Opinion: Admitting defeat, declaring victory in the New Year

The OnStar button is shown the 2014 Cadillac.

The OnStar button is shown the 2014 Cadillac.

File photo

ONE: DEFEAT

I may as well start by admitting my total defeat in last year’s constant, frustrating fight with automatic electronic communication devices.

How was I to know that my OnStar protection contract of many years with Buick could be summarily discontinued two months before its latest renewal date because my Lacrosse XC is suddenly considered too old? They offered to continue to keep me safe with a new contract that included an app on my cellphone that would have to be left open while driving in the car and — in the event I was knocked speechless in a crash — would automatically alert someone in charge of my wrecked whereabouts and presumable need of assistance. Yeah, right! What if the phone got smashed along with me?

What am I supposed to do with the friendly invitation from my doctor’s office to henceforth make my appointments online via a personal health file that will protect my privacy while revealing my entire medical history at the click of my mouse? Why does it refuse to open no matter how often I elect a new PIN, password, user or mother’s name?

As someone with profound hearing loss, I use a ClearCaptions device with my phone to read the incoming speakers’ words on a small screen. On outgoing calls, almost always answered by an electronic voice, the entire menu is rattled off to the end by the time the screen prints “Press 1” as the first of a number of other, but never to be known by me, options available. Invariably, after several trials and errors, I get disconnected by the bank, department store, dentist’s office and an assortment of other suppliers of services or information most of us need to conduct our independent lives.

TWO: VICTORY!

But why dwell on the negative experiences when on Dec. 22, 2022, while celebrating a rarely achieved very advanced birthday, I received the last and biggest present I had dared hoped for?

“Blackouts, Bombs and Sugar Beets,” my memoir about growing up during the Nazi occupation of my native country, The Netherlands, is scheduled for publication in English in 2023. A Dutch edition is planned for later in the year.

I began writing about my childhood at least 20 years ago when I discovered that most Americans remember two things about WWII: the big military battles (Pearl Harbor, Anzio, D-Day) and the Holocaust (the horror of which goes beyond any comparison.) But there seems little understanding of what daily life was like for ordinary people during five years under brutal dictatorship and increasing hardship, ending in the infamous 1944-45 Dutch Hunger Winter. No electricity, no gas, no food. Constant air raids, bombs and daily roundups of innocent men, women and children.

When in 2012 one of my stories was selected for inclusion in an anthology about children growing up in a war zone anywhere in the world, the idea of writing a memoir about the war came to me. After several rewrites and a bunch of complimentary rejections, I almost gave up hope I’d ever get a chance to yell out to the world: “Stop making war — you don’t know what you are doing to the people that must live through it!”

It looks like my dream is finally going to come true. Meanwhile, to be safe, I have signed on with AAA.

Elisabeth Breslav’s memoir “Bombs, Blackouts and Sugar Beets is scheduled for publication this year. She is an essay writer for the Oronoque Villager in Stratford and a frequent Forum contributor.