Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Father's Presence

Appears as originally published to http://stlfamilylife.com/ on Sunday, June 20 on Father's Day

Remembering Fathers, Past and Present

Growing up, I was blessed. Leave it to Beaver’s got nothing on me. My parents provided me as idyllic a childhood as you can ever wish to have. I was raised by a hard-working father and a stay-at-home mom, who stayed happily married until her death in 2007, just shy of their 46th anniversary. While my mom worked a few seasonal jobs, for the most part her job was to take care of the house and us girls.

Now that I am a wife and mother, I am all that more grateful for the values and legacy my parents passed onto me. By all rights, my dad should be an alcoholic; a family trait that is rampant among the Olsen’s men. He made a decision to not allow that generational curse to affect him, defying the odds.

Still, it’s my mom’s legacy that always humbles and awes me. Without a father in her life or a Godly male influence, she still chose an amazing man to marry and raise a family. Again, I am forever grateful. If you were to ask her about her father, my mom would have told you that she did not have much to say about him. She only knew a little about him, and had even fewer memories.

His name was Franz Bohn, an ethnic German man who worked as a butcher. Like a lot of Germans, he was obstinate and strong-willed. Even though she was only 5 when she last saw him, she remembered him being a heavy drinker, probably an alcoholic, who ruled with an iron fist. My mom supposed my grandma Anna married this older man to escape the abuse she suffered at the hands of her own dad, Thomas. Sadly, Franz was a mirror-image of his father-in-law and the patterns of abuse continued for my grandma into her marriage.

When asked what she remembered about him, my mom could only recount one memory—and it was a disturbing one at that. While still living in their small town in Yugoslavia, she was arguing with her cousin, whom she was playing with at the time. It angered her dad and he chased her with one of his butcher knives. She could not have been more than 5 years old at the time.

Between 1944 and 1947 she had been separated from her father when the Russian Red Army invaded Yugoslavia and forced the citizens to evacuate their homes, stripping them of their possessions and belongings. The able-bodied men were taken to fight for the Russians, while able-bodied women were taken by coal car to Russia to work as slaves. For the youngest of the victims, like my mom who was 6 years old, and for the oldest victims like her grandparents, they were imprisoned in camps within Yugoslavian towns, much like the Holocaust. When my great grandparents, my grandma, and my mom escaped the camps 3 years later, they did not reunite with her father.

Her last memory of her father was a passive one. Before immigrating to the United States in 1950, she recalled someone pointing out that her father was across the street. She ignored him and continued to walk on without glancing his way. When I asked her years later why she chose to look the other way rather than reunite with him, her answer was simple. He had abandoned them after the genocide ended, making a clear decision to not be a part of his daughter’s life.

My parents and grandma returned to Yugoslavia in 1995. They reconnected with family still living in the home next door to where my mom grew up. It was during that visit that she learned a little more about the biological father she did not really know. She was also given a contact number of how to reach him. Sadly, when she called, he had already died a few years earlier. While she had not allowed being fatherless to impact her life, I imagine speaking to him would have provided a peace and allowed their relationship to go full-circle. It was not meant to be.

So as Father’s Day nears, I am eternally grateful for the dad I was blessed to have. He is loving, kind, involved and protective. He loved our mom and was a great role-model. His influence and example lead me to an equally amazing husband. Together he and I are raising our children in a healthy, balanced home. I have a lot to be grateful for—every day.

Bonnie Krueger is a mom, wife and blogger living in West County. She blogs about family, marriage and random musing at Inside my Head. Her second blog is dedicated to the memory and history of her mom who was a concentration camp survivor after WW2 in Yugoslavia. This blog, Heart Speaks, is written to educate people on the genocide by the Russians that so few people actually know about it.


At March 11, 2012 at 9:51 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

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