Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Thursday May 22

I have decided to send
home at once $50, $30 for a
tombstone and 20d. to live
for a few weeks, I will
Endeavor to get a loan
of a 100d. and leave $50
for myself to live on as there
is a slack season ahead.

My many worries are
slowly ebbing the strength
out of me

Is this an inheritance of
my father who throughout his
life worried fighting for his
and his familys very existence


Matt's Notes

Just yesterday, the chance to shoulder his family's financial burdens seemed like the best way for Papa to fight his deep, absorbing grief over his father's death. As might be expected under such emotionally trying times, his feelings now swing the other way as practical worries about his own precarious finances blur his perspective on the benefits of self-sacrifice.

Something else is going on here, too. As his feelings about financial charity oscillate between resolve and apprehension, so, too does he experience the up and down side of his wish to be like his father. I think Papa hopes to keep his father close by emulating his steadiness and resolve and by stepping into the role of family provider. In effect, he keeps his father with him by trying to become him.

With this, though, comes a down side, and Papa seems overwhelmed by its discovery and the attendant questions: If I am like my father, am I not like him in every way? If I am charitable, wise, and tenacious, am I not also burdened, struggling, prone to exhaustion? (Remember that Papa's father was, in Papa's own words, "a cripple" with a paralyzed arm who must have demonstrated many moments of "ebbing" strength throughout Papa's life.) I don't think it's unusual for people to ask such questions of themselves, but it must have been difficult, even shocking, for Papa, an idealist who idealized his father, to contemplate the unexpected complexities of his legacy.


A sad(der) footnote to this post: When the Nazis occupied Sniatyn during World War II, they made the Jewish residents of the town pull headstones out of the Jewish cemetery and lay them down as paving stones in front of Nazi headquarters. The headstones are still there today. Is the tombstone my grandfather mentions above, the tombstone he went into debt to pay for, included among them? Does every one of the tombstones in Sniatyn have a story like my grandfather's behind it?


Update 6/9

Reader Aviva sent this link to an article in The Guardian about a snapshot of a Nazi execution in Sniatyn.


I wonder if my grandfather ever saw this picture. He almost certainly knew the people in it. They may well be members of his family, and mine.