Dad’s memory may be fading as he turns 88 in just a week, but some of his memories come back like lightning flashing. Some flashes are far away, on the horizon, barely noticeable, but some strike furiously and seem to jolt him from the present to the past and back again.
The other day, he was watching soccer. Most of the time, he just watches but he isn’t really sure who is playing or what league it is. Today, however, he told me that he was watching Hanover play and that Hanover is one of “my teams.”
He explained that during World War II he was a German soldier who had been ordered to go to Berlin. The war was pretty much over by then, and everyone knew that Germany was losing. Allied bombers still kept raiding cities. He said that he was stationed near Hanover when there was a major bombing raid.
I looked up “Hanover bombing” in World War II, and this was the closest thing that seems to align with dad’s story: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Hildesheim_in_World_War_II
He said that they were stationed some miles away from where the bombs were falling, but they could see and hear them. He had been ordered to go to the bunker, but he thought, “If I die, I die.” He stayed out to watch the explosions.
His memory gets pretty mixed up, and I think some of the cities, dates and people blur together, but he has a distinct memory of going to Hanover the next day to clean up the destruction of the bombs and to clean up the dead. I could not even imagine what that would look like or how it would feel to live through that even once, and he lived through it several times. He was only seventeen years old.
So he roots for Hanover to this day because it is “his city” and “his team.” The kinship between him and the destruction of that night lives inside of him, deep, where even the destructive agents of dementia cannot reach.