Posts Tagged ‘inspired’

The grief that inspired Jennifer Lawrence’s upcoming film

March 30th, 2014

My father and I were sitting in a bar in the Czech city of Olomouc, drinking beer and trading stories, when the room suddenly tilted. I look back at this moment and I’m never quite sure what it was exactly: the light, the air, the glass in my hand. Whatever it was caused everything to fall away, like curtains parting on a stage, and suddenly there was my father, this man whom I had known my entire life, but somehow never seen before.

It was my mother to whom I’d gravitated all my life. Her beauty, her messy adventures and unpredictable mood swings. She was magnetic and enchanting, the planet around which my father and I orbited. My father had been absorbed into the background, existing to help with maths homework or to teach me to drive, his stories about the war always paling in comparison to my mother’s whimsical reminiscences about love and New York.

But suddenly there we were, sitting across from each other in the living-room in the weeks after she died. Slowly we began to get to know each other. When I woke up crying in the middle of the night, missing my mother more than I’d ever imagined, I would tip-toe into his bedroom and he would turn on the light, blinking his eyes and rubbing my back. He would tell me stories about her until I was sleepy again.

Eventually we started moving forward with our lives. I moved to New York, a half-hearted attempt to find both my mother and myself. He moved to California. We talked on the phone every night and little by little I began to hear him in a way I never had, see him, perhaps for the first time.

When I was 20 we took a trip to the Czech Republic. With the advent of the internet my father had rediscovered his Second World War history, connecting with men who had flown in his same squadron, and uncovered a wealth of newly documented research about the fatal air wars in 1944 that had resulted in his time as a POW in Germany. He wanted to visit the place where he’d been shot down, pay homage to that time in his life, and I went with him.

So there we were, sitting in a bar in Olomouc, drinking beer and discussing our day walking the very ground upon which he had landed after he parachuted out of his burning B-24 Liberator in his early twenties – and suddenly I saw him, really saw my father. I saw him, not as my father, not as the man who had been at the dinner table all those years, or the man who taught me how to ride a bike, but as the incredibly brave and loving man he had been in this lifetime.

And in that moment I realised that had my mother not died, I might never have known him, my brilliant and impossibly grand father. He would die a few years after that trip, and even though my mother’s death still haunts me, I have nothing but gratitude for the time I was allotted with my father as a result.

“The Rules of Inheritance” (Headline), by Claire Bidwell Smith, is available from Telegraph Books

World War Two

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