My grandfather doesn’t talk about it. I’ve asked. Mom asked. He won’t talk.
He tells the funny stories, the ones about dummy grenades that landed in the foxhole by his buddy, the full ammunition belt that was discharged without ever touching the deer at which it was aimed – the silly moments that brought laughter. The memories that hold light.
But what he saw when he arrived at Dachau, what it was to walk among the bunks, to guard the propaganda that had helped build that place – those are not stories of light. They carry death in their very text.
My grandfather keeps vigilant silence around these.
I honor that.
Sometimes stories cannot be told out loud. Instead, they must be pieced together with journals and letters and snapshots tucked into albums. A puzzle to be assembled later, when his light has gone out here for the last time.
This silence from my grandfather speaks more than any string of sentences. His pain, the sharpness of his memory, the very inability to articulate the horror.
Sometimes the strongest stories are not told. “May my silences be more accurate,” whispers Roethke.
What stories are you not speaking because the silence holds volumes? What stories do you want to know but cannot find because someone else holds them in vigilant silence? Are there stories best never told?