My father cheated death a number of times.
People called him a hero.
In Hungary, he was my hero.
But our Revolution failed,
and our dreams were denied.
On Dad’s 35th birthday,
we fled our country
in the middle of the night.
“You’re so lucky you got out,”
those left behind cried.
But my father was never the same.
Although his body was safe,
his spirit had died.
We became immigrants in a country far away.
For my father, that was the saddest day.
Although his life was still ahead,
he fled backwards in his mind
to happier times in the place we left behind.
His life became conversations with the past.
Mythical, magical stories filled his head
Stories that took place long before we were born
Stories we learned to dread.
Being kids, we preferred the present instead.
Our new home was a shrine to what used to be,
but it was a place we never felt free.
The rest of us forged ahead with our new lives,
but we felt too guilty to look in his eyes.
Eyes that were empty—showing no spirit inside.
Dad thought he cheated death,
but he just didn’t die.
The doctors called him a “medical miracle.”
They took out organs, cut off his leg,
and started his stalled heart three or four times.
Then, one day, his heart just broke.
His body finally died.
If only he could have realized…
People die for the myths they create.
And then, suddenly, they find out—too late
that love exists only in the present.
I hope you’re in the place of your dreams, Dad.
I hope there is nothing there that
makes you feel sad.
If only you could have read my book!
I went back to the past to have a good look,
at our lives in Hungary,
where you were my hero.
Source: Bobbie Kalman, 2023