Friday, December 19, 2008

We All Know As Much About Anne Frank as Otto

Sticking around the topic of my Amsterdammmian experience, my guys and I shuffled along a line that snaked a city block in order to see where 8 people hid out from Nazi fucks for two full years. I remembered reading aloud from some little girl's diary around the 7th grade....nervous I'd screw up the words as fellow students followed along in their own books. "Am I reading every word correctly, please voice don't crack on me, god I wish Id gotten a haircut..." Never appreciating the words, or that the girl next to me could've written them...after all we were about the same age as Anne Frank when she wrote it. We don't concentrate on comprehension unless we're interested in what we're reading.....and I would've been if the teacher just walked up to me and said "this girl about your age wrote this book while hiding in a room the size of a shoebox with her whole family...shitting, pissing, eating and sleeping within twelve square feet of eachother for 2 years....worried that any next minute they could be split up forever or killed for being born....and she was... so you might really try and take this one in." Never hearing that, instead I danced over her words as fast as I could with no passion, no empathy, no clue....I'd have known more of who I would celebrate one day 20 years later.

Tapping any bit of my memory to try and relate to the bookcase we were about to move, a hole revealed itself to the height of an 8 year old. Anyone taller had to duck to get in. This was their hiding spot...a home within a home that began behind a piece of furniture in any normal bedroom. The deeper we went, the quieter we got....wincing at wooden creaks at my feet....if the gestapo had heard,we'd be shot on site. They weren't allowed to move around during the daytime as the workers in the rooms below them might hear and become suspicious. You would think in such confined spaces you might get to know one another pretty damn well. Well that's where this bit gets more to the point rather than walking you through the fantastic tour we endured. One of the last things before you leave the Anne Frank house is an audio interview with Otto Frank, Anne's father. He was the only one who had survived the concentration camps that killed Anne, her mother Edith and sister Margot after their hiding place had been revealed by an unknown source. Otto received Anne's Diary from a friend who'd helped them while in hiding when he returned to Amsterdam after the war ended. He couldn't believe he never knew that Anne had so much on her mind. Such depth in her feelings, concerns and conflicts....even while only feet away. This is where I'll never forget the most important point made that day and the reason for writing this......Otto had concluded after reading the thoughts of his daughter and the reality of her being gone forever, that the opportunity to ask questions was gone. And that a harsh generality does in fact exist, and that is "most parents truly don't ever really know their own children."

It seems so easy to know your own children, because I've had a ridiculously open relationship with mine. No matter what the topic is, whether sex, not rock and roll you douche.....depression, love, respect, manners, morals, opinions, politics, was always open for discussion. In fact, all of it was drained out of us by morning wake up calls and bedside questioning for details of the night prior. You couldn't escape unless you'd really delved into what wasn't like they waited for us to come and open up to was instilled early on, it'd be part of our relationship. I feel bad for people who don't share the same feeling about this as me because I bet their parents would want such a relationship with their own child no matter what they think. And hopefully something so drastic doesn't need to occur in order for either of them to realize the moment's passed. One of my uncles was hysterical at my grandmother's funeral...she died in her 80's. His family's well known for not showing up to family gatherings and always finding an excuse. The only thing he could say was "I wish I had gone to see her more...just talk with her.....I knew she was getting older but I never thought she'd be gone." This is a man in his fifties we're talking here. Seriously people, if you're not old enough yet to have kids or even if you do and your grandparents are alive, start with them first...sit them down and ask them about their lives. What they wished they had done....what they learned, the favorite place they traveled, the wars, the depression, what it was like being a mother or a father, what they think the goal of life really is...who's more wise to answer that question....and you, the more ridiculously intelligent for asking it and taking the time to hear their answers. I wanted to smack this guy Otto. In my mind, he was a failure as a father. If that's what you come away with, regret that you didn't even know your own child.....and it took her death to figure it out....well you didn't do enough to savor those years you'd be given extra that many other Jews never had with their families. I don't care if your kid's shy or standoff-ish...this girl was sitting in the seat across the room, and yet he had no idea how to talk to her? To grab her diary in the middle of the night when she was asleep and see what she was writing about after a full year of watching her scribble. Give me a break on privacy people if that's your consolation....a kid comes home from school and gets a "D" on a paper he're not going to ask to read it? You accept that this little kid of yours who represents your family while at school, and with whatever he's written that has awarded him a "D", you're going to accept his privacy without even knowing why he got the grade? Bullshit. Step it up...know when both you and your kid are better off for having each other rather than assuming everything's peachy because they made it home that night. If you're thinking I'll be overprotective you're out of your mind...what you're doing is correlating interest in one's life with an overbearing nature. Sorry but you're parallel lines are convoluted intestines when penciled on paper. You're off somewhere worried about curfews and bedtimes and a structured set of guidelines for your child......the freedom and comfort you receive from knowing your kid so well that you can trust them automatically affords you the luxury of less anxiety over their actions and less need for discipline. Everyone has a different circumstance of course, and life doesn't deal us all the perfect cards...but it's never too late to start asking some this time of year, there's always someone you love sitting right across from you....get over yourself and make the first move.

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