The first offering: For Grandfather
Five numbers lined up on his leathered skin, distorted from age. 32897.
It was rare when he showed it. Most days it remained hidden under the sleeve of his ever present grey sweater. It was taboo to discuss it. I mentioned it once at dinner and my mother kicked me under the table. I didn’t understand at the time. I was five years old.
He died. After a long battle, cancer finally claimed him. That afternoon I walked into a tattoo parlor. The artist Mina asked if there was something specific I was looking for.
I nodded, the conversation I had with my mother still fresh on my mind.
I had summoned up the courage to ask my mother about the numbers as we congregated in the hospital hallway. She flashed a nervous smile and sighed, “Your grandfather was only three when the Nazis marched into Warsaw,” she said. I couldn’t tell if her voice was shaking because of pride or grief, or perhaps a bit of both. “His family was sent to a concentration camp not long after…”
I knew of course, at least understood that there was more pain than even my dry history books could remember. There was no need for details. She didn’t offer any. “You never said,” I accused her meekly.
I had unintentionally wounded her with those words. She spoke apologetically, “It wasn’t my secret to tell Tova. He came here after, well where could he go really? The Fidels adopted him. He’s only talked about it twice in his life. Once to your grandmother, once to me…There’s so much pain he tried to keep from us, to protect us.”
“I know what I want,” I said pushing the unopened book back to Mina. “Five numbers in a line, 32897.”
Second Offering: Homecoming
“What if he doesn’t like me?” Faith asked her mother with wide blue eyes.
They stood at the dock, waiting anxiously for the prisoners to be released from the ship. Somewhere among those hardened criminals was an innocent man, a husband and father, and his was a homecoming six long years in the making. Sally gripped her daughter’s hand fighting tears of joy. It had been a long fight to free him, and it was almost over.
A tall, thin man stood out from the others. They hadn’t been in contact with each other since the day they sentenced him to life on that forsaken island, she eight months pregnant. Sally knew her husband anywhere, regardless of the weight loss and the haunted look. He rushed from the plank, pushing passed the columns of the condemned to scoop her up in his strong arms. “I never gave up on you,” she whispered through her tears. When he released her, he knelt eye-level with his daughter. The child he had never seen. He was crying. “Your daughter, Simon. We decided on Faith, remember?”
“Hello Daddy,” Faith said timidly.
“Hello, my beautiful little girl,” Simon voiced. He reached out to touch her cheek, the sleeve of his shirt pulling back just enough for Sally to see a tattoo on his wrist.
Instantly she realized what it meant. It was his tether to life, his reason for holding on in the dark when all hope was lost. Sally watched as all he had endured ebbed away with a tide of tears. She touched his arm gently, and traced the exposed indigo letters of the crude brand.
A simple word etched forever into his skin. Faith.
He clutched them both tightly as if to make up for lost time.