Time passes by your unblinking eyes in a blur, you may acquire a fleeting glimpse of its elusiveness or you may not, for it will not stop to grant you the luxury of regaining your pace with it.
In the solace of the waves colliding against the jagged rocks of the cliffs a few feet beneath me, my eyes wandered to look for an escape from the haunting memory of discovery inside the withered, musty four walls of my great grandfather’s cottage in the hills. I focused on the rhythmic lapping of water below me, absorbed in the silence of the trees, drowned in the lull of the waves. Here, close to the embrace of the ocean, I could rethink my false perceptions of a world marked by much, much more grief than the human mind willfully chose to accept.
As I had arrived, after an hour long walk through the valley where my great grandfather, my closest family lived, the tiny form of his home with sloping roofs and a little garden blooming to life on the windowsill by the porch. I quietly crept up the stairs to the front porch and slipped inside low-ceiling living room of his quiet, unassuming world. Passing the grand scrapbook of framed pictures of his family’s even grander life hung in permanence by the unlighted fireplace, I had supposed that I would find him tending to his gardenias and winter blossoms by the backyard, but what I actually did find was nothing short of surprising.
I could not define in words how I felt when I found the old letters from a time long repressed but grudgingly unforgotten, crumbling, yellow at the corners yet remarkably sealing forever the memories of a horrific time in the past. It was as if those memories had frozen in the cursive of the frantic words that recounted the futile attempts of a man caught in the snare of war struggling determinedly to contact with allied authorities in order to escort refugees and escaped victims to safety from captivity and bloodshed. There were personal accounts of the oppressed, letters of gratitude to the man and reports from my great grandfather himself of his successful or failed attempts to help all those he could, and those he refused to admit he couldn’t.
He always used to say, as my mother told me, that it was a worthless life to spend on the trivial, on willfully ignoring a fellow animal’s cry for help, for it was in listening to, and aiding with all your heart and soul the injured, the broken and the hopeless that you found the true worth of your existence, one that inadvertently affected many lives.
There was a letter, the last account from him from all those years back, dated July 29, 1940 that told a heartbreaking account of how his last attempt to save a victim and her child had drastically spiraled into disaster as the train aboard which, along with thousands of her escapees had been busted by the enemy and what happened to them afterwards, one could only imagine. It was the final letter from my great grandfather, from a time I had only ever heard of in the screened accounts of others, but never truly known the extent of its brutality, for everybody seemed to think it was too much for a 14 year old to handle. And I could never determine if it was for the better or for the worse, as an anxious young boy awaited news of his closest friend who nobody dared tell what the actual, more poignant reason behind his absence was.
Sometimes you dread the frozen ticking of the passing second, sometimes you panic at the elusive hour whirring by; life is a fight to grasp the moment lying between the two. The ground atop the cliff, below me, seemed to swell and swell in size and the sky above me seemed to distort into whirlpools of formlessness until I could feel feet soaring over the trees, heading back to the memory of my great grandfather who had went missing that year.
Only the ghost of his memory lived inside the perpetual walls of his little cottage now, in handwritten recounts of a frozen tale I had unintentionally thawed for one final time.