For terrible and personal reasons I have always been fascinated with the idea of “what might have been”.
Admittedly this is a concept that can become a little like the mirror of Erised in the Harry Potter series. One can waste away pondering what might have been.
In my version it is typically “who might I have become” or, more aptly, “what was stolen from me that has changed the fabric of who I am” etc.
This version of my ponderings are rooted in years of sexual abuse at the hands of numerous men when I was much, much younger.
More recently a new version has leapt into my consciousness and gnawed away at it. The idea of “who might I have become had I known my father”, and “who might I have become had I known my culture”?
My father was Jewish. I didn’t know this until my late 40s. It was a shocking and remarkable find through 23&Me DNA testing. I am happy I had the opportunity to talk to my mum about it before she passed away. I am happy I have had the opportunity of meeting two brothers I never knew I had as well as an uncle and nieces and step-sisters.
It is a very odd thing to me. My father having been Jewish means that it is the largest part of who I am genetically but I am devoid of experience except through my education in seminary which was obviously quite biased.
I cannot lay claim to a culture I never knew and yet it is responsible for half of me. I am not Jewish. Being Jewish is unlike any other culture in the world. It is a distinct people which is a distinct culture which is a distinct religion all bound up together in a messy and wonderful tripartite gem of humanity.
I love this about my heritage. I mourn for what I lost at not knowing my father. I yearn to better understand this absent part of me but to do so respectfully. I have not experienced anti-Semitism although I know with certainty my ancestors have.
I think about this. I think about the holocaust more than ever now because, given my heritage and my grandfather’s birthplace in western Russia (now Ukraine) many were likely obliterated at the hands of the Einsatzgruppen or simply rounded up like the majority of Jews in Nazi occupied Russia.
So rises again the sad thought of not “what might have been” but “who might have been”. Cousins who should be but in the world and are not. So much loss.
My mother is another absence that is felt deeply and lends itself towards thoughts of what might have been.
These thoughts rattle about in my head along with yearnings to better understand the idea of loss and absence and what might have been but I am also reminded of a nice quote from the same source as the aforementioned mirror:
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.” — Albus Dumbledore regarding Harry’s discovery and subsequent fixation on the Mirror of Erised