Saturday morning we went out to breakfast with a family friend. She told us about her husband's experiences as a ten year old who carried messages for the Dutch resistance during WWII. "Oh," my dad said. "My father never spoke about his life in Warsaw except when he told me how he left."
I froze mid-chew. How many times had I asked my father what he knew about his father's life in Warsaw or afterwards and he said he didn't know anything?
"He left Warsaw with a friend," my dad continued. "As they ran trough the forest, the Germans were strafing it with bullets. His friend was killed right next to him. I think he was decapitated."
I fought, uselessly, against the rage and despair that flowed through my veins. Getting angry or crying would not help. "Why didn't you tell me this before? I had no idea that he left with a friend. I thought he was alone."
"Oh no," Dad replied. "I guess I forgot. He was with his best friend."
It would have made a difference to know this while I was writing my thesis. I asked so many questions in as many ways as I could to find out what I could. And my dad had this crucial, heartbreaking detail stored away in the back of his brain all along. My mom also had heard that story and forgot.
I don't know what to do to unlock these important memories. The brain is complicated and it is not my dad's fault for not remembering, although at the same time I cannot understand how one would forget that his father watched his best friend die as they fled Warsaw. It is frustrating beyond belief. I am on the verge of tearing my hair out.
I'm angry at other people for forgetting or for not saying anything in the first place. I'm angry at myself for not pushing for information while I still had a chance, even though it probably would have done more harm than good. I'm angry at archives for not being helpful and again at myself for only speaking English and not being able to read some of the few works that are out there.
I want to know what happened. I want to know so badly that it leaves a coppery taste in my mouth when I think about it until that taste is replaced by the saltiness of my tears that result from the futility of it all at this point because what can I do?