Minneapolis was a wonderful little holiday, and I have fun pics from the May Day parade to post, as well as thoughts about the city to jot down, but not just yet.
My thoughts are elsewhere. For the last month, my maternal grandfather (who has been on dialysis for the last three years) has been declining pretty dramatically in his health. After not eating or sleeping well for some time, he was checked into the hospital at the beginning of this week. His body seems to be suffering from the stress of dialysis on his heart and other systems. They are running tests and trying to figure out what to do next for him. My mother and father, as well as aunt, have been with him, but there’s so little they can do.
He’s going to turn 90 in a week, and I find myself thinking about his life: his difficult childhood in Ukraine, his experiences during WWII, and the journey to America. There’s so little I know from this private man, but the questions and the silence made a lasting impression on me. To find answers, to try and make sense of it, I did what I always do: I wrote. It began as research, interviews, nonfiction, but then transformed into something new. It became a story.
I wrote The Silence of Trees to honor all of my grandparents, especially my grandmothers, but it is most definitely a story. It is not based on any one person’s life. It is my attempt to create characters that illuminate and preserve a particular experience and time in history.
Part of my intention was also to explore what war does to people, to try and make sense of the difference ways that people deal with tragedy, regret, sacrifice. Some people, like my protagonist and like my grandfather, hide it all away, choose not to share. It is their choice, of course. All anyone else can do is be available to listen. If and when they decide to talk about it.
I turn to Ukrainian folk music when I’m feeling like this: contemplative and a little sad, wanting to connect with something older, deeper, raw, and authentic. My musical tastes are wildly diverse, but Ukrainian folk music is the music of my heart. It’s the heartbeat of the mother for me, the sound that connects me to my ancestors, to my childhood, to my family. . .to my grandfather.***