Dare to Tell Story
It’s a frozen moment in time.
I was five years old, it was evening.
I was with my mother and sister.
There was a knock on the door, some person stood there in uniform. He told my mother something and she started to cry. She went into the kitchen and called my grandmother.
“Tzvika is dead.”
I was sitting on the sofa, I knew what was going on. I understood. My father, the person I cherished most in the world is not coming back.
It was a car accident, he died instantly. His car was hit by a truck, maybe he tried to pass another car. They told us he was alone in the car. It was his fault.
I grew up feeling guilty. I think I believed that it happened because I had done something bad.
I wasn’t good enough. Maybe he didn’t want to stick around because I wasn’t important enough.
I was jealous of the other girls who had a father to pick them up from school. I was jealous of the kids who had a father that got killed in the war. They had a ceremony, their fathers were heroes. My dad died for nothing.
I buried it all. There was no-one to talk to. I kept it inside. When he died I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t forget him.
I became a walking memorial for my father; I became the candle that is lit in his memory. He was the only child of Holocaust survivors, and had no other living relatives. He was the only thing they had in the world. I couldn’t talk to them, or speak their language. I couldn’t understand how life could do this to people who had lived through such horror.
I carried that torch for years and years, long after they died. My sister and I were all they had left.
After university I realized that I didn’t want to live. I don’t mean that I was suicidal, I just kind of shut down. I had no energy to cope with life. I was just going through the motions. Finally, I went to therapy and began the long process of releasing the trauma. From then on, every week I had a little more energy.
I married late, it was hard to trust. I wanted to get pregnant. Sitting at work one day, I realized that I would not get pregnant until I had attended a real memorial service for my father. In that moment I opened the calendar and saw that it was just one month away from the date of his death. It was 30 years since he had died, at the age of 30.
I held the memorial one month later and invited everyone I could make contact with; friends of my father and old army buddies I had never spoken to in all those years.
There was an old colleague of my father’s, a woman that told me she used to travel with him every day to work. She said she always told him to slow down. They would joke about it. On that day she had not gone with him. She said that she had felt guilty all those years, that if she had only been in the car that day he wouldn’t have died.
After 30 years I got to speak about my father. I could release the shame and guilt I had carried all those years.
Standing by his grave, it turned out, I was already pregnant.