The Weather is a Good Excuse

Today is a bad day. It began with Ken falling and not being able to get up. Again. Yesterday our morning started the same way. Feeling utterly useless, I dialed 911 and asked for help.

In a few minutes four firemen arrived on a ladder truck, then came to our door. They were a different shift from yesterday, but they had been here before. One of the guys said, “I see you have cement this time.” (The old driveway had been removed on their previous visit.)

They picked Ken up from the floor in a couple of seconds and deposited him comfortably in his chair. Catastrophe over. For today.

My worst fear is Ken might fall and really damage himself. I can’t wrap him in bubble wrap, and I can’t prevent him losing his balance. I’ve tried to remodel our house to better meet his wheelchair needs, but even that doesn’t seem to be enough. I hate being stuck. Worse than that, I hate defeat.

We both want him to stay at home as long as possible, but this load is getting heavier. Thank God we can use a hot, humid day as an excuse for not going out like we planned. The truth is just too darn hard to speak.



Chapter 20

 Warsaw, Poland — September 1, 1939—Dora Gessler’s college friends who remained in Berlin after graduation wrote letters about how the city changed since Hitler came to power. For the past six years, Hitler instilled a sense of national pride in the people of Germany. He put men to work and raised up the population in a way no one else could. During college, Dora attended one rally when Hitler spoke. He didn’t impress her because she thought he told people what they wanted to hear, not necessarily the truth. The crowds screamed and cheered him; worst yet, they seemed to be hypnotized by his performance.  Hysterical crowds worshiped him like a god.

But lately his political aspirations changed. Now Hitler wanted to expand German’s borders. The Nazis walked into Austria and people voted to be annexed by its larger neighbor. The next step was Czechoslovakia in Hitler’s quest to unite all German-speaking people. His second goal was to rid the world of Jews.

When Dora read the local newspaper, she learned Germany attacked Poland’s northern border. In a few days the superior German military machine rolled over the Polish outdated weapons and lack of modern training. The report also stated the army was pushing toward Warsaw.

Edward Gessler was away on a business trip in France at the time of the invasion, and Dora tried to reach her husband by phone and telegrams, but both services failed. Dora knew she had to take the children as far away as she could to avoid being enslaved by the Nazis. But how? Numbness spread through Dora’s body as she realized the survival of her children as well as her own life sat solely on her shoulders. Her fears paralyzed her.

Heidi sensed Dora’s angst the morning after the attack. She studied Dora’s tormented expression. Heidi sipped her tea in silence and waited for Dora to say something.

After several minutes of crushing silence, Dora spoke. “Oh, Heidi, what am I going to do? I must make a major decision without Edward, and I am troubled.”

Heidi answered. “How can I help you?”

“Oh dear, Heidi.” Dora said with tears teetering on the ledge of her eyelids. “I am afraid our lives are in jeopardy. Hitler’s army invaded Poland, and it is marching toward Warsaw. The Polish army is no match for professional soldiers. I witnessed the evil of the Nazis while I studied at the university in Berlin, and I must do something. I need to get the children as far away as possible.”

Heidi remained silent with her own fears. She decided to get the underlying tension out in the open. “I hate the Nazis too, Dora. They are vicious brutes. Even though I went to school with students in Hitler’s Youth Movement, I didn’t become one of the blind followers. I am here because I wanted to get away from Berlin. I do not believe what they profess–believing in a non-existent Aryan race which is superior to all others is ridiculous. Do you know the Nazis closed the churches and burned synagogues? They bow to Hitler’s made up religion. I hate–”

Dora cut her off. “Oh Heidi. I am not upset with you. You are German by heritage, not by ideology. I realize that. Set your mind at ease, child. You are wonderful with my children, and I am so grateful you are here. ”

Heidi took a deep breath. “Thank you, Mrs. Gessler.” She took a sip of tea and looked her employer in the eyes. “We need an escape plan.”

“Perhaps you should not help me, Heidi. Maybe you should return to Berlin and be safe with your family. The future does not look good for Poland and worse for Jewish citizens. I will call your uncle today.”

“No.” Heidi responded with strength. “I am your nanny, and I will not abandon you. With Edward gone, you need my help. Please do not send me away.”

Dora smiled. “Heidi. I cannot put you in harm’s way. Such a thing is not right.”

Heidi whispered, “I believe God sent me here, Mrs. Gessler. He wants me to help you.”

“Then, you are right. We must work on a plan.” Dora hugged Heidi. “You are so brave for your young age. Thank you.” Dora took a sip of tea while she thought about the steps she must take. “We must leave Warsaw tomorrow. The best destination appears to be Lviv.”

“Lviv? Where is Lviv?”

“In the Ukraine. The Soviets are in power in the city, and Jewish people are treated like normal citizens. We will be safe in Lviv.” Dora’s tears spilled down her face and in a short time she sobbed so hard her body shook.

“Oh, Mrs. Gessler. Do not worry. I will not leave you.” Heidi got up and hugged her.

Dora looked up at the young girl with a tear-stained face. She wiped the tears away with the napkin which sat on the table. “I do not want to leave my home, Heidi.  I need Edward to make a decision.”

“Well, Edward is not here, so we must work together to keep the children safe. I am here and I will help, but we cannot waste any time.”

Dora nodded.

Chapter 21

Berlin, German—Since the Hitler youth dance and their experience at the tavern afterward, Franz decided Leisel might be worth his effort. He asked her out several times during August before he entered the military academy. She pledged her love to him with a romp in the backseat of his father’s Volkswagen the night before he went off to training camp. He bragged to his comrades about her perfect body and her voluptuous bosom. Franz loved sex with Leisel because she never turned him down whenever he had the urge. He wondered if Marta would be so sexually accommodating. Being with Leisel provided two advantages–she liked sex and wanted to please him, plus marrying her would advance his career because her father held the office of colonel in the Germany army, and he promised to help Franz climb the ranks.

Leisel found happiness in her romance with Franz. His attention lessened the painful sting of being denied an education at the university. She convinced herself she loved him when in fact, she considered herself obligated to marry him because they enjoyed sex together. Her curiosity about sex led her to believe if the man went away satisfied, she should be too. Franz never cared about her in that way, so she wondered why romantic novels made such a fuss about making loving.  Half of her excitement with Franz centered on the events leading up to their clandestine meetings because he always rushed through undressing her, spreading her legs, and relieving himself. He grunted a few times and groaned with pleasure, leaving her sticky and smelly. Worse yet, Leisel feared if she told him what she needed, he would berrate her, so she buried her true feelings and put on a face of a girl in love.

Colonel Fuchs approved of Franz. Finally his daughter won the attention of an up-and-coming young SS soldier which would surely reflect positively on him. And when Franz went to Colonel Fuchs to ask for Leisel’s hand in marriage, the colonel said after she completed the course at the bride school and secured her certificate, he would arrange a wedding fitting for a beautiful Aryan couple in the Nazi chapel.




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