3 Nights of Waiting

Stay with me.
Remain here with me.
Watch and pray.
Watch and pray.
                                                                       Taizé chant

 

December 15, 1941, Hannover, Germany

My family. Great aunts, uncles, cousins. Young. Old. Gentile and Jew. Aryan. Jude. Their mishling children. Scorned half-breeds barred from school, driven from playgrounds, stand gazing longingly at the brightly painted merry-go-round, sign on fence: “Juden Verboten!” Burned in my memory images of my kin, my American farm boy childhood spent gazing upon their sepia-toned faces caught by camera in happier times. Truth of their existence a shameful secret buried in my mother’s frozen heart.

The proud Jews of Hannover hunted, hounded, rounded up. Into the ghetto. To the “Jew Houses.” Hard against the tracks. Banker, plumber, hausfrau, all equal now. Smell of pisse und sheiss. Lice feasting in hair once weekly coiffed. Standing. Crouching. Sitting. Watching and waiting.

Children cry from hunger. In sleep dream of bread and pastry. Wet cold darkness the frost of early winter gathering round. Listening……………Waiting…………waiting…….

Woo-wooooo.”

Woo-woooo.” Sound of distant train. “Woo-woo.” “Woo-wooooo.” Closer. Louder. More insistent. Brakes screeching. Train pulls into station. Clang of doors pulled open. Smell of fear and hopelessness as ears strain to see and eyes to hear. Then boots meeting cobblestones shouts in the street below. Banging doors. Barking dogs. Bursting in of men. Waiting…….

…………Waiting……….

 

Jews from Krakow forced onto trains heading to Belzec

Stay with me.
Remain here with me.
Watch and pray.
Watch and pray.

 

August 3, 1992, New York, NY

 

Darkened hospital room. Middle of night. Joel: my lover, my friend. Singer with perfect pitch. Gaunt, wasted body entwined in sweat soaked sheets. Handsome face now a ravaged, hollow ruin. Skin flaccid, the hard earned muscles of his once popular body withered. I sit keeping vigil waiting for light of morning. Hope for another day of life.

The shhhhh of oxygen. Joel gasping for breath.

Hungry outstretched hands grasping at the next world.

I reach to caress his face desperate to keep him in this world. World of despair, joy, love. I wait… ….Wait. Hot, airless room. Smell of death.

My every breath thick with anticipation of his passing.

Overwhelmed I start to leave, to stand for a moment in the hallway of the living. Hand on door ready to push. “Stephen.”     I stop.

“Stay with me.”     I turn round back to the bed, his life’s final resting place.

His hand reaches up, grabs my arm. “Remember the banyan tree?”…

The banyan tree? ………..memory slowly rises…“Yes.” “Our first kiss.”

(Sultry Florida night. His soft Ohio lips pressed against mine.)

Then nothing. Quiet except the shhhhhhhhhhhhhh of oxygen.

Returning wasted arm to crumpled blankets sheltering his emaciation I lower myself upon the bed of final exit waiting for light of morning.

Waiting……..sssshhhhhhhhhh……………waiting……

29AIDSMUSEUMJP5-blog427

Stay with me.
Remain here with me.
Watch and pray.
Watch and pray.

 

October 19, 1943, Hamburg, Germany

Sound of air raid sirens pierce the night. My mother pulls my still sleeping sister from her bed of rags. Dirty room. Windows without glass. Cold autumn air. Night after night sirens wailing. Fleeing into the night. Possessions carried in tattered bag. Snapshots of parents and brother. My uncle: artist, writer, lover of boys and violins. Tortured by Brownshirts, left for dead on doorstep.

My mother hurries through the darkness, sirens drown the screams of women the cries of children. Neighbors pour into rubble strewn street to shelter running. Worn out shoes crunching on glass.

The elderly, too tired to run, their futures already spent, remain in their beds.

My mother clutches my sister clambering down

down

down

the steps into shelter dimly lit

beneath street where once ran trolleys.

Shops filled with flowers, dresses, chocolates. Now gone.

Hurry! Move. Move! Metal doors thud as hatches turn.

………………………Quiet……Stillness.

Soft sound of prayer: “Vater unser im Himmel, geheiligt werde dein Name..” [“Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name..”]

Suddenly the low droning of planes.

Aircraft approaching….closer…..louder……..overhead…then bombs falling to earth

dropping from the heavens.

“Gott, hilf uns!”

Earth shaking.

Ground rumbling.

Dust raining.

My sister whimpers crying for father dead two years starved in Russia. Clutching at our mother. Mother, her Aryan dreams in ruins like the city above her.

Sirens wailing……..Lights flickering in wet heat.

Then silence………

Waiting……….

……………….Waiting…………………

……….Waiting………………………….

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Stay with me.
Remain here with me.
Watch and pray.
Watch and pray.

 

 



Categories: Life Remebrances, Reflections

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