Lately I have found myself arguing with several dead relatives. Well, not really arguing, since they do not reply as I express my points of view, and my thoughts that were silenced when they were alive. Perhaps we all do this, reflect on what we would have said if we were not worried about being loudly criticized or punished. And then, as if we are in a court of law, tell our truth under oath.
There were times I tried, and yet that only led to anger. At some point I did ask why they found me so flawed, so difficult to accept, so in need of reforming, when I was an A student who never actually was in trouble. Why I was deemed simultaneously too much and too little. Why fitting into someone else’s expectations was more important than living up to my own. Or why their need for intrusive knowing was more important than personal boundaries and privacy. Resentment and silence was the only answer.
All that is in the distant past, and yet lately I find myself telling the deceased how I experience our relationship as a way to rid the memories from my DNA. And often the exorcism is not pretty. My critical thinking skills jump in and explain away their behavior due to their life experience, their escape from the Nazis, the challenges they faced, and fear they encoded, and their desire to keep me safe. And while all that is true, it does not comfort or soften the memories.
And yet, perhaps that childhood prepared me for what I was to face as a woman challenging social norms, working in a “man’s” field, and repeatedly facing different forms of discrimination and harassment. It is conceivable that harsh lessons set the dark fire in my core alive, sharpened my intuition, guarded my heart, and prepared me to live life on the loose.