This Year

Now that I know, I can’t believe I never thought to ask before.  It always seemed like something familiar enough for the answer to be obvious.  But I never really knew until I asked my dad, “How was our family affected by the genocide?”

As I think I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post that, outside of the month of April, I never gave much thought to the series of events that became known as the Armenian Genocide.  This internship has certainly changed that.  I am now keeping up with news relating to Armenian issues.  In addition to that, I am also seeking concrete answers to questions, and I am replacing the hazy notions that existed in their place.

I’ve always known that my family has survived something, but I always considered it to be a blow which Armenians suffered collectively, culturally and not something that happened to individuals—my bloodline.  I didn’t know that it was something personal.  I’ve sensed it more when talking with my Lebanese-Armenian dad.  My mother’s side of the family is from Iran and Armenia, and I don’t feel the same trauma in conversations with her.  Her perspective is more historical, like mine used to be.  Now, it’s personal.

My father and I interact on an intellectual level, and he treats me like a peer.  He never talks down to me when he explains something, and he considers my outlook as valuable as his.  This is the kind of relationship I imagine between my teenaged great-grandmother and her father when my dad describes their last exchange before he was taken away to be killed.

I try to imagine her confusion when he explained to her where he was being taken, why this was being done, her disbelief when she ran into him again the next day after being certain they’d never meet again, when he explained to her that the person who stole his shoes from the front of the church while he was praying inside must have needed them more than he did.  And I try to imagine how she worked through those memories for the rest of her life.

Every year, at the Genocide Monument, I think about numbers, about the initial killings and the exponential loss of descendants’ descendants, about grief, about collective mourning.  This year, my thoughts will have a new perspective.  I can think of my great-grandmother who spent her life mourning the loss of her father and 119 other relatives.

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