Last night I dreamt I was Jewish. Not only was I Jewish, I was also living and working in Poland in the late 1930’s at the time when Hitler’s anti-semitism movement was really gathering pace. To be honest with you, it was bloody with innocent victims indiscriminately picked out and slain in the streets, their only crime being born Jewish. In my dream I was absolutely petrified as I was herded in to a cattle wagon, separated from my husband and young children, and shipped off to some God-foresaken destination only to be slaughtered like an animal on arrival. In my dream I was there, I could smell the fear of my fellow travellers. I not only saw their suffering, I shared it. When I woke up, I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I was to find I was Jo, living in the UK, in the early part of the 21st Century.
Why did I have such a dream? I have absolutely no idea. Yes, I have read Anne Frank and I’m sure I read it as a teenager, although I cannot be 100% certain about that. But I have read it recently, finishing it a couple of months ago. Anne was indeed a most courageous young lady, a heroin of her time. And as time went by, she seemed to know what her fate was going to be. It wasn’t of her choosing and given a choice she would have been free, on her way to becoming a famous author/journalist as life had originally intended for her. It is ironic how she achieved her ambition, albeit posthumously. It is due to Anne, and others like her, that we can understand how terrible it must have been for the Frank family and their co-dwellers, having to live cheek by jowl, keeping absolute silence, hardly daring to breath in case of being found. Somehow they managed to survive, in spite of eating scraps and mouldy potatoes as food became more and more scarce. It is so sad that they nearly made it. Victory and release from their self-imposed prison was a matter of months away. For them, there was no industrialist giant such as Schindler to give them shelter, a sanctuary, a possibility of escape. But at least they had help – and those who helped them risked just as much as Schindler did.So why did Hitler do it? Why did he hate a race so much that he not only wanted to punish it, he wanted to eradicate it. Why, when as far as I am aware, he was part Jewish himself? Why was he obsessed with his Aryan ideal becoming the master race? What would have happened had he succeeded in his ambition to wipe the Jewish race off the planet? Would his creation then have turned on him in the end, destroying their creator? I think so – but I’m sure there are people out there who would disagree with me. Why did he do what he did to a race that contributed so much to the economy of Europe at that time? The Jews were successful in every walk of life. They were Doctors, Dentists, Lawyers, Architects, Accountants, Musicians, Teachers, even Butchers, Bakers and Greengrocers. Was it that he did not have the capacity to achieve what his countrymen did that made him turn on them – his history, the very stuff his genetic makeup embodied – that made him want to destroy so many? Someone told me recently that Hitler had Parkinson’s. I don’t know íf this is true or not, and maybe as a result of his inability to control his own body he became obsessed with what he felt should have been rightly his.
And in spite of all that was witnessed when World War II finished, why have others gone on to do what Hitler did - turning on fellow mankind in a bid to eradicate them because of their religious beliefs?
Had I gone on to study History at University and fulfil what at one time seemed to be my destiny to teach the subject, as my Aunt had before me, I would have then been able to answer my own questions. Would I have been as successful a teacher as she was? I feel it necessary to explain at this point that as a child I was sent to a Catholic Boarding school courtesy of Her Majesty's Armed Forces. My Aunt at the time, having entered the Convent as a Novice about 4 years after my mother had left school, was living and teaching at the sister Convent in Surrey, hence why I was sent to Dorset. But in spite of the best efforts by my parents to avoid the embarrassment of Helen ending up at the same school as me, fate laid its cards out and and she ended up as one of my teachers. She was gifted at teaching and she made the subject come alive even to the point of embarrassing me with stories of my mother as a child, much to the delight of my classmates, upon which I used to open my desk lid and try to hide under it. It was undoubtedly my most favourite subject at school though, and it goes without saying she was my favourite teacher in spite of everything. (I would like to add at this point that although I wanted to teach, I had no intention whatsoever of ever becoming a Nun!)
But instead of treading a path similar to hers I chose to turn my back on my destiny and I chose to leave school at 16, to do a year’s not so hard study at college to become a Secretary. Having met and married my husband I ended up working in banking for 23 years and studied in my spare time for a degree with the Open University. I also managed to make the precarious leap from Secretary to Analyst - which at that time seemed practically impossible due to the old fashioned way in which the male-dominated Bank was run at the time. But made it I did, and without wishing to sound immodest, I was damn good at what I did - until the Parkinson's struck that is.
So, here I am, fulfilling my destiny - alive (just about!), married, two children, a degree with the Open University together with a smattering of O and A levels, a handful of other qualifications relating to my profession, and 23 years loyal service to the bank with the Black Horse and a Scottish Widow. I had for a number of years been in a role I found fulfilling and that I was good at. My intention was always to retire at 50, which I managed to achieve two years early, but not for the reasons I envisaged. I always thought that when I retired I would be at that lovely stage in my life when my children are spreading their wings and being income independant would abandon the parental nest, leaving Tim and I to enjoy our well-earned retirement in peace and financial security, travelling the world and enjoying our Grand-Kids before infirmity struck us down in our old age. Instead though, fate has dealt us a curved ball, with infirmity striking before I had a chance to finish enjoying what should be my prime of life. Instead I am fighting a loosing battle against my mate Parkie (in spite of rigorous sessions at the gym) and coping with a brain at times befuddled as if drunk on life itself. On top of that is the prospect of one day in the future being dependant on my family and/or strangers for assistance in the fulfilment of my everyday basic needs. Horror of horrors - not if I have anything to do with it!
For the first time since leaving college aged 17, I am out of work, nothing doing apart from the odd bit of gardening, earning no money, stony broke but at least a roof over my head which is all paid for and which belongs solely to me and Tim. I can't even afford to replace my car, which is slowly falling to bits - like its owner! The day I retired I put my life plan through the shredder then on to the compost heap at the bottom of my garden, slowly being mulched away to become organic matter for my vegetable patch. Am I bored? Not yet, and I hope never to be. I have to take each day as it comes though, each morning on waking I fight a battle to gain control of my motor and non-motor functions, from the moment I fall out of bed and shuffle like an old lady to the bathroom to carry out my morning ablutions, to the moment I fall in to bed at day end, dog tired. Yet as I drift off into sleep, it is in the certain knowledge that as I hand over control of my mind and my body to my mate Parkie I face yet another night of either sleepless restlessness as tonight, or a night of nightmares and hallucinations, at times even thrashing about so much I inadvertently injure Tim. I seem to recallbeing told the night before last that Yes, there was a white cat sat on top of our bedroom door, and last night Tim telling me to jolly well shut up and to go back back to sleep! He was somewhat fed up, and I can't say I blame him, so am I!
I once heard Bryn Williams describe Parkinson's as being like having one's body slowly encased in concrete. A horrible prospect, but unfortunately true if Parkinson's isn't stopped in it's tracks and kicked in to touch - back into its box where it belongs!