The Von Trapp family now resettled in Vermont, enjoying a thriving Lodge that they built with their children and grandchildren. They love their new country but Austria whispers in the back of the parent’s and the children’s thoughts while they fall to sleep each night.
Where there is a will, there’s a way
What did Rolf mean, “I didn’t mean to pull the trigger.” ? He didn’t pull the trigger of the Luger that night in the Abbey cemetery or had he? I felt my chest as if to reassure myself that I had not been mortally wounded that night long ago. I continued to read the letter, not believing that Rolf had made it through the war. “Captain, that night in the Abbey, I knew you were probably going to be there. Leisl had contacted me earlier that evening when you performed at the concert hall in Salzberg. I also knew that there was a pretty good chance that they would catch you, you see Herr Zeller had all of your movements followed the minute you returned from your honeymoon. I told Leisl that if I were the one that found you during your attempted escape, I would do my best to put on a show almost as good as you and the children did. I replaced the bullets in my gun with blanks so that if I found you and were being watched, it would look as though I was attempting to shoot you when you tried to escape. I was so nervous that night. I quickly realized at what lengths the Nazi commanders were going to go to assure your return to naval service.
You were either going to serve or die trying to escape. When I heard Leisl gasp behind the tombstone in the cemetery, I knew that you and the family were hiding there. It was better for me to find you than for my superiors. When I told you to come out, and I drew my gun, my hands were sweaty and shaking so bad. I didn’t mean to pull the trigger. I just wanted to put on a good show and let you run off with the children. I guess that my hand slipped and the gun went off. I remember the look in your eyes. You couldn’t believe that I would do such a thing. I don’t know if you didn’t realize that you had not been shot, but you took off and escaped as I hoped you would. It’s been many years. I heard about Leisl’s passing. I haven’t been able to get that night out of my mind for years. Leisl never forgave me for shooting you. She didn’t know that the gun didn’t have real bullets in it. She thought that I just missed. ”
How many years had it been? It had been 50 years since I left my home and my beloved Austria with my family in tow. We left everything behind. There were so many good memories, yet short-lived when had to leave that fateful night. Our home was taken over by the Nazis. Our friends had been dispersed throughout Europe trying to evade the evil that had come upon our little country. I turned the letter over, seeing that there was another paragraph.
“Captain von Trapp, if you can see in your heart to forgive me, I wanted to let you know that your home in Austria has fallen into disrepair. After the Nazi’s lost the war and left Austria, they left your home in a hurry. Your home was taken over by the state and sold to a Viennese family that owned it for many years. They just recently passed and they had no extended family. In their will, they stated that when their time had come, they wished to convey the property back to you and your family.”
I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Was this true or was this just some hoax and why would Rolf keep tabs on our old home? I had vowed never again to think of that boy, even though that night was etched in my memory. I almost closed the envelope when I realized that there was something else in the envelope. Included with the letter was a copy of the will. It had the section highlighted in regards to the home and the wishes of the owners. Even if this was true, we had a new life here in Vermont. We had a successful lodge, and the grandchildren were touring the states singing like their parents used to do. I grabbed my phone and fumbled with it until I could find Maria’s number. After a few rings, Maria answered, “Hello, Georg, I’m on my way back…..” Before she could finish, I interrupted her. “Maria, you’re never going to believe this. I want to show you something I just received in the mail today. It’s from a ghost of the past.”
Daydreams aren’t always pleasant
“Put that down.”
“Not another move or I’ll shoot.”
“You’re only a boy. You don’t belong to them.”
“Stay where you are.”
“Come away with us. Before it’s too late.”
“Not another step. I’ll kill you.”
“You give that to me, Rolf. -Did you hear me?”
“I’ll kill you.”
I moved closer to grab the gun. Bang! The Luger fired right as I was grabbing the barrel. The hot molten lead pierced my chest. It was as if someone had drained all of the energy out of me as I fell to my knees. “Georg! Maria screamed.” She came running from behind the fenced in crypt area.
“I didn’t mean to…..the gun just went off!” Rolf insisted.
Everything was getting darker and darker as I felt the blood running down my chest onto the cemetery floor. How could it end this way? We were so close to escaping the horrors that were descending upon Austria.
“Georg, I’m going into town. Do you need anything?” Maria said as she woke me from my afternoon slumber on the front porch of our Vermont home. “No, I don’t believe so, thanks” I replied. As Maria left, I slowly came back to the present. This wasn’t the first time that I had this dream. I always woke up right after the feeling of life was leaving my body. I was getting tired of this dream, and now it seemed as though I was having this dream more often. It had been so many years since we left Austria, our home, our country and our way of life that we had known for so many years. We left Austria due to the Anschluss of the two countries and the Nazi occupation of Austria. We had never returned. Don’t ask me why. I had never even applied to become a citizen of our new home, the United States; my heart was still in Austria. Each year that passed, the more I longed to return to Austria if nothing else to see what had become of my beloved homeland since the war was long over. What happened to our home? How about the convent that my wife left? Did either of them survive that awful war? So many questions and very few answers. It’s the answers that eluded me. I had plenty of questions. Time wasn’t on my side as I found it harder and harder to get around due to arthritis that had taken its toll on my body. I felt as though time was ticking away and my desire to return was becoming more of a recurring thought, just like this bad dream.
My phone rang, waking me from my daydreaming of Austria. “Hi, father,” Brigitta said on the other end of the phone. “We were wondering if you and mother would be interested in coming over to our place Saturday night.” “I imagine we could. Is there a particular reason that you wanted us to come over?” I asked. “No, not really, John and I have both been discussing something, and we wanted to run it by you and mother.” “You aren’t thinking of moving to that retirement community in Florida that we visited with you last year are you?” I said thinking that was the reason for the invitation. “No, not at all. we want your opinion on something that we were going to do and wanted to see if you and mother would be interested as well.” “Oh well, ok, I will ask your mother when she returns. Love you.” I replied with relief. They had been talking about moving to Florida since both of them had retired earlier that year. They wanted to leave the cold winters of Vermont behind now that their kids were on their own. I couldn’t believe that my children had grandchildren. Where had time gone? I felt very blessed, though we had lost our beloved Liesl 3 years prior. That was a tough time for both Maria and me. I’m not sure that I would have recovered if it had not been the love and support of our other children. Maria and I were very fortunate to have such a close family. For many years we all toured the United States as the Trapp Family Singers until the children wanted to pursue their futures and not live in the shadows of another life that we once enjoyed. Our family lodge in Stowe was still going, although we had left the daily running of this to Kurt who was much younger than Maria and me. He was more than glad to answer the myriad of questions about the family.
Suddenly, I heard the top of the mailbox slam as the postman delivered his daily stack of junk mail with a few interspersed pieces of fan mail from those that had stayed at our lodge. I got up from the chair on the porch and walked around to where the mailbox was. With the advent of email, I wondered why people still bothered with mailing letters. It was probably due to the same reason that I went to the mailbox each day; a thing of habit. As I leafed through the mail, I tossed the junk mail in the wastebasket inside the doorway that was placed conveniently there for such things. In the middle of the stack of mail, there was an actual piece of mail that looked like a letter. The handwriting on it had a sort of strange writing on it. Some of the letters looked like the writing of friends that we still corresponded with in Austria. My heart leaped as I enjoyed anything from our homeland. I quickly turned the envelope over and tore it open. I unfolded the letter, and the first sentence hit me like a hot poker. I couldn’t read the next sentence or the next word. I fell over into the chair next to the doorway. It was as if my dream had suddenly just forced it’s way out of the recesses of my mind and grabbed me by the throat. How could this be? How could I have this dream only a little while ago and now my assailant was here again, but instead of a Luger, he had wielded a pen. My heart was racing instead of bleeding, but the mental pain was just as real as my dream. I opened the letter again, now that I was sitting down and began to read where my life had almost ended over 50 years ago.
“I never meant to pull the trigger. You have to believe me. I’m sorry Captain Von Trapp. If you will only let me explain why I am writing and why I never contacted you since that night you left Austria………”
For more short stories, click here.