Yesterday I ranted about my grandma being a little overbearing sometimes, and it came up that she’s a Holocaust survivor, and how it’s a whole different set of issues. That, plus talking to her today, made me want to talk about some of this stuff with some understanding people. First of all, let me say that it is obviously much, much worse to be an actual Holocaust survivor. I’m not in any way trying to compare my minor annoyances with what my grandma went through. But I just need to vent, because even if it’s obviously way less awful, it’s still fucking hard sometimes.
My grandma grew up in France and was a small child during the Holocauat. Her dad died in Auschwitz, while she, her mother and her brother survived. She moved to Israel when she was old enough to leave France.
Her entire life revolves around the Holocaust and her father. She’s been taking me to Holocaust memorials and meetings of Holocaust survivors since I was 8. She makes sure to tell me every time I see her, that her one hope is that I will carry on the story of her father, and tell my children and my grandchildren about it (the other day, I mentioned that, hey, I’m still 23, I haven’t made definite decisions about having kids yet, and you would think that I spit on her father’s figurative grave). I’m the oldest of the grandchildren, and the only one who speaks French, and the one who speaks Hebrew the best, so I’ve gotten the full brunt of the pressure to carry on her father’s memory. (Not even hers, it’s always about her father. She still idolizes him the way a 6-year-old would idolize their father. Which obviously is not something I blame her for, but it’s...it’s really weird and sad to see.)
It’s just so hard to have the Holocaust hanging over every conversation I have with my grandmother. (A million times harder for her, obviously, because she has to live with it every day.) Today she asked me if I had told the Constable about her father, and “how he took it.” And I was just like “what? I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean.” She also asked me if there were any clubs for descendants of Holocaust survivors at my school. And I just don’t know how to say, “I’m sorry, but my identity isn’t wrapped up in the Holocaust.” It’s part of my identity, of course, but I don’t introduce myself to people and say “Hi, my grandma’s a survivor of the Holocaust.” And I don’t even think my identity SHOULD revolve around it. I understand why hers does, even if I wish sometimes it didn’t. Her life was completely fucked up by it. But it’s just so hard, to feel like I have to act like this is the most important part of me - which again, isn’t to say it isn’t AN important part of me. But I have so many other things that have shaped who I am - where I grew up, and who my parents are, and my other, non-Jewish family, and going to college and grad school, and I don’t know. I don’t really know where I’m going with this. But it’s just fucking exhausting sometimes.