Letters From Rachael
“Granny, you have a letter!” squealed six-year-old Kylie. “You never get letters!” The wide eyed, youngest great grandchild of Adeline Helm handed a small, white, wrinkled envelope to her great grandmother as she sat in her recliner.
Adeline smiled, the wrinkles in her face creasing deeply, as she took the letter from her excited grandchild. Kylie got excited easily and for some reason today she thought this was a major life happening that her great granny was getting mail. Well, Adeline thought to herself, perhaps it was. She usually only got bills, advertisements and maybe a magazine now and then. Taking the thin envelope in her blue veined hand, she nodded at Kylie, “Thank you.”
“Welcome”, the dark-haired child replied, as she stood before her expectantly. “Wanna read it to me Granny?”
Adeline cocked her head as Kylie repeated the question louder into Adeline’s good ear. She patted her small head and suggested, “Well, why not let Granny read it first and then I will see if you need to know what it says? Come back a little later, okay?”
“Okay,” Kylie repeated solemnly, her mouth etched in a frown. Dutifully she left Adeline’s bedroom.
Seeing her great granddaughter’s rejection, Adeline sighed. Well, she thought to herself. I’m just not sure what this is and maybe Kylie doesn’t need to know. Reaching for her glasses lying on the table next to her recliner, Adeline placed them on her nose and examined the small envelope. The return address stated it was from a Rolf Schultz in a nearby state. Adeline shut her eyes for a moment and thought about this. The only Rolf Schultz her memory conjured up was of a young man from a very long time ago - long ago days from her native land, Germany. Germany wasn’t her fondest memory. He was called Wolf, the Rolf Schultz she remembered. Wolf Schultz - Adeline had put him out of her mind often and only once now and then did a memory stir. Her girlhood days were shattered by the Wolf Schultz’s’ of the world. Back then, she thought she hated Rolf Schultz. Closing her eyes, his scrawny, pointy face and piercing blue eyes came back to her memory, as did his hateful words.
“You’re a dirty Jew lover, Addy! Nothin but a dirty Jew lover!” Wolf Schultz’s blue eyes were bulging from his red face, as clearly now in her mind’s eye at age 87 as they were when she had been in her tenth year. The hatred oozed from his lips and Adeline remembered reaching down to pick up a stone to throw at him to show him a thing or two, when she felt her elbow caught from behind.
Rachael, her best friend, who wore the yellow star upon her coat, said quietly, “No Addy, No. Don’t do it. Let’s go home”
Addy and Rachael had been friends since an early age when their family’s had become neighbors. Rachael and Addy, Rachael and Addy, always Rachael and Addy together in everything. Best friends forever no matter what.
Addy dropped the stone and gritted her teeth demanding angrily, “Go away Wolf Schultz! You’re as ugly as a flea-bitten wolf! I’ll be Rachael’s friend forever. Adeline stopped and caught her breath adding, “So, maybe you’re not a wolf but an ugly snake!”
Rolf Schultz’s face held a smirk and he narrowed his eyes at the two friends and hissed, “My father says I’m right. The dirty Jews are going to be gone soon! You shouldn’t be her friend and she’s not going to be around long to be your friend if she’s dead!”
Adeline jerked her elbow from Rachael’s slight grip and ran head first into Wolf Schultz’s soft middle. “You take that back - you ugly excuse for a human being!”, she growled while pummeling him with her fists. “You take that back!”
Adeline felt Rachel’s arms pulling her from Wolf and she finally allowed him to escape her grasp. Watching him scramble up and run off, not once looking back, she turned to her friend. “I’m sorry Rachael, but he deserved that”. Quiet, kind Rachael said nothing, but put her arms around her friend’s neck.
Adeline opened her eyes, letting the memory take her to a place her heart had not ventured to go in a long time. That was another lifetime ago. Why couldn’t she forget this as she had forgotten so many other things in her long life? Sighing, she knew why. Wolf Schultz had been right and the best friend she had ever had, left her one dark night and never returned. No trace of Rachael and her family had she ever found again. Her ten-year-old heart had grieved a long time. A tear slipped down her face and she brushed it away as she softly said her loyal friend’s name, “Rachael”.
Fingering the letter that sat unopened in her hand, Adeline slowly opened it, not believing that it could be the Rolf Schultz of her memory. Who might this Rolf Schultz be? She read the letter.
Dear Addy, or as you are probably now called, Adeline,
You may not remember me, but I remember you. We were children in grade school together in Germany – many, many years ago. You were such a pretty girl! Maybe you didn’t know it, but I had a crush on you.
I find myself at the end of my days seeking to ask all I have ever injured for forgiveness. You see, I cannot seem to forget how I acted through childish ignorance with an inherited hate. I saw and heard the lies surrounding our country at that time and believed them. I am so very sorry.
Rachael was a quiet girl, and you were her bold, brave friend. I was a bully with a big mouth and now have much regret. You certainly did a number on me that day! I don’t blame you now either! I had a bloody nose and a big lip for a good long time. I know I deserved it!
I won’t go into the details of how I found you after all these years, but I remembered who you married (for you see I still had a crush on you) and your husband’s name and well, with a bit of help from my grandson who is a computer whiz, I conjured up your address, hoping you were the right Adeline Helm. Are you? A reply that you have received my letter would give my spirit some relief.
I am your regretful acquaintance,
Rolf (Wolf) Schultz
Placing the letter in her lap, Adeline closed her eyes and felt extremely tired. The ordeal had come back to her with such clarity . . . her anger at Wolf - her pain on loosing Rachael. Why did this letter have to come into her quiet life today? If Rolf Schultz was sorry, he might have kept it to himself and not reminded her of the horror of that time in her life. So many good people died at the hands of the Nazis, but most importantly, her best friend Rachael.
Hearing a knock on the door, Adeline was brought back to the present and saw Kylie enter the room and ask softly, “Can you read me the letter now, Granny? Who’s the letter from? Is it from your boyfriend?”
Adeline chuckled to herself and called Kylie to come near. Pretending to read words that were not before her eyes, Kylie was satisfied. Adeline enjoyed making up a letter, much different than the one she had received for her granddaughter’s pleasure. She knew in her heart that she would reply to Rolf Schultz and after Kylie had left the room, she took out pen and paper from the table drawer near her chair and began her reply. Of course, Wolf Schultz could be forgiven after all these years. After all, he was just a child at the time. A cruel child, true, but a child who knew no better. The years had taught him much it seemed.
As the months passed and Adeline again put Wolf Schultz out of her mind, Kylie once again ran into the room one afternoon, excited with another small white envelope in her hand. “Granny! It is another letter from your friend Rachael!”
Adeline’s eyes widened with shock, until she remembered the tale she had made up to Kylie months ago. The real letter from Wolf Schultz was not one she would have read to Kylie, so her invented letter was from her deceased, Jewish friend, Rachael. The story she had derived and read to Kylie was how Adeline had hoped the story of their friendship would have been played out had Rachael and she lived together to old age. Adeline sighed heavily and put on a smile for her granddaughter. “Thank you, Kylie. You go play now and later I’ll tell you what my friend Rachael has to say.”
Adeline examined the second letter, realizing the handwriting was different, but the return address was the same as the one she had received from Wolf Schultz. Taking a deep breath, she opened the envelope and read.
Dear Mrs. Helm,
This letter is in reply to the one you sent my grandfather Rolf recently. I am sorry to say he has passed on now, but he did receive and read your correspondence before he died. It made him happy to see you had forgiven him. You see, Mrs. Helm, my grandfather recently became a follower of Jesus, as I am. He wanted to try and undo any harm he had caused to anyone in the past and felt led to do this with his newfound faith. I am very appreciative you gave him this peace with your forgiveness. He has gone on to be with his Savior now, no more pain in the afterlife. My grandfather suffered with illness for the past few years, so his passing is a blessing to me, despite the fact that I miss his company. Again, thank you for giving him this happiness.
Adeline put the letter in her lap and closed her eyes. So, Rolf Schultz had died. It was good she had forgiven him. She was glad he knew she had forgiven him before he died. It was not hard to forgive, for she herself was a Christian. Christ taught forgiveness. How glad she was that the hateful Wolf Schultz had also become kind in his later years. Forgiveness gave you peace and she had that today.
Hearing Kylie moving outside her bedroom door, Adeline called to her, “Come in honey, I’ll read you what my friend Rachael has to say today.”
Racing in and squeezing herself in to fit with Adeline in her chair, Kylie beamed up at her. “Granny, I like to hear what your friend Rachael has to say. Don’t you? She seems awfully nice. You two are the best of friends, right?”
“Yes, Kylie, Rachael and I have a wonderful friendship.” Adeline began the new tale that made them both smile. Rachael was alive and well in her granddaughter’s mind and in her own memory. She would not be forgotten, for in reliving remembered adventures with Rachael, which she relayed now to Kylie, Adeline remembered the good times and Wolf Schultz faded into a blurry background forever.