Marx was right (Groucho that is)

I spent a great evening last night with a friend of mine. We have – and have not – a lot in common. Like me, he is chasing down an ancient crime. Like me, it involves the murder of a relative. I normally am not thrilled by such proximity, but in truth it’s our distance that keeps us talking.

My friend’s crime is much older than mine: the systematic genocide of Jews in Nazi Germany. It involves his relatives – many of his relatives, but chiefly his great-uncle – who were marched off to concentration camps. I told my friend about the wonderful sense of anticipation I experience whenever I return to Quebec on the eve of tracing down some clue; and of the unending headache I experience when I’ve had enough and board the plan home practically gasping for air. He smiled and nodded his head in agreement. This is his experience whenever he returns to Europe.

To paraphrase Woody Allen (who was paraphrasing from another comedian), “I don’t want to belong to a club that would have someone like me as a member.” This is true. I well recall my first experience being surrounded by crime victims at a conference. It was a “buffet”, the who’s-who” of murderers, albeit from the receiving end. I felt exhilarated. Then later ashamed, a little sick in the stomach.

Recently, through email, I hooked up with a woman whose sister had met with an unfortunate ending similar to Theresa’s. We exchanged emails. Then she suggested we should talk on the phone. “No thanks”, I replied “I kind of like the distance. I’d prefer not to get to know you.”

Healthy for me? Definitely. Fortunate for her? Possibly. But I’m still glad I have my holocaust friend who helps me view grief through the illuminating prism of a foreign experience.

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