I had a stake in World War I although I was born long after World War II. My grandfather on my mother’s side was a German soldier in World War I. Early in the conflict, he took a bullet in the lung and received no medical care while incarcerated in a French prison. After the war, which he managed to survive, his health was seriously impaired and he was in a medical facility which dealt with such cases. My grandmother, doing her part for the returning soldiers, was working there and so they met. They married and had two daughters, one of which died at birth and the other one was my mother.
My grandfather died while my mother was still very young. Her only memory was of a tall, pale man who rescued her from a school of tiny fish that were tickling her toes while wading in the sea. She was raised by her mother and they lived on the small pension left by her father’s military duty.
I never thought too much about this until my older son started asking questions about his relatives especially the German side of the family. He was a bit sad that the only memory my mother had of her father was so small and seemingly insignificant. He told me that when all memories of people are forgotten, they are forgotten on this earth and that is tragic as we are each a part of the living still. He said memories have to be cherished and passed on so they don’t die. He was very happy to have this small bit of his great grandfather now in his memory bank. Then he asked me what his great grandfather’s name was and for the life of me, I didn’t know nor remembered my mother saying it. I dragged out dusty boxes of photos, old black and white ones dated before World War II of my mother’s life growing up in German. Unfortunately, there was little notation on the backs of them but then I found a picture of a young girl that looked a lot like me at that age and there was writing on the back of the photo.
“Ingeborg Teichmann at the grave of her Father, Walter R. Teichmann in Marbach, District Nossen/Saxony” 1936
We now had a name, a picture, and a memory. Memories are how we come to be and when you lose your past, it takes away from your future.