My book has finally been published! The agonies of edits and rewrites, then more edits and rewrites, choosing a cover design, a spine, a back cover, replacing character’s names with pseudonyms, having the inside formatting completed, the logistics taken care of, the marketing plan set up, is now in the past. The entire process took almost three years and yet I still fight the urge to add to it, to tweak it, rework it… or maybe I should just hide it in the closet and forget that I ever wrote it. As Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” So, with that said, I have decided that I’ve bled enough, and it is time to ask you to be the judge and decide if this piece of my biography is worth the paper (and proverbial blood) it has consumed.
I give you, here, the prologue. I would greatly appreciate any feedback you may wish to offer, be it positive, constructive, or even negative. Kudos can only inspire, but criticism may inspire more.
Prologue How This Story Came About
This book began as a collection of documents compiled over T his book began as a collection of documents compiled over T the course of ten months. Documents such as e-mails, eulogies the course of ten months. Documents such as e-mails, eulogies, letters, and newspaper articles. Documents of love, despair, grief, joy, hope – of beginnings and endings. Names of people and places were left intact to bring animation to the story in my mind as I relived it. The innocent have now been protected with pseudonyms, but my memories have not been dulled. Only a gentle slip into dementia or death will let me ever forget.
On July 4th, 2013, I watched the United States celebrate their Independence Day on television. Neil Diamond sang his signature song, ‘Sweet Caroline’, and I considered using this popular phrase for my heroine’s identity, to protect her and to convey the overriding emotion that this special lady invoked in me. However, the touch of sadness in those two words would have tainted the story too sweetly. The original ending of this book was meant to be sad, but I see now that there is no end. The story continues to burn like an ember, a glowing heat buried under the ashes of once red-hot flames. Pieces of the story have now been extinguished, but life continues to smolder.
I was born in Austria in 1925. This country became an independent republic again after World War II, but the post-war conditions in both Germany and Austria were such that many left for America for a promising new start in a land of plenty. So, I too, with the urging of friends who had already gained privileged entry into the US as refugees from the Nazis, joined the queue for immigration. Restrictions on the quota of Austrian immigrants permitted into the US would have meant a wait of seven years in that queue, but friends in New York, along with a brother in Montreal, managed to facilitate my crossing into a new northern land within a short period of time. From my tiny home country, I crossed into the vastness of Canada, arriving in Quebec with my wife, Josefine, my two-year-old son, Simon, and ten dollars in my pocket, in April of 1953. I never left.
After having lived here for nearly sixty years, my three children scattered across three different countries, I suffered the loss of my wife in March of 2013. As she lay on her deathbed, I declared I would follow her within ten days. She admonished me vehemently, “Don’t you dare die! You have not yet fulfilled your mission. You have not yet written your message to humanity, for which you were put on Earth.” She also told me that I would meet another woman who would give me the strength and inspiration needed to carry out this mission. Needless to say, at the time I did not heed her predictions. Simon, Virginia and Thomas had gathered in the old house in Quebec to see their mother off on her journey to the other side, but having lives of their own, left shortly after her cremation ceremony. My spirit was devastated. I had been rebuffed by Josefine when I had promised to join her, but I began to drift into a state of self-neglect nonetheless. I stopped taking my medication, eating regularly, or even living in general. I cared for nothing, not my children, nor the house, the garden. I felt useless in this world, lonely and lost.
After a couple of months, I was still hanging on in the present dimension when Virginia returned to continue tidying away the possessions of a soul no longer in need of material things. She packed clothing and shoes, ancient kitchenware, magazines, and selected sentimental articles to be wrapped until such time as she could collect them. Disturbed by the chaos of my living conditions, she suggested that I return with her to Germany where she could take care of me. Bereft and simply floating through the motions of every day, I considered the invitation as a stray leaf might consider allowing itself to be carried by the current of the river.
The day before Virginia was to depart once more, we were invited to a Mother’s Day celebration at the residence of a close friend. A small spark of life enabled me to gather my senses, dress appropriately, and smile. The day was sunny, a glorious May freshness with leaves budding out and flowers peeking from green corners. The table set in the garden sparkled with expensively cut glass and china and silver. I sighed, glad to be out of the house and away from memories of my wife, if only for a little while. I obeyed the call to be seated for the meal and found myself next to a French-Canadian woman, dark hair and dark eyes, and bubbling with vitality. She didn’t seem quite real, a spirit perhaps sent from heaven to make me laugh. We spoke, we shared stories, and eventually, she pulled me from the river.
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