February 24, 2013 § 2 Comments
Most of us won’t die in the arms of the one we love. This is especially true for us women, either because the one we love will have died before we ourselves arrive at the finish line, or because the one we’d loved never took us in his arms in the first place, or took us there for only a short time and then disappeared, whether of his own free will or because fate was against us. Whatever the case, we usually have enough time to think about these things during the last years of our lives, when we’re left to die alone or (if we’re lucky) in the care of our children.
Anna was born in northern Germany in 1922. She fell in love with Karl M. when she was eighteen years old. She‘d been dating Jochen, a much more handsome young officer, but Karl M. played the guitar on beautiful summer nights next to the dark river, which has been a reason for women to fall in love ever since the first stringed instrument was invented. Karl M. also drew very well: he drew her parent’s house, and then her portrait, and finally, a week before he left for the Eastern Front, drew the whole of her. There’d been absolutely no plausible reason for her not to fall in love with Karl M.; except maybe if she’d known he’d be the one to die and Jochen the one to survive. They became engaged in 1941, just before he went to war. His very last drawing was of a pretty battlefield bunker somewhere in Russia.
Eventually she did marry Jochen, in the last year of the war,when females secured for themselves and their future children any available German male they could find; the year when babies were born under the beds during the bombings while other babies, further east, were still being gassed in the arms of their mothers. She didn’t know all that, she said later to her angry children. There’d been just two Jewish families in her village and they were gone very early, when she’d had eyes only for the guitar player and the dancing young officers. Where did they go? Where the other Jews went. And where was that, Mutter?
Anna never forgave Jochen for being the one who’d survived the war, and Jochen never forgave Anna for having left him for Karl M. in the first place. Nevertheless, Anna and Jochen managed to raise three children and to make each other unhappy for more than sixty years, until Jochen ultimately died in Anna’s arms. Neither did Anna’s and Jochen’s children ever forgive them for being so unforgiving. And where did the love come from in this family? The love came from that one brief love near the beginning of the most brutal war of all. It seems that when you’ve loved once very deeply, you can love again. And Anna, who was far from perfect, far from an angel, far from the model of a mother, had loved once, and then she loved again — her children, who loved her back as well as they could, and at least enough to let her die in their arms.