Echoes of the Past
How Our Ancestors Shape Us
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When a party conversation gets boring, and you want to get things going, ask, "How do your ancestors show up in your life?" Before you know it, everyone's bonding over stories instead of reading out their resumes and trying to impress one another.
I've been thinking about it myself, wondering how I became who I am. Ancestors show up in our lives in fascinating and sometimes subtle ways, like echoes from the past influencing the present. One of these echoes for me is my maternal great-grandfather. The villagers knew him as a feisty, daring spirit, willing to take crazy chances. He fought as a partisan against the German fascists during WWII. He got caught and sentenced to death by a death squad twice but escaped both times with a mix of cunning and audacity, even hiding in an ardent Nazi's barn because no one would think of looking for him there. Using the cover of night, he rode the dude's bicycle to do his Communist business around the village, look for food, and cause more trouble for the Germans.
Post-war, when the Communists took over, they turned out to be just a different brand of oppressors with their own corrupt hierarchy and rampant nepotism, while poor farmers became destitute. Disappointed, he withdrew to private life, raising sheep and beating up on his wife, yelling at his neighbors, and trying to kick my mom out of the house on multiple occasions in the middle of the night. She was only seven years old. This once brave man's darker aspects emerged as he struggled with his demons and conflicted about his purpose, impacting my family in profound ways.
I can't say I love that particular ancestor, but I can definitely see that feisty spirit in me, taking risks, carving my own path, and marching to my own beat. I wish I were more like my maternal grandmother, though - embodying her kindness, generosity, and whimsical humor, which visit me in dreams like a guardian angel.