One week after my 85-year-old grandmother died, I learned that she had abandoned her first child and kept her son a secret for decades. A senior in college, I was jarred by the news. I’d spent nearly every day with Grandma Daisy as a kid growing up in Connecticut. While my parents worked, she sang me nursery rhymes in our den and baked me Hungarian crepes. By middle school I had memorized her stories of surviving the Holocaust in Budapest. I knew about the candles she chewed while starving in a convent basement, and the name of the village she reached after fleeing 125 miles through Hungary’s snowy woods.
My mom shared the news about my half-uncle as we sat in our kitchen. “Strange things happen during war,” she said in a gentle voice, reaching over the counter top to cup my hand in hers. But how was it possible that the woman who’d pampered me for 21 years had also deserted her son?