21 Days in Paradise, Day 20 by Silviu George Klein

Another excerpt from my fathers auto biography…he never made it to publishing. He passed on his 58th year…We were refugees from Romania…This book is written in 21 chapters. Each chapter is a “day”, signifying important events that lead him through life…This chapter is a very personal one to me, and also shows how life was in Romania during communism.

Day twenty Gabriela

With the precision of a modern time machine and a very primitive count on my knuckles, exactly nine months after Dana, together with Oana came in my life, Gabriela showed up, enlightening my life again. At the hospital, when Dr.Balaban the obstretician, showed me a strange little dark thing with wrinkles and half closed eyes, I said to myself “How can she be that ugly?”, so ugly that very next days became an adorable, delicate, health bursting, cutest little baby. What can be that compared with, to hold in your arms your own piece of art, flesh and blood?… Nothing to compare with! Simply, a rare moment.

Help from all over, friends and relatives. Baby-sitting services were offered to us in abundance. First Dana’s parents, divorced for almost two decades, came to wonder to the Trovatorien entrance on the stage of their second grand child, Gabriela who knew how to suck and cry, that’s about it!
Dana’s mother, Irina spent most of her life after divorce, on the magnificent Hydropower construction sites in the Carpatian Mountains. I heard so many names we had in common – my father’s best friend and comrade from political prison, Bella Gilbert, the general director of all Hydropower construction sites in the Country – plus many Engineers, fellows from College, or people I met during my visits there. Irina, very natural took command and care of Gabriela, the way a loving grandmother does.
It was an isolated moment when she simply left unannounced the house and we found Gabriela crying in her little bed. Questioning Dana about the incident, she explained “The long years of living alone in those hard conditions… Can you imagine an unmarried women, between so many poor educated men?… Those years now are getting to her. Please understand and leave her alone” I tried to understand but I couldn’t. When she showed up the following day, I asked Irina, now my mother-in-law, to give me an answer to her strange act. The answer came with no words. She packed and left, deeply insulted?!… just like that! We didn’t see her for the next three years.

I had to take precious days from my vacation time to baby-sit myself, when Alexandru Blidariu and my father came to offer their honest services.

Alexandru, my second father-in-law, not very highly educated but with a good provision of decency, did what humanly possible in watching and feeding Gabriela. I never knew that a terrible thing… the TB virus was eating soundless his lungs and weakened his body. I wish I knew. It was ignorance of his part? It was! Ignorance and naiveté together. Excuse? Yes and no. Gabriela’s life was in a serious danger, so quiet and hidden incarnated in those invisible aggressors that Koch started to build a war on, with a Napoleonian smart strategy. We are all grateful to Koch for its gift for humanity, same club with Pasteur, Einstein, Darwin, Freud and many other genius contributors responsible for our progress and well being. So many times, talking to my father we asked why the world is not ruled by scientists. No straight answers. Maybe the savants don’t have enough time, or maybe are disgusted of politics in its essence, maybe it is no talent at all, even competence, or just a refusal to get accidentally dirty or that overwhelming sensation like myself trying to explain the infinity… I didn’t succeed to get an answer since.
Gabriela start losing weight, a constant fever was burning her little eyes and fragile body. We brought her to a pediatrician, a lady physician with a solid practice, at least on her imposing resume. “Common cold… Easy to treat… Some anti-antibiotics, that’s all… Regarding the lost of weight, Gabriela is a nice looking would be woman and as you probably know, women has to be slim and sexy…” was the Doctor’s verdict. The “would be woman” didn’t heal at all in the next several days. Worst, she deteriorated long day after long and panicky day. We gave her what the doctor prescribed, plus several advises, what I remembered my own mother doing. Nothing worked! I grabbed Gabriela and rushed her to Dr.Epstein, family friend, lung specialist and the Director of the Infectious Disease Hospital. A short consultation, Roentgen machine… followed immediately by the verdict: “Take her this minute to Lugoj! Do not waste time, the infection is advancing rapidly approaching her brain. The danger? Meningitis. Possible result of it? Brain death! Go fast!” I grabbed the phone, my friend Valy Balaban showed up in a few minutes, we didn’t have time to wait for the endless formality of obtaining an ambulance. Main reason was the shortage of gas and to get an ambulance for a trip outside the City limits, had to be approved by a special bureau located at the Municipal Building, the wing occupied by the Municipal Party Committee. We were totally unprepared, did not stop us to rally to Lugoj. I was holding Gabriela in the back seat repeating “Faster Valy, let’s go faster”… I can not relate now or ever how Goethe’s poem and Schubert’s Earl King Lied came to me. I did not mention God’s name before… I did it this time addressing him my hottest prayer ever “Please show up right now! I am commanding you to do something! This minute! Don’t let it repeat! Don’t let the old King taking Gabriela from me! Don’t let Gabriela hear his disgusting, sweet calls!”… Was I heard? Did I was pardoned ever for my gutsy words?
Valy did a wonderful job: in less than a half-an-hour we entered Lugoj, after a ride of forty miles, to the door of the hospital. A team of doctors were waiting for us in front of the main entrance. Dr.Epstein, I am grateful for everything he did that day, called to announce our arrival, mentioning also that is Motzi Klein’s granddaughter. Everybody in Lugoj knew my father, one way or the other. Gabriela became the little sick princess, grabbing doctors and nurses heart, not only because my father’s “fame” but the sad look in her eyes. Nostalgia? I was never able the read entirely that look, during my every other day’s visit. Gabriela didn’t show that she recognizes me, her mother or her grandfather. She was just looking through the vertical wooden bars totally passive, unimpressed, a stranger who doesn’t realize the world is in, like an amnesia… Never smiled, just mumbled something unintelligible, shaking her head in slow rocking moves like an abandoned sail boat in drift.
At Dr.Epstein’s request, the whole family had to go through a strict lung examination – Oana was found infected too, so she had to be admitted at the same hospital. Oana was already nine years old, her lungs were not severely affected but the virus was there and had to be treated accordingly and kept away from future aggravations. The virus had to be defeated, no question about and no effort considered too much. It was an unfortunate, but great help for us. The nine years old Oana-Larisa replaced a carrying mother, for nine full weeks. We kept her a bit longer than necessary at doctor suggestion “A sister can do more than the best nurse. Mentally…” Oana enjoyed plenty of gratitude from me and later her baby-sister.
Lugoj, my native town came to the rescue the way Providence comes, with the wings of my good angel! God was present too…

Gabriela was discharged in December. Age on year-and-a-half. She learned to walk and talk. Late is better than never. She gained her weight back, we had to forget the ordeal. Life went on. Oana was never jalouse, she was her adoptive mother, not a bit less…
Oana came closer to me every day passing by. One day, minutes after getting home from work, warming soup in the kitchen, I overheard Oana screaming hysterical from the living room. I jumped from my chair and found Oana on the couch, holding the lamp from the bottom and exploding eyes staring air, I snatched the lamp from her tight fist and threw the lamp against the wall. “In that moment, I thought that I will die for sure…” she told me later. Looking at her hand, a deep wound on two of her fingers and a smell of burned flesh. I said to myself “Providence again? Good angel again? God?”

Same year we brought Oana to the Clinic for an out-patient operation of polyps. Dr.Kerecsi asked me to hold her on my knees, to facilitate the procedure and to prevent possible unexpected moves of the child. Had to be immobilized, I did it. Hurt me a lot at every one of Oana’s screams of pain and fright. Oh! those menacing sharp surgical instruments! After the operation was over, Dana her mother took her hand. Oana escaped gently “No. I want to hold Daddy’s hand!” It was the only time ever Oana calling me Daddy and not the usual Silviu. She called me “My Dad”, but only at the impersonal third person, when talking about me with her friends. I can not forget Oana, now we call her Larisa, saying that word at the hospital – Daddy will go a long way in my heart.

After we brought Gabi home from Lugoj, we decided to get married. Dana’s divorce was finally pronounced. We had to go through the annoying process of changing names. Gabriela too, because at the time of her birth, legally, the child was named after her mother’s identification documents. All of them were Mosoiu. Immediately after wedding, all of them became Klein, even Oana, a quick process this time, process of adoption. A simple affidavit and the mother consent. When I told Oana-Larisa that her full name is Oana-Larisa Klein “starting today!” she asked “Does Gabi have the same name” when I said yes, Oana stated simply “Good, is fine with me.” I didn’t expect more… They were no questions of what is going to happen with Mosoiu, the name, nor her true father. I explained “You can see your natural father whenever you feel like, but legally I am your father on papers. I would be honored to consider me more than a father on papers.” Oana looked at me and I almost could read a “don’t worry…” She never let me go too close to her heart… I wasn’t too pushy. I tried to expose Larisa to as many things I was able to, helping her on Math and Science. Something good came out of this later. Now Larisa, a Binghamton Graduate with a BS in Math is preparing for her Master Degree in a field everyone is asking me with respect “Isn’t that too difficult for a young lady?” I think, Larisa just answered…
Besides math, science and some help in Romanian literature, we gave her piano lessons. The idea came after I caught her a few times lifting with special carefulness the cover over the white ivory of our Foster upright piano. I enjoyed to participate to those lessons and frequently Mira Moric, the young piano teacher, performed Chopin, sometimes Mazurkas, reminding me of my grandmother. Same pieces and a similar sensibility. They are no two interpretations alike. Just versions of a first draft translation from a completely unknown foreign language.

July. Gabriela is healthier than ever. Back to the Retezat Mountains. This time Oana and Dana with our regular group of friends. Bridge, the dog, my devoted Brac came with us too, sniffing and waving his short tail, barking at the solitaire marmot’s, jumping in water, so much water in that Mountain, bleeding from every rock! When up on the highest peak, Peleaga all of us were crushed by the effort and dispearsed on the rocks. The only one still moving, was Bridge. I asked Oana “Aren’t you impressed by this beauty?” she looked at me candid “We came here that high and that far just to have a place from where to go back?” It was an excellent logic but “You can see down the valleys, to the little villages. See how little they look? And the peaks across… All what you see is now yours” Oana looked at everything I was pointing to, not deeply impressed by the huge piece she just start ownership on “Let’s go down, back to the our tent. I’m so hungry” That was an indisputable logic. We went down, light the camp fire and had a delicious dinner from cans and a hot soup from powder. Then rum, tea or vodka followed by a deep, well deserved sleep. One full week in the middle of Retezat was for me always more than I could have ever ask for.

Back in Resitza Oana finally gave me some satisfaction “Silviu, after all it wasn’t that bad… Up there I was so tired. Can we go back sometimes soon?” With that sentence she was without any doubt, my girl!
Dana changed jobs. First she ran a tabacco store, then my father helped her to get an Art Gallery, Angora where artists displayed they art and craft.

Another year passed and my writings continued at a slow, very occasional pace. I was writing more about my discontents also comments with my close friends, former fellows from the Literary Circle, even next door neighbor. The cloud was descending over the City of Resitza, confusing the people, it was also a sound mounting from the deep. The place of the impact wasn’t the explosion expected. Was more like pain… The friend wasn’t a friend anymore, was a suspect, same with the neighbor or the stranger. Who was the informer you never new or you found it out one minute too late.

I got a summons, “an invitation” from Securitate. I went. A guard escorted me at the second floor on the corridor. The soldier told me to wait there on my feet, six inches from the wall. Three hours of wait. “I have to go to the bathroom” the guard didn’t hear. I repeat it laud. “Well, you didn’t bring the bathroom with you. Too bad… Tz, tzz, tzzz… Why don’t you use your pants?” After another eight hours, I used my pants… “You smell, you son of a…” he kicked me in the wet spot exactly where my knee cap was. Seventeen hours… The heavy door opened at last. I was called in. Questions about why I have the guts to write, with no questions of what. They knew and they read it. “Let’s see… if it is for me to guess what part of your body you normally use to create?” he pointed my midsection… then kicked… The room was spinning.
They dragged me down in the concrete soundless basement. Another ten hours in a cold empty cell. A bed and no mattress. I laid on the springs. Sleep and shiver. Cold? I don’t know… In pain? I don’t know… Humiliated? Very much.

I was released Sunday afternoon. Went home… Empty. Dana and the kids didn’t come back yet from Timisoara. A long shower. Went to bed. Sleep again, a mortal one. Ashamed or humiliated? Both.
When Dana and the kids came home Monday morning, I didn’t say one word about my two nights at Securitate, I didn’t tell my father. I did not know how to tell. They were no words for such a thing. I stopped telling myself about. No words for that… Now I finally understand why my father jumped after beating. He didn’t have words either. In my case I couldn’t jump from the basement… It was absurd. Next time, in similar circumstances, I will jump even from the basement. Do you thing that I’m telling a joke? I’m not!
I didn’t talk to neighbors anymore, I barely talked to a dear close friends. My mind was set: I have to get out of here. Now! I used all the cash I had. A tourist Visa, came an advise. Another eight months. Victory! The phone announced me that Visa to visit my relatives in Israel for a full month, thirty days, was approved. I ran home to drink my bottle of “Teachers, rare whiskey”. I found the bottle empty and Dana drunk, with her friend Claudia drunk too. I was furious for what I heard Dana talking “She’s kidding, of course… We are definitely coming back” and I gave Dana a mad look. She almost fainted “I was kidding, of course…” Claudia was a lawyer, and close to be promoted to Judge.

The only person I had the courage to tell was my father. I started to have doubts even that I confessed Dana my intentions to flee. We asked Irina again to come and take care of the girls for a month. I didn’t worry too much because, at that point in time, I had a trusty person in Oana, who never gave me any reason not to trust. Gabi was three years old. I knew that I won’t see her for a long while… I left them with a large smile. You know how that feel, to smile when it hurts?

Would someone be able to understand that in Romania, those days you risked to be arrested just telling a political joke to yourself?
Valy Balaban drove us to the Caransebes Airport, from where we flew to Bucharest. At the Baneasa Airport, my father’s friend and former Comrade in prison, Eric Vardan was waiting for us. Ironically was in the Securitate’s secret service. Eric knew my plan and I trusted him blindly. A Jew in the Securitate? Yes. An honest one too. Later, after his death in some very strange circumstances, I found out that Eric was also a CIA agent. Poor Eric, he wasn’t able to fulfill his dream to reunite with Katy Cimponeriu, his beloved wife. Eric accompanied Dana and I to the Otopeni Airport, where a 737 Tarom airliner was waiting to take us to Israel.

***

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5 responses to “21 Days in Paradise, Day 20 by Silviu George Klein

  1. the first time you walked was the night we got back from picking you up at the hospital. You were so freaking cute! they we partying in the kitchen, we were in the living room. I propped you up against the furniture and i was a few feet away with my back to the couch urging you to come to me. you did. it was the first time.
    I remember everything he talked about. everything…except for calling him “daddy”…

    • Este fiica Silvius. Știați că tatăl meu? El a murit în anul 2006. Mi-ar plăcea să aud de la tine dacă ai făcut-o. Îmi pare rău pentru meu românesc. Vorbiți engleză?

  2. Am aflat cu regret , dupa noua ani ca prietenul meu din tinerete (din Colonia Oltului) a decedat.
    Dumnezeu sa-l odihneasca si sa-i fie tarana usoara.

    I found , with regret, that my youth friend Silviu (Nini) (wich use to live in COlonia Oltului) died years ago. RIP dear Silviu.

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