The ones you love


"Destinies," by Samuel Bak.

“Destinies,” by Samuel Bak.

“When I were your age,” the old woman wheezed, “there weren’t no such thing as Holocaust deniers. If we’d tried that on Mrs. Rothschild next door or old Mr. Mastman… you remember Mastman’s Corner Store, don’t you, dear?” She blinked back the years. “Sorry, it was way before your time.

“Anyways, if we’d said something like that, one of our neighbors would have whipped back his sleeve and showed us his camp tattoo and we’d have gotten blasted for sure. And if word got back to your dad, you wouldn’t be able to sit for a week. A lot of those guys fought in Europe, you know. Your great-great uncle was in the Sixth Armored Division that liberated Buchenwald.”

The boy loved old people and old stories. He visited his granny even though it was generally held that she wasn’t right in the head.

"Threesome," by Felix Nussbaum, was painted in 1944, the year he died in Auschwitz.

“Threesome,” by Felix Nussbaum, was painted in 1944, the year he died in Auschwitz.

“I was born in 1948,” she went on. “That makes me the same age as the State of Israel.” She cackled. “Been nothing’ but fussin’ and fightin’ over there since then. It weren’t ever all their fault, no matter what President Stupid-Head says. Heck, most everyone thought it was a good idea at the time. But their mistake was making a success out of it. Made all them backward countries look real bad.”

A woman in a formless uniform appeared in the doorway.

“Mrs. Riley!” she said sharply. “We’ve talked about this before. That’s hate speech, and just because you’re an old lady doesn’t mean you can–.”

“Them’s facts. That’s history,” the old woman snapped. “You don’ like it, you can shut the door. And shut your trap.”

Her eyes leaked. “Except I ain’t got no door, right? You took it down after the last time the kid was here. Whaddya think we were doing? Sneaking a smoke?”

"Self-portrait," by Felix Nussbaum.

“Self-portrait,” by Felix Nussbaum.

“Resident doors must always remain open. Safety code,” the nurse said. “You had several warnings. And now you’re engaging in hate speech. That’s not just against the rules, it’s against the law. Don’t think I won’t report you just because you’re old. I will.”

“She picks at me all the time,” Mrs. Riley told the boy. “Jail or this place? Pah. At least they got bond issues to keep the jail nice.” Jaw jutting, she faced the nurse. “I got a right to say what’s true, and you got no way to stop me.”

“Maybe you should think of the boy,” the nurse said. “You aren’t going anywhere, but he’s just a kid. You want to see him end up at Juvenile Hall?”

“That’s the way they always get you,” the old woman whispered. “Even when you’re beyond hurting, they hurt the ones you love.”

Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) starts this evening. Remember those who suffered and those who died, and be grateful we live in a place where we can tell the truth.

Carol Douglas

About Carol Douglas

Carol L. Douglas is a painter who lives, works and teaches in Rockport, ME. Her annual workshop will again be held on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park, from August 6-11, 2017. Visit for more information.