nach-kriegs-kind. Post-war child – how many generations does war really affect? Is it one, two or three – or does the trauma reverberate into the consciousness and subconsciousness of many generations yet to be born. Does it wane and grow softer with time like the ripples of a disturbed lake?
The silence and denial of my parents has burnt itself deep into my consciousness – the way life played itself out for them was certainly not their fault – but they could never fathom nor understand that and how the war wronged them – that the horror of loss and displacement shaped many if not all their actions and reactions. Their perception of their experiences of a world first gone on fire and then distant and cold was “normal.”
I inherited their combined and unspoken tragedy, and raised myself by vacillating from from inner and outer hot to cold, and never do I remember living on middle ground – feeling protected and warm. And, most importantly, I was never able to, even as a small child, to break through the coldness and bitterness of my mother’s shell to elicit protectiveness or warmth. She was an island onto herself. But I do remember fear – not fear of isolated things or moments, but pervasive fear of everything. Home was not safe, my room was not safe, my bed was not safe – like the war they were shiveringly icy and then flash-fire hot, burning with the tempestuous anger of my father’s violent temper.
I inherited the burden of being the “defective” child – the one who screamed in terror until she turned blue, the one who started to lie and hoard and steal from a very young age, the one with the obvious faulty genetic make-up, the cause of unspoken family shame; and I am sure there were years of hushed arguments from whose side the flawed genes originated.
Over the years my parents never matured into seeing the big picture – how the war shaped them and how they shaped me and how the three of us shaped each other. Like most trauma victims who do not do the difficult, emotional growth work, they arrested at the trauma stage of development.
Humans are innately wired to communicate with other humans – physically, spiritually and emotionally – to touch, to feel, to be close, to protect, to argue, to move away from each other temporarily and then to huddle again. The huddling keeps us warm in a cold and sometimes frightening world. War arrests human communication for many- it breaks up the protective huddle and disperses people into the uncertainty of nowhere, it leaves a shell emptied of meaningful substance – the only thing that can fill this shell back to the brim is the discovery of meaning – the purpose of all this suffering…..