To Protect him

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He’s ill again
I mean, he has a condition
Several actually
I have to suspend my worry
But I have to
Protect him from stress
Protect him from getting worked up
Protect him from noise
Protect him
I stay quiet
My own pain festers and swells
My own pain threatens to swallow me up
My own pain suffocates me
I put up a book to read
And suddenly I’m out of the water
I can breath
My relief is temporary
My pain begins to fester again
But I’ll do whatever I have to
To protect him
But, in all of this, who will protect me?

War Stories from my Father, in the Honor of Poland

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If there’s one thing I know, it is that telling stories is more difficult then telling tales. Telling stories is waiting for the moment when your friend is listening, I mean really listening and you pour out your feelings. Telling tales is adding or subtracting from what actually happened, and that is a lie. These “tall tales” or metafictional works of the imagination are what our narrator wants us to watch out for. O’Brien points this out right away- that metafiction is where truth and fake diverge. He indicates that when you see a horrid event, reality leaves you for a while. Sometimes the truth, meaning what actually happened, is so hard to digest that you want something pleasant in the story. The author indicts that those stories are half truth or less. This entire chapter in it’s self is a threshold between what really happened and what people want you to believe. Nature plays a key role in how “he died was almost beautiful.” Curt Lemon died, yes, but O’Brien toys with reality in my mind until the truth comes out. That’s the trouble with war stories, O’Brien declares. I agree, for when he says that they are supposed to hurt the stomach, I can attest to that myself.

When I was really sick in bed, last night actually, and I thought of a question, one I have wanted to know for years my dad was at my side. I was feeling nauseous, and in incredible amounts of pain. My dad stayed with me almost the entire night leading into the day. The question I asked him baffled him, I knew right away in his tone. His answer was even more shocking. Actually, the story he told is still intriguing me, how against even the evils of Hitler my grandfather, whom I never met survived the Second World War. The story translated into English went like this:

My father was the leader of about ten other men. (I ask how many) Ten, he says. (Then he pauses for a while lost in thought, and continues.) They were the men who gave information back to the Allies’ powers, but when the Russian men came, they knew. They knew that my dad was not on Hitler’s side, so they had a plan. A plan to kill the men, he said. (Then he paused, this time a different pause- a sad pause. Seeing my eyes in the dim light filled with intrigue he continued slowly though. I was scared of what was to come of the men. My fears came true when he suddenly told the rest of the story. I thought maybe the men…, when my dad seeing my imagination going went on too.) Four of them were caught the next day, taken to Siberia where they were brutally done away with. (Heads cut off or something worse I asked my dad.) It was probably worse knowing Stalin but not for your ears child. The next dawn, my father and his remaining men escaped quietly, quickly and most importantly ( my dad said) without a chase. (How far I asked?) From the tip of Illinois to the border of Iowa (for I needed an estimated route), and stayed there until they knew no one would come back to their hideout. My father just knew, child, he knew that it was safe, and so they came back and worked. More alert now, my dad says. He wasn’t taken ( he declared). To the working camp either, the death camp, he ran away from that also. (How, I asked) God, he said. He was a good man, Maria. (I wished I had met him.) Then my dad says he wishes also. After that, he was quiet and I swear I could see tears forming at the brim of his pale, tired eyes. Then I asked one final question, and asking it almost made me cry, so I cannot imagine what it must have done for him.

Do you miss your dad? Yes, too much his said. That is why child, I think of Poland less, or differently. Because I do not have a mom or a dad. Hearing him say that aloud at 50, for the first time baffled me, but just then I began rapid coughing once again. So he helped me. For hours, and his mind was on helping me, but his eyes felt strange. I think his eyes where in Poland.