He walks with a slow shuffle, like the old man he is. My family intercepts him on his way home from swimming. We strike up a spontaneous conversation. No one can recall exactly how it began. He speaks in code, asking us our last name. I tell him we are Jewish. He shows me the numbers inside his forearm. He is married to the woman whose family ran the hospital in Berlin during the war. This is how she survived. How did he, as a Jew, survive Auschwitz?

“The less you know about me, the better,” he tells me regularly.




Maria Ramos-Chertok is a writer, workshop leader and coach who facilitates The Butterfly Series, a writing and creative arts workshop for women who want to explore what’s next in their life journey. thebutterflyseries.com. She lives in the blue bubble of the San Francisco Bay Area. She is finalizing her debut novel, Rosie’s Blues, a story inspired by the experience of her mother opening their family home in Hackensack, New Jersey as a shelter for battered women and childrenShe is also working on her next book, Jobs: Life Lessons through Paystubs.