It was time for my morning stroll. Maria had already begun her day by going to the lodge, making sure that the kids were running it in strict Von Trapp style, but with the friendliness of a small Austrian town. I, on the other hand, enjoyed these morning walks, not precisely a Wanderung or hike as you might call it, they just cleared my head for the day. For forty years, I had been able to forget about my former life in Austria, not that it was all that bad. I had lots of wonderful memories; it was just the ending that soured it. My Austria had changed so much from when I was a boy. My parents would take us to the coast, to watch the ships and feel the cool breeze off of the sea, before Austria lost its coastline.
We enjoyed many beautiful summers there by the sea. My wife and I had a wonderful life before her death. I wasn’t always so stern. Life had toughened me up. The loss of my wife’s inheritance by me trying to help a banking friend and then having to find a governess to raise our seven children was a lot to handle. Pushing away the emotions of it all just seemed easier to do, rather than deal with the disappointments that life had handed to me.
There was a part of me that I hadn’t shared with my family, at least not my children. I had always hoped that I would take that secret with me to my grave. The family thought I had stayed with the Navy, and they were right, they just didn’t know what I was actually doing with the Navy. I had to find a way to support them. Maria and I added three more to our brood, for a total of 10 children. It took a lot of Schnitzels to keep them full! I knew that there were those who didn’t want me to leave Austria. I had secrets that they did not want me to share with others in the world, but I had to leave that life behind. Opening a lodge in Vermont and getting into the hospitality business was a far cry from my vocation in Osterreich. The lure of being handed our old home on a silver platter from the previous owners was very tempting. I had always wanted to visit, but to be able to live there was more than I could have ever hoped for.
Somehow, I wish I could travel back in time and change some of the decisions that I had made, but that wasn’t possible. As soon as that mental statement left my mind, I was instantly reminded of why Herman Richter and I were working on Xerum 525. It was Hitler’s fascination with things that were not quite reality. Die Glocke was basically a cyclotron, a way to make enriched Uranium 233. I did not want to be part of that research, but I didn’t have much of a choice at the time. Everything that I had knowledge of, I had kept to myself. I didn’t even know that Herman was still alive. The number of coincidences was now becoming evident that they were not coincidences at all. Someone wanted me back in Austria, but who?
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.
“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………”