Thursday, January 26, 2006
A Ninety-year Old Personal Tragedy
Today I will shed the discussion of urban history to talk about a tale that moved me, about my own family. It was related to me by my mother yesterday, and it touched me so much I feel I must relate it to you.
My Prussian great-grandfather (my maternal grandmother's father) was serving on the Western front in World War I. By late October, it was clear to him and to others that the fighting was dying down in his sector as the Central Powers were losing the war. He had grown a beard of rather large proportions, as German men of that era were wont to do. My great-grandmother took a dim view of this, of course - she had liked him clean-shaven. So on November 7th, just a few days before the armistice, he wrote to her, and enclosed the beard. He had said something to the effect of:"my dear wife, I shall soon be coming home. My beard shall be arriving first, the rest of me shall follow."
Sadly, that was not to be. On the very last day of World War I, my great-grandfather stepped on a landmine and was killed. I am sure such a story has happened countless times through history, when people die for a cause already rendered futile through the events of the day. Perhaps my mother would have not met my Chinese father in Chicago, and I would not have been born, if my great-grandfather had survived. But I cannot help but mourn his tragic loss that my great-grandmother had to live with the rest of her days.