I think it has something to do with my dad being a prisoner in a nursing home. He looks so helpless there. And he’s developed a belief that the nursing home is run by Nazis.
When my dad was a corporal in the US Army in World War II, one of his jobs was to go into villages that the Nazis had taken over–this was in the Alsace–and make sure that it was actually the Nazis and not somebody else. Then he would radio his outfit, and they would rain artillery fire on the village and blow it up.
Dad knew that the Nazis did not kill or run out all the people whose village they took over. They simply moved into their houses, ate their food, raped their daughters, and held that position for the advancing front. Dad knew that when he called in fire on those villages, he was calling in fire on the innocent people that the Nazis were using as human shields.
Long before there was a acronym for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Dad had it. He spent most nights fighting hand-to-hand, even though he denies that he ever did that in the war. Often my mother had to go sleep in the guest room to avoid getting unwittingly assaulted.
She vehemently denies that he has PTSD–a service-related condition that would qualify him for lots of important VA benefits. If he doesn’t, then why the kicking and punching, why the paranoia, why the things that remain half-said, the conversations begun and ended in a shudder……why are there Nazis in the nursing home?
Tonight he waved me in to him and whispered conspiratorially: “Your mother may not believe this, and heck, you may not believe this either, but they are meeting tonight in the square.”
“What square, Dad?”
“The town square. The square of THIS town.”
“Who’s meeting in the square tonight?”
“The ones we fought against in the war, the ones that wanted–US–GONE. We won that one, but they’re back. You be careful out there.”
I nodded. “I’ll be careful, Dad. You be careful too.”
He closes his eyes, shudders. I hear no more from him tonight. A few words of small talk, a few observations about Noga the Lhasa Apso, who is a welcome visitor. Tonight Dad “doesn’t think she likes him. The only reason she comes is that I bring her.”
I stay two hours, then they put Dad to bed. He is looking very black in the face, bitter. He falls asleep, but I wake him to kiss the top of his bald head just like always when I say goodbye.
Tonight he doesn’t say “I love you.”