By David Bezmozgis
It is impossible for me to separate my grandfather’s death from the war between Israel and Lebanon in 2006. In my mind, the two tragedies are wedded together, or at least proceed in parallel. My grandfather seemed to relinquish his last hold on life when the rockets started falling on Kiryat Shmona and Haifa. It was around this time that he started to slip in and out of lucidity. What had before been a resigned or willful silence became something remote and otherworldly. Three times a day, either Nadja or a nurse would succeed in penetrating his stupor to give him food, which he accepted obediently or instinctively, like a baby bird. Otherwise, he drifted. We would stand at his bedside and watch his chest rise and fall with surprising regularity. Occasionally, and totally unpredictably, he would emerge from his stupor for a morning or an afternoon and regard us with comprehension and clarity. In these rare moments, we peppered him with dull questions but said not a word about Israel, the war, the catastrophe that flickered nonstop on television in the other room. We didn’t want to upset him, but by keeping the war from him I felt that we were severing his last meaningful connection to the world. Now that we could no longer talk to him about Israel, we could no longer talk to him at all.
Is there anything you would go to war for?
What are you not telling someone for fear of upsetting them?
David Bezmozgis is an award-winning author and filmmaker whose books include Natasha And Other Stories and The Betrayers. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harpers, and elsewhere.