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  • The most vivid memory I have of my grandfather is me sitting inside his and grandmother's house in the countryside, looking at the glowing embers of the fire in the fireplace. He opens the door and enters, a gust of cold air accompanying him. Kicking the snow off his worn boots, he reaches down to ruffle my hair. He's sinewy and old and he smells of tobacco and motor oil.

    He was the sort of handyman that could work magic with engines and mechanical parts. Once, while driving a truck during the war, he came under Soviet fire. A stray bullet perforated the cooler and the truck ground to a halt. Thinking fast, he took a loaf of dried rye bread, plugged the hole in the cooler, poured some water on the bread to get it to swell, filled the cooler up and drove to safety.

    He died when I was five. I still think of him, and grandmother, whenever I look into the embers of a fire.
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