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A Conversation about My Father
"'This is the only person in the world who understands me' he always said, holding you proudly high above his head. Oh, he adored you... but, I guess I you wouldn't remember that, you were just a baby," my mother sadly responded. That was the first time I dared to ask her the obviously painful questions about my father, who had died when I was two. I was nine then and felt I was old enough to know and wise enough to understand, so I sat on a stool in the corner of our tiny, cramped kitchen in Columbus, listening to my mother paint a picture of our family.
The story began with memories of her own childhood, growing up in Ohio, a child of two survivors of the Holocaust. Unfortunately, her struggles with anti-semitism were not much easier than her parents' and neither would mine be, she warned. She told me of how, at two, I cried at my father's funeral and how, from that day on, she had fought to give a good life to her two children, alone. "Yes," she confirmed after a long, nostalgic pause "looking at you now I can just see myself thirty years ago."
Suddenly, a startling picture of reality burst my peaceful reverie. In front of me, bent over the full bathtub of dirty laundry, frantically looking back at the stove, where our next week's meals were in progress, was a woman too young to be so burned out by her countless responsibilities, so utterly worn out by the burdens of the world she seemed to be carrying on her shoulders. Looking at my mother, I could picture myself in her place and I was afraid: afraid of feeling alone, helpless, and tired as she undoubtedly felt.
As she toiled with her exhausting tasks, continuing her tale, I vowed to fulfill the idealistic goals my mother envisioned for me. I did not know how I would accomplish that impossible mission in a society that was so discriminative against me, but I knew that I would make her proud, one day... Perhaps, if our lives had turned out differently, that now unforgettable conversation would have receded into the bank of forgotten childhood memories, but, unfortunately fate directed that that was to be my last meaningful conversation with my mother.
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