September 26, 2018:
In each of these images he stands utterly without expression.
It's more than lack of visible affect. There's simply no-one home.
There's no light in his eyes. There's sorrow, surely. If you hunt for it. Yet I find no spark of joy or humor or even simple liveliness. A flesh sack seemingly lacking spirit.
What is it that killed him inside?
Surely at some point there was life within him. As a teenager before the war he got the neighbor girl pregnant. So there was lust there, presumably healthy.
Maybe it really was the Ardennes. They say he returned a changed person.
I know where his unit was, what they did. The cold they suffered, the fear. They held the northern front of the salient, one foxhole every hundred yards, while Tiger tanks ran out of gas within earshot. The Railsplitters. 84th Infantry Division. He never told me this. But I inherited his service records. Maybe it was that lonely horror in the snow, with Death coming behind the trees. Or maybe it was the death they inflicted when they advanced to the Elbe.
Or maybe it was unspeakable depravity of Ahlem or Salzwedel, the concentration camps they liberated.
Maybe it was his guilt over the pregnant girl he abandoned, and her child.
By every account he was a decent man. A pacifist, anti-military. Committed to his church.
I wonder though if the reason I never knew him is that he was never there to know.