Here begins a new series in which I will drop down into the scene of poignant moments in my life. The goal is to stretch my literary and narrative voice. Some years have passed since I have practiced the discipline of narrative memoir; forgive my rusty start.
Wearing sunshine in our hair and on our noses, we played with his grandkids. They were younger and blond and curious. We gathered shells as the sun slanted long across the beach and washed them clean in the rising tide. We built castles for imaginary princesses and filled the moat with seawater for our protective alligators and piranas. We were young and creative and alive.
Every year they were expected and every year they would come. Quiet; oh so quiet. She would talk to the ladies and he would sit back listening to the cadence in her voice. If I close my eyes and focus, I can just barely remember the sound of his soft, smiling voice.
Years later, after he passed away his story was told. On the same southern beach I danced with his grandchildren, he was approached by an inconspicuous woman. "I am a survivor of the Holocaust," she whispered in the wind, "and I remember your face." It must have meant salvation to her to hold it so dear; he was one of the soldiers to liberate Auschwitz.
He never talked about it; not even to his sons. They say there are some things you can't put words to. Here's to those who are too humble -- or too broken and shattered -- to even try.