If you ever asked about my aunt Dee, you’ll get both sides to the story
When she was brilliant and sharp, gifted, and beautiful,
And when her mental state had declined by the time she came back from college
What you rarely hear, and what I would find
Is that through all of her struggles, my aunt knew German
A random language, niche in tongue,
Something so foreign that dialects and rhetoric had sung,
through her teeth and to the ears of harshness it rung
But my aunt spoke German, and I wonder if she knew it since she was young
Where would she have learned German?
My mother shrugs
I’m sure in the same way my aunt’s whims were dismissed in the same vein,
I wonder if German was the one thing that helped coax her through the pain.
I wonder who my aunt had spoken to in her time
My mother tells me Aunt Dee had neighbors that spoke German and she spoke to them fluently
I wonder if in those moments, she had released a sigh much like a bird in a cage kept trapped by such normative standards
Whose ideology at the time around mental health was surely a lot harsher than words, and I’m sure it was calming having someone else there to understand her
And how their interactions must’ve been therapeutic, cradling and catering to her fears with the use of European verbs sounding like music
In time I would look back and think my aunt to had been a healer
Which you can’t appreciate as a child entering the psych ward in order to see her
When I speak about my aunt, I don’t mention her illness
I hope that when I say, “my aunt spoke German and no one knew how,” they’re able to hold her with that same amount of kindness.
Shelby Lewis is a third-year English major with a minor in journalism. firstname.lastname@example.org.