Saturday, November 28, 2015

About my father
Today is my father's yahr-zeit, the anniversary of his death. He died 39 years ago, peacefully, while my mother was out of the room and I was at my son's David's piano recital. David was seven years old. Playing the piano while his grandfather was dying was very appropriate, the handing on of the baton. The piano was a large part of my father's life. He was given a piano for his bar mitzvah, his thirteenth birthday, and lived with a piano all his life. He had an uncommon flair for music, a natural musicianship. As a young man he was the boy who played the piano. Others would gather around him, sing, dance if there was room, while my father, Joska, sat at the piano and player all the current hits and a vast repertoire of Hungarian songs. In his prime, he also accompaniedin Schubert songs a family friend, General Bauer, who prided himself on his singing voice. His piano playing was curtailed when while cutting a slice of dry bread he cut the tendon of his thumb. He was in the Jewish unarmed unit of the Hungarian army. With this injury he was sent home for treatmen. This might have saved his life, but his hand was never the same again. Nor was he ever in the mood to play as he used to after surviving Mauthausen and witnessing the atrocities that he lived through, after Vadasz Miklos and his son Bandi, Reshovsky Peter, Singer Odon and others, all part of my parents group of close intimate friends were killed. 
I suppose my father had a good death. He died at the age of 75 of lung cancer. He lived to see my brother, Janos again, then had the lung-heart machine turned off and fell asleep. He thought that the years after a bullet narrowly missed him while he was marched from the main camp of Mauthaisen to the sub-camp of Gunzkirchen as bonus. He survived because he had a strong will to live and see his children, Janos and me again. Bringing us up was his life mission. When he was liberated from the camp he was a scarcely living skeleton. For weeks he lay in a hospital unconscious. Against the odds he pulled through, worked to make a precarious living, and ultimately achieved his ambition, emigrated to New Zealand where he enjoyed the stress-free life. He was an unambitious man. He didn't want to make a fortune. Yet as a laborer he worked all the overtime available, trying to set up a business he worked though half the night. Later he valued his leisurely life as a public servant. He enjoyed his garden. He also enjoyed friendship. He was someone whom people and animals loved spontaneously. Wherever he went, dogs, chickens, all animals followed him. And people from all walks of life loved him. There was something about his smile, about his laughter, and about his love of music that endeared him to all. So today I lit a candle in his memory and thought about him. When my mother and father got married my mather wanted to buy him a kittle, a burial shroud, as was customary, but my father said, should they be in such happy circumstances that he could be buried in a kittle it would be time to get one. These were prophetic words. In the end he did get buried in a kittle and despite all the hardships he lived though, he had a good life.