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Won't Lose My Way

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AUGUST 17th 1943

My father knelt down and smiled. My mother, static in the background, displayed a wavering smile with a hint of triteness in its existence.
"Hi, Dad!" My seven-year old mind was unable to grasp the finer details of the situation, bound to the obvious by its inexperience and naivety.

His clear, blue eyes met my innocent gaze from across his sharp nose.

"Wanna play a game?"

I narrowed my eyes pensively. It wasn't every day that my parents let me slack off lackadaisically. What was the motive behind their behaviour?

But the prospect of playing and enjoyment was for more integral to me, so I pushed the more philosophical thoughts from my mind and focused on the momentary pleasures of childhood.

"Sure. What game?"

My father turned back and glanced at my mother. She nodded, a slight incline of her head, a gesture of finality, of acceptance. With a barely perceptible sigh, my father once again faced me.

"How does hide and seek sound to you?"

My heart swelled with joy, excitement and gratitude. Hide and Seek promised exploration. Exploration promised adventure. And it was the cherished dream of every little boy to have adventures.

"Sure!" It was all I could do to prevent myself from jumping up and down with jubilance.

My father looked at me, smiled, and ruffled my brown hair. "Go for it kid. No matter what, don't lose yourself."

What, lose myself in hide and seek? Unthinkable. Impossible.

As I scurried on my way, my mother intervened. Kissing me on my forehead, she said, "We'll be fine, no matter what. Just worry about yourself."

It was then that the abnormality of their behaviour began to dawn upon me. It seemed as though my parents had been transformed into organic self-motivation quote generators.
Confused, I looked back towards my dad, fast enough to note a warning glance from him to my mother.
What was going on?
"Go on, son." It was my mother, gently pushing me on the back.
The anticipation of a good game once again filled me, and I made them both close their eyes while I searched for a hiding place.

It was pretty easy to find one; I had been considering hiding there for quite a while now: a dark, musty, out of the way wardrobe. Silently slipping in, I shut the door behind me. As rkness enveloped me, I found solace in its ever-accepting embrace.

"We're coming for you!" came the call.

Footsteps. Faint muttering. Opening of the kitchen closets. I could barely stop myself from giggling; did they really think I would hide in such an obvious place?

Footsteps were coming closer. I bit my lip in excitement. It would happen, any minute now -

"Good-bye, son." My father's reassuring voice issued out from directly in front of my hiding spot. Then a soft thump.

I smiled. So they had found my retreat! It would be hard finding another had effective as this one could have been.

But why wasn't he opening the door?
I waited for a moment.

"Dad?"

No response.

Tentatively, I opened the door.

A few feet away, my father lay face down on the floor, a small knife in his hand and a minuscule slit in his wrist.

A full grasp of the situation was beyond me. I could feel myself slowly slipping into shock, but I was helpless to prevent it. My father was lying in front of me in a self-induced state of permanent sleep. My mother too, in a similar condition, was in the kitchen, moving beyond the worries of mortals.

We'll be fine, no matter what happens....

The sound of footsteps shocked me out of my reverie. Terrified of what else the cursed day would throw at me, I climbed back into the armoire and closed the door.
Outside of my solitary sanctum, the muffled noises filled the house. German curses as the soldiers found the adults dead. A more cultured voice talking to them. At last they left, and the room was once again submerged into silence.

I opened the door, allowing a little light to permeate in, and vomited. Pushing my way out, I crawled to my father's unmoving body and closed his once engaging eyes. I went to the kitchen to do the same for my mother when I heard a voice.

"A h, there you are."

My blood froze as I turned to face my adversary. It took me a whole five seconds to recognize my friendly German neighbour, Dr. Albert Kleimer.

Walking to me and picking me up, he said, "Your parents wanted me to take care of you. I'm sorry for what happened here."

I looked at my mother's visage for one last time.

No, mother. I will not lose my way.
***********************************
John van Dant grew up pretending to be a German boy. At home, however, he was among the youngest members of the Dutch underground. His job was to report any Jews, who would be given fake IDs and transported out of Holland. He never lost his way.

Albert Kleimer did his best to save John's parents even attempting to bribe them. However, the soldiers he encountered were fanatics who truly believed in the anti-Semitic laws. He managed to convince them that the van Dants had no children. He was a major member of the Dutch Underground.




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