Memoir Excerpt: The Boy

I am born October 2, 1953 in the French Hospital in New York City. My mother was a single 20-year-old woman who seven days after my birth would, as the expression goes, surrender me for adoption to the Spence Chapin Agency. I was placed with a foster mother for a view weeks and then, when I was about five weeks old, I was adopted by Sanford and Virginia Kahrmann, then residing in a place called Shanks Village in Orangeburg New York.

My father worked at Bell Labs in New Jersey and taught English at Columbia University. He was a World War II Army veteran. Long after he died I would learn he was among those who liberated the people in the Dachau Concentration Camp. My mother was a Columbia graduate who had married and later divorced an RAF pilot she met while living in London during the war. She would later tell me that one of the reasons she divorced her first husband was he had no sense of humor. I remember wondering why she didn’t notice this until after the wedding.

My mother was 10 years my father’s junior. He was born in 1914, she in 1924. They’d met after the war when she was a student in one of his classes.

While I don’t remember the first time I saw the boy, he was there as long as I have memory. He was rarely around when my parents were there. I knew my father would love him, I was not so sure about my mother. I don’t know if my mother ever saw him. He was rarely around when she was.

I can’t tell you the first time I saw him because I don’t remember when that was. I knew I liked him and I knew he liked me, and for me, that’s all that mattered. I never told anyone about him because I didn’t think anyone would believe me. I never had to say anything to my father because I secretly believed my father saw him too, and anyway, there was never a need for words when it came to things like us . It was like that between me and my father. With the three of is, me, my Dad and the boy, it was like that too. The boy loved us and although we never said it out loud, we loved the boy.



Now it’s not like I could see him all the time. He’d just kind of show up. Sometimes I wouldn’t see him at first. I’d be doing something, playing in my tree house, listening to music, walking in the woods, and there he’d be. A lot of the time he was smiling at me. He always seemed gentle to me, very kind and gentle. I knew he was kinder and gentler than I was. It’s not that I thought I was terrible, well, maybe a little. The boy looked plenty strong, but I knew from the beginning I’d protect him with my life. I don’t know how I knew. I just did. I also knew he had answers to questions I wasn’t ready to ask yet, or hadn’t thought of yet. Maybe there were answers I wasn’t ready to know and the boy knew it. He was smart. We were both smart.

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