Friday, May 26, 2006

Uncle Alfonz died today

He was my mom’s favorite uncle. They used to chase each other through the house with wooden spoons battling imaginary sword fights. Inevitably someone would end up on top of the table, someone beneath and they would fight it out, wooden handles flying through the air.

Tante Max tells the story best. Each night for weeks, air raid sirens had been going off forcing the neighborhood into bomb shelters. But this night, word came to evacuate. People piled onto the train, clinging to whatever they could from their former, orderly lives. During the trip they were repeatedly forced to flee from the train into nearby ravines whenever bombers passed overhead. By morning they had made it safely into the countryside.

After their night of terror they knocked on a farmer’s door. The burly, gruff man agreed to give them shelter in exchange for their work on the farm, and he set them to work immediately.

For two years my family lived in a one room shed at the back of the farmer’s property, while World War II raged throughout Europe. They sewed their clothes out of flour sacks, they ate only vegetables and bread. When the war finally ended and they were able to get the luxury of butter, Grandma sat down and ate an entire stick slice by slice.

The war had destroyed their previous lives, their homes, their business. But slowly they recreated themselves in a different part of Germany. My mom’s mom fell in love with an American soldier and became an American citizen along with her daughter.

My mom flies to Germany tomorrow to say farewell to her favorite uncle.

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