“Hi there, Grandpa” she said. I looked up. “Louise?” She was not Louise. She was Sarah. Of course. It would be impossible for Louise to be here. I looked away, embarrassed. I looked at the ceiling, out of the window, onto the perfectly manicured grounds below. Anywhere but her. I saw Louise in her. The way she looks, moves, sounds. She asked me how I’m doing. Her voice sounded so much like Louise’s it made my heart hurt. I told her the truth. I’ve had better days. My doctor’s say I need a new heart. They say I’m on the list to get a new one, they say it will make me feel much better. Doctor’s don’t know anything these days.
I told her a story. Well, she asked for a story. A good one. One that happened. One that happened to me. She asked how I met her grandmother. What was I supposed to do? I told the damn story. She’s becoming a delightful young woman. I wish Louise could have met her. So, here’s what I said.
I was born in Germany a long time ago. When I was 17 a war began. I wanted so badly to fight for my country. I decided I was going to fight for Germany and nothing could stop me. I lied to the recruiting officers telling them I was old enough. They either believed me or didn’t care enough to not let me fight. In 1934 I was sent to work in a concentration camp in Poland.
Sarah’s eyes opened wide. It broke my heart to have my only granddaughter look at me with such disgust and hate. I asked Sarah to let me finish. She didn’t say a word. I kept going.
I told her how at the concentration camp, I met a girl named Louise. Louise was beautiful. She was even beautiful after she was made to shave her head. She was even beautiful after she became so skinny that it surprised me she could even walk. Louise’s beauty did not go away. No, hers was the kind of beauty that does not vanish. I watched her from afar until I realized I was falling in love with her.
I told Sarah how I began to wake up the atrocities of my surroundings. The atrocities that I let happen. We were tearing families apart and killing innocent people, and we did it for no damn reason. No damn reason! I said to Sarah that the worst bit was that I took part in it all. I had to do something.
The first time I approached Louise about running away with me she refused. She was scared. I was scared too, but also overcome with love. Perhaps I was a bit foolish, but also determined.
A few day’s after I approached her, her brother was sent to the gas chambers. She came straight to me and said she was ready.We did it. I told Sarah how after we had been running for hours, I told her to stop, got down on one knee and proposed. She said yes. I still have no idea why.
I asked Sarah if she could forgive me. If I die today I said, the one thing I want is forgiveness for hurting all those people.
Sarah was silent for a long time. Her silence said enough. I knew she hated me. I wanted to die, and be with Louise. That was all I wanted. Then Sarah pulled me into her arms in an embrace that said more than words could say.
We stayed that way for a long time. We stayed that way until the nurse announced visiting hours were over. When Sarah and I pulled away she had tears in her eyes. I forgive you she said. I love you I said. I love you too she said. Then she left.
(looks up towards the ceiling) I am ready to go. I am not afraid. I am ready to be with Louise.