Monday, May 12, 2008

I remember it like it was yesterday-My Biography

This is a work in progress. Eventually to be published and shared with many. This is my personal journey of discovering who I am.

Pictured from left to right; Dan Furtado, Terri Hanauer-Furtado, Valerie Hanauer, & Ralph Hanauer July 1981. Danielle Furtado in Terri's belly.

My story begins:

I remember it like it was yesterday, the phone rang and it was my mother. Her voice sounded so strange. I almost didn’t recognize it. I knew instantly something was wrong. She said, “I’m in the hospital, there was an accident on the boat and daddy didn’t make it”. "Didn’t make it", I thought, what does that mean? I asked her what she meant, and her answer cut right through my heart. She said, “Your father is dead, there was an accident on the boat”. I thought she was lying to me. It can’t be! My father can’t be gone. He was my hero. I loved him so much and the thought of never ever being able to see or touch him again was too much for me to handle.I hung up the phone in shock.

I had to make sense of what I just heard. There are no words to explain the emotions that were spreading through my soul. What was my life going to be like without my DADDY, my mentor whom I loved so very much?

As I sat in the living room of the small house I shared with my then husband Dan and our 3-month-old daughter Danielle, I had all these memories of my father shoot through my mind. I had remembered that last week, Natalie Wood had drowned after falling overboard into the ocean off of Catalina Island. She was my father’s all time favorite actress. I remembered catching him crying, because he was so sad that she had died. I had immediately realized that they both drowned. I thought, "what were the odds that my father and Natalie Wood would both die in a similar manner and both of their deaths would make a huge impact on many lives"?

I had so many memories of my father that just kept flashing through my mind. The state of mind that I was in at that time gave me no ability to sort through them. I was so confused by my emotions. The constant thought of never seeing or talking to my father again was so permanent. This happened just weeks after he had come back into my life. He had been absent from it for months, while he lived with his mistress, Sandy in her Penthouse apartment in downtown Phoenix.

I remembered the first time I meet Sandy, it was at this little Italian restaurant in Phoenix. My father introduced me to her and we had lunch together. It was like we were supposed to be one big happy family having a meal together. I was 2 months away from having my first child, and it was difficult for me to see my father with this woman. I remember I didn't think she was very friendly and thinking, “why would my father be with somebody like this?"

My mother had told me that my father was so terrified of Sandy, that he would hide his car blocks away from their home, so Sandy would not know he was back home with my mother. I had no idea what state of mind my father was in when he came back home. I lived about 10 miles away from my parent’s home and I did not do much traveling, because my daughter Danielle was still a newborn.

The first time I remember seeing him again was Thanksgiving Day when we would share our last family dinner together. My father, mother, brother, husband and daughter were all together for the last time. I had just turned 20 years old and was a new mother when this tragedy happened. I have never been able to forget that loss that changed my life forever.

That night as I slept, I had this dream that felt so real. My father had come to the side of my bed and said, “stay away from Sandy, she is an evil person”. I woke myself and sat up in bed. Why would I have such a dream? Was my dad really trying to tell me to be careful of this woman?

Sandy had convinced my father to move in with her 4 months before his death. I was in my last month of pregnancy and my father was not allowed to have any contact with me during the time they were together .Because of the dream I had of my father, I had thought that Sandy was a Witch, and that she had put a spell on my family. When my mom told me about the plot to kill her, I knew there was something more to Sandy then I had ever thought. I thought back to my dream the night of my father’s death. He was definitely warning me to stay away from her. I never tried to contact Sandy after that. All the family heirlooms that went with my father when he moved in with Sandy would never come back to my family.


Every single person’s life my father touched was devastated at the news of his death. Everyone who knew him could not believe he was gone. His smile, his humor, his charisma, and his love “POOF” all gone. He had the ability to draw people to him and once they were in his life, they never left. As I tried to come to some kind of closure on my father’s death, I started to ask questions about his childhood. I knew he was born in Berlin during WWII, but not much else. So when I asked my grandmother about his life. She started to cry. She told me that his childhood had a lot of tragedy. She said, “He had spent time in a concentration camp." When I heard those words, I felt numb and began to cry. Questions just started popping out of my mouth, “When? Where? How long was he there?” As soon as the words came out of my mouth, she walked away. My grandmother would never talk about Germany again.

Here are some facts about my father: My father’s name was Ralph Uri Hanauer. His name at birth was Uri Hanauer and he was born in Berlin, Germany on February 6, 1940, during WWII. Both of his parents were considered “Mischling” (half-breed in English). Both of his grandfather’s were Jewish and both of his grandmother’s were Christian. From September 8, 1944 to June 7, 1945, he lived in the concentration camp, Theresienstadt. He came to America in June of 1946. He drowned in San Diego, California on December 5, 1981.

So, here I am all alone with my daughter Danielle. Sitting in my living room trying to process my feelings I was having about my father’s death. I didn’t even have my mother here with me to help with the pain I was feeling. She was still in the hospital in San Diego recovering from the trauma to her head caused by her being thrashed in the cabin of the boat as the boat was being tossed up against the rocks in Mission Bay. It would be days later before I would be told what had happened on the boat.

When my mother started telling me the details of the accident, I started to feel like I was suffocating. She said, “Daddy didn’t have the radio or the sonar on the boat, they had been in the shop for repairs. There were 7 of us who went out for a day of deep-sea fishing. When we started to head back to shore, a fog bank rolled in. Daddy had a hard time navigating without the sonar. He couldn’t tell how far from shore we were. Daddy told me to go down below to get life jackets for everyone on board. I started throwing them out onto the deck when all of a sudden we hit something. I looked out the porthole and saw a huge cliff that we were being thrown up against by the surf. Daddy was screaming at everyone on board to put on life jackets. He started to put on his life jacket, but his down jacket he had on was too bulky. As he struggled to get the life jacket on, a huge wave tossed us hard into the cliff and daddy, Bruce and little Brian fell overboard. I became hysterical trying to figure out what was happening. Patrick was trying to get me out of the cabin, but I was so terrified, I couldn’t move. He finally pulled me up to the deck and told me to jump onto some rocks the next time the boat was thrashed against them. I was so scared, I was asking Patrick, “Where’s Ralph?” I didn’t want to get off the boat without him. Then I heard daddy screaming, but the screams sounded far away.

Patrick threw me onto the rocks and I started to look for your father. I followed his screams and saw him pull himself up on the rocks. He was down the shore from where I was. All of a sudden a wave came and pulled him back into the ocean. I watched as he attempted two more times, pulling himself on the rocks and being washed back into the water. The third time he yelled, “Oh, God, Please help me”. His right hand was the last thing I saw of your father.

My mom continued, "I felt like I was in a horrible movie that was going to end soon”. At this point, I start to hyperventilate. I felt like I was drowning. My immediate thought was that my father had asked for God’s help on his last breath, and I had to believe that God had accepted his plea and my father would be let into heaven.

As I look back on my life then, I realize that I have always had someone watching over me and helping me through very difficult times in my life. Every daughter knows what I am talking about. The relationship we dream of to have with our fathers is that of a fairy tale. To be our father’s little Princess. And to always make him proud. I hope that by what I am writing in this book about my journey to truly know my father will inspire every daughter to cherish every moment they can with their father.

On March 17, 1982, while I was visiting my grandmother, Ursula with my daughter and mother in California, the phone rang a little after 5:00 am. It was my husband Dan calling from Phoenix. When I picked up the phone, the first words out of his mouth were “There’s been an accident and your brother was killed in Nevada!” I thought I was having a bad dream, so I hung up the phone and climbed back into bed with my mom and Danielle. The phone rang again and Dan said, “Your brother was killed in a car accident in Searchlight, Nevada.”

I was in shock. I couldn’t believe God did it again. Why now did he take my brother? I was holding the phone in my hand just crying. My mom and grandmother came to me and asked, “What’s going on? Why are you crying?” “Kenny is dead”. I blurted out, “He was killed in an accident in Searchlight, Nevada."

Then the hysteria began. The three of us could not believe what was happening. Un-belief that my brother was now gone forever. I felt like I was being punished for something really bad. My father always said, “There was no such thing as God." At that very moment I believed him. I couldn’t believe that God would allow so much tragedy to affect this family, so the only explanation was that, “THERE WAS NO SUCH THING AS GOD.”

The drive from LA to Phoenix was stifling. My mom and I didn’t speak the entire ride home. I sat in the back seat with Danielle in shock at what was happening again. I kept looking at Danielle and wondering if she had any sense of what I was feeling. As my mom turned to pull into the driveway, she stepped on the gas, I thought she was going to drive right through the garage. She slammed on the brakes inches from the garage door and started crying, “Children are not suppose to die before their parents”, she said.

My brother had just turned 19 years old 2 days earlier. We should have been celebrating his birthday not his funeral. My brother and cousin Dean were heading from Needles to Las Vegas. They were going to be moving my grandmother ZG from Las Vegas back to Needles. My aunt Melody, cousin Tina and Dean were living in ZG’ s house in Needles and ZG was moving back in with them. Dean survived the accident. He was in a hospital in Las Vegas with minor injuries. My mom and I traveled to Vegas to talk to Dean about the accident. He said, “It was dark when they left Needles. He said, "We were just driving on the highway talking when someone coming in the opposite direction had their bright lights on, Kenny drove onto the shoulder and veered back onto the road, and then he lost control and the truck rolled off the highway." "I don’t remember anything after that." When we left the hospital, my mom said, “I don’t believe him, I think he was driving and he killed Kenny." I didn’t see that coming. As far as I was concerned it didn’t matter who was driving. It was an accident that could've happened to anyone. I felt so bad for Dean, not only was he with my brother when he died, he was also on the boat and witnessed my fathers death. What he must have been feeling? I couldn’t even imagine.

Dan and I were living with my mom at this time and the emotions we were all feeling were so overwhelming. I just kept questioning why God would be punishing our family. And then I would think, “Because God doesn’t really exist, you can’t blame someone who doesn’t exist.” I was so confused, not only was I dealing with all this emotional loss, I was still going through postpardum depression and my hormones were all whacked out. It was at this point that I started to think I would rather be dead than to live without my father and brother. My thoughts were full of ways to kill myself. I had a hard time bonding with Danielle. I was afraid she was going to be taken away next and I thought, “If I don’t allow myself to get attached to her, I wouldn’t have that hard of a time letting her go." I was an emotional mess. I was not surprised when my great aunt, Ilse called me on April 17, 1982 to tell me my great grandmother, Frieda had died. I knew one more person was going to die, someone told me to expect it. They said “Tragedy’s always come in 3’s”. It was at this time I shut down emotionally and physically. I did not want to be close to anyone.

It would be 16 (1998) years before I would start to ask questions again about my family’s life in Germany during the holocaust. The answers were not going to come from my grandmother, Ursula (who was in the beginning stages of Alzheimer) or my great aunt, Ilse. I was persistent with Ilse and soon it started to pay off. In the beginning of 2002, Ilse did start to give me names of my relatives, first was her father’s name, Max Hanauer, then her grandfather’s name, David Hanauer, then her brother’s name (my grandfather) in August, 4 months before her death. My grandfathers name was Hans Heinz Hanauer. I thought what an amazing name. In 2003, I began sending letters to various German officials. I gave them what information I had, which was very little. The only truths I had were the names of my grandfather’s. It was also at this time that I started to pray to God, asking him to help me learn about my family history. I wanted to know everything about my family. Every day and every night was the same prayer. “Please help me to learn the truth about my family history?”

As we fast forward to 2008, I have been able to trace my grandfather, Hans’ last 2 years of his life, my great grandfather, Jonas Rosenfeld’s dates of arrests and his incarceration on "Rosenstrasse" (Rose St.) Theresienstadt concentration camp was the camp that my father, Uri, grandmother, Ursula and my great grandfather, Jonas were held at and then released from 9 months later. This phrase came to me on July 15th, 2006, “Discover how extraordinary you really are." This phrase amazes me. When I look at those words now, I think, “Wow, look at me, at who I am today.” The rich heritage I come from. And how blessed I truly am. To have a beautiful family that has been my Godsend. The Love so many people have showed me. I would hope that the entire world could experience the depth of pure Love I have been able to experience in my lifetime.

History in Hebrew means “Genealogy”, hence the magnitude of information I have been able to obtain on most of my ancestors. I look at my bloodlines and I see power and wealth all the way back.

I keep questioning what I am suppose to do with all of this information. I believe God has something wonderful in store for me. I can't wait to share it the world.


terrihanauer-brahm said...

I wanted to be the first to leave a comment. To thank everyone who has enjoyed and been inspired by what has led me to this point in my life. I believe that my life has been guided by God's hand. I didn't always recognize the times he was there, but he sure made it clear in the memories I now have. I hope that you too will see how he worked my life.

Doreen said...

Wow, what an amazing story. I am on the edge waiting for the next chapter. You are excellent at story telling. Don't stop! I encourage you to continue till the screen writers are at your door!

In friendship,
Doreen Berggren

susan said...

Great job Terri. Thank you for sharing your journey into your families history. Isn't it interesting that sometimes we have to look back to see that God was there all along! Looking forward to reading more!

terrihanauer-brahm said...

12/5/09 Today, I feel so blessed to have been able to learn who my father was. Today, I celebrate his life and death in happiness for all the memories I've been able to create. Thank you for allowing me to share them with you all.

terrihanauer-brahm said...

My fathers life was cut way too short (41 years old) when he drowned in San Diego almost 30 years ago (Dec. 5, 1981)! I'm so grateful that I've been able to document his family's life! A beautiful commemoration to a wonderful Father, Husband, and Son! I love you Daddy and I miss you very much! ♥
He was an incredible person and many people were affected by his death. I feel that he was a driving force in my pursuit of learning about my family during the Holocaust.