Paula has asked us to find traces of the past in whatever form we choose, saying it does not have to be a distant one, or rich in history; it can be something personal, or it can even have a human form. I have chosen the personal. The photos are old, and not taken by me, but Paula’s theme lit a spark and I wanted to share my traces of the past through her prompt, I hope she won’t mind.
My mother in laws birthday is coming up shortly, she died in 1998 at the age of 79. I had only known her for seven years, but in that time we became close. She had two sons and no daughters, so I chose to be not just a daughter in law, but in some ways a daughter. I called her everyday, some days it was a quick hello and “check in” other times it was a half an hour or more. She lived alone and often spent her days alone. Occasionally she would meet a few of her close girlfriends for lunch, but as the years wore on there was less of that. I remember joining her at one of those lunches, four elegant European ladies, who without even realizing it lapsed into German, their native language, as the lunch wore on. I didn’t say anything until she turned to me and asked what I thought, at which point I burst out laughing and said I hadn’t understood a word for the past ten minutes!
Her life had not been easy. She fled Germany in 1938, making it out on one of the last boats to leave. She was widowed suddenly at the age of 36, when my husband was 10. She remarried 4 years later, but was widowed again at the age of 60. When I met her she had been fighting Ovarian cancer for 5 years, and continued to do so for 7 more. It took me a long time to get used to not picking up the phone to call her after she died, often wanting to share something with her, missing having the opportunity to. Traces of the past, my past, her past.