Avery Erwin Swarthout was named after his papa, Erwin Joseph Adler. Yesterday Avery went into a church in Altstadt Spandau (while I rested on a bench) and lit a candle in memory of his papa. Somehow this didn’t surprise me………..Avery has always heard that he takes after his papa and that he carries papa’s spirit within him as I do. My father (“papa” to our kids) died 7 years ago when Avery was 5, Olivia was not yet 3, and Sam had just been born in Ethiopia.
Avery looks like his papa and carries the same twinkle in his eye that is destined to charm the girls and women who will play a role in his future escapades. But the resemblance does not stop there. Avery has daily dreams of cheese cake, wurst, and specialty coffee drinks as did papa before he became a low-fat fanatic. Avery’s happy disposition becomes happier when he can make googly eyes at a baby during a chance encounter. Papa did the same. An even more stunning, perhaps genetic, similarity is that Avery is soaking up German words as if they were cheesecake and has got a pretty good accent to boot. My dad was born in Altwiedermuss, Germany in 1929 and though his family fled the Nazis, he loved speaking his mother tongue his whole life.
Although I am not named after my dad, I am like him in may ways too. Leaving the place where my dad is buried and going to his birthplace have brought me both fresh feelings of grief but also moments of powerful connection. I cannot physically journey to the past, but this journey to where his life began more than 80 years ago does give me the feeling of coming “full circle.”