ancient shul, I go back in time 26 years to 1980.
In my search for roots and ancestors I find not Golem but an apparition of my own father at my side. The smell of his tobacco juice impregnated red farmer's handkerchief tickles my nostrils. My fingers remember circling small balls of tread in the fabric of his shirt cut from 1950s plaid. A smoker's hack brought me back.
"Excuse me," the dolled up octogenarian beside me grunted, her lips a scream of red.
Back in the hotel I find an email message from two gents in the the Netherlands. They've bought a portfolio of my father's work, a good 200 painted sketches, at a swap meet. They want to honor him with a book. "I can write," the typist says.
"Good for him," my husband quipped. "He won't have to, how do you say that in Dutch?"
"Get back the money he paid for school?"
I laugh with Gary, but a claw of fear grips my stomach. I've spent three years organizing data, writing my father's biography, simultaneously, side-by side on my monitor in both English and Dutch. And these dudes want me to hand over all that so they can put the information in a catalog that will raise the value of material that should have been mine in the first place?
The email says the man who demolished my parental house after I sold it, found the port-folio hidden underneath the bed box in my mother's room. I break out in sweat, I stopped my search for valuables when I reached the bottom of that bed box and noticed pink pallets of rodent poison dispersed across the boards. Did I ever know about the hiding place underneath? An ever so faint recollection of a dark hole, a scary place for a child, surfaces, nausea adds to the tightness in my chest. I know crying is the best way to release the fear, to soften the blow and the rock on my stomach. I cry in the shower, where my tears mix with the water running down the drain,
"I remember the sketches my father made with colored ballpoint pens during meals at the dining room table in Amsterdam. it'll be great to see them back."
"That's not possible," the typist replies, "You cannot have seen your father create this work since you weren't even born in '35."
The nerve! And yet, it's true, I was born ten years after, not before WWII. Looking at the paintings on my wall, I can see how someone would mistake my father's painted '53 for '35. I know for sure his career as an artist did not start until the early 1950s. I ask them to send me JPGs to proof their point and to see if the work they talk about really is my father's. The couple feels insulted by what they see as my insinuation that they would not have obtained the artwork in a legal manner. However, they understand the work belongs with me, but not in exchange for reimbursed expenses! The work will need to be appraised, they state.
Before our trip to Prague and Amsterdam, I was almost ready to post my father's bio on Wikipedia, but after the correspondence I keep my writing to myself, until I know what to do about the portfolio, I tell myself.
Learn from your mother's departure. Let go. Let go of your need to hold on, let go of your need to hide what you have discovered.
This work by by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.