In honor of Holocaust Remembrance – Amy’s Story
My parents died when I was eighteen. It happened a long time ago.
What does it matter? It was a concentration camp and they are dead and it was a long time ago.
Why travel? I play bridge. I’m a Life Master. I don’t play with amateurs; even my grandchildren. Once a week someone picks me up or my husband drops me off and I play bridge. Then I come home and I watch television.
I never liked the name my parents gave me, Anneliese. It’s too old-fashioned. I named my children after movie stars: Peter Lawford and Susan Hayward. My parents were wealthy. They owned an apartment on the Hauptstrasse and had many friends. Sometimes they would watch the brown shirts marching in the street and make fun of them from the balcony. Hahaha. What a joke. Then all our friends began leaving Germany. I could not understand why. I’d never been to a synagogue. We were not Jewish. We were not them. We were Germans.
You ask a lot of questions. I was only fourteen when I left. I will not return.
Once a week I go to the buffet down at the Peppermill Casino. My husband stopped eating meat but he lets me go, generally with my grandchildren or with a friend. Once a week is all I need. It’s a bargain; all you can eat for $9.99 and you don’t have to tip the waiters.
I learned to sew in Switzerland. Yes, one morning a servant was helping me dress and the next I was sewing dresses. Ironic you say? No. I would need a skill my brother said. He was older and so I did what he said. Then we moved to Amsterdam where my father’s cousin owned a department store. But soon we had to leave there too.
We sold the Kathe Kollwich drawings in London in order to get to America. If we hadn’t we’d be millionaires my daughter claims. But they depressed me. Who could want them hanging on their walls? Not me.
I met Ben in Chicago. My brother and I were living with Uncle Willie on the south side of the city where a lot of Jewish people lived. Ben was a lawyer. After he proposed, I called the Red Cross hoping they could get word to my parents that I was marrying a lawyer. No matter where they were I knew it would make them happy and it did.
How do I know? The Red Cross told me. They died thinking of me married to an American lawyer.
But he didn’t like being a lawyer. He became a kindergarten teacher, then he was fired but they would never know.
I’ve lived in this house for sixty years. We planted all the fruit trees but in the end Ben ate only raw nuts and gave himself daily enemas. The fruit fell to the ground and rotted until we had the trees chomped down. Ben died in his bathrobe and . . . I don’t want to talk about it. He donated his body to the university so there was no need for a service. He had no friends. I told the children and grandchildren – why come? There is no reason. Nothing to say.
My brother is also gone. He lived in Atlanta and both of his daughters married lawyers. In the end he said to me. “After a while the body is a noose around your neck.”
No, I didn’t go his services. Why go? There was no reason. He was dead.
My parents died knowing my brother and I would have children and grandchildren and that we’d raise them as Americans with movie star names. That we would live for a long time in peace and when it came time to die, we would die. That is all I have to say.
From Writing for the Absent Reader available on Amazon