunk to a 3 mile radius.
Is this the last Spring?
Should I play the Rites of Spring?
I move through the day as if I am to survive.
I might not.
We live in a ghetto.
Pretty yes, well-off yes.
But the enemy lurks.
As the Nazis.
Just not seen or heard or felt.
Lurking, no guns necessary.
Just weird round things with
Today I opened a letter from April 2, 1941, from my treasure trove of letters. I inherited hundreds of letters, that were hidden in metal boxes, in my mother’s guest closet, when she died in July. This letter is exactly 79 years old. Written in German, I translated the message, that was from my grandmother’s Uncle Julius to my grandmother.
They were in constant communication by letter. Topics ranged from family gossip to serious matters, such as attempting to save Elise, Julius’ sister and my grandmother’s mother and help her escape from Frankfurt am Main. The war was in full-swing in Europe. Chances of a 69 year old woman leaving Germany clandestinely were nil. Nevertheless, the relatives persisted. Julius was not in a safe place, enduring the incessant bombing by the Germans in London. His communication outside of England was limited due to the war. My grandmother Trude was safe in an alien land, struggling to survive in post-Depression America.
This was a generation of our elders who were well acquainted with social isolation, deprivation, and fear. Uncle Julius endured and survived The Blitz. His extended family had been scattered literally to the four corners of the globe. He feared for the life of two brothers and his sister. (The worst outcome came to pass.) My grandmother understood coping with the scarcity of items—from Depression to World War II rationing. She worried senseless about her mother (and never breathed a word of it to me).
The memory of Elise, Julius and Trude is a blessing and a reminder to be strong. I am certain they were frightened, as we are. Ours is an invisible enemy; theirs’ was the Nazis. Londoners spent the nighttime underground to avoid bombs. My great grandmother hid from probable deportation to an unknown terror. First, she was spared—as the healthy of us have been—but then the fearsome foe arrived. We hide from our nemesis, round balls with weird protuberances popping out—a virus.
As a child, I waited for World War III, part of my survivor’s guilt transmitted by my parents. If they—and all the Jews—suffered, then surely would I. I think my “World War III” has arrived in the form of a deadly virus and an ill-equipped country that should have demonstrated more foresight. So I wait now, in my house, for what is to come.