This story appeared previously in The Daily News.
NEWBURYPORT — Most adult children appreciate their aging dads on Father's Day but local physician Tammy Bottner has recognized hers in a way that will endure: She has written a book about his life.
And the life of Al "Bobby" Bottner has been no ordinary life.
He was born Jewish in Belgium in 1940, and the family was on the run from Nazis during his early years.
His parents actually smuggled him out of the house and into a rural convent in that country when he was a toddler, with the expectation they would never see him again.
The book is "Among the Reeds - The true story of how a family survived the Holocaust," (Amsterdam Publishers, The Netherlands) and it is in local bookstores now.
The title comes from Exodus 2:3, "But when she could no longer hide him, she got a basket made of papyrus reeds, and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. She put the baby in the basket and laid it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile River."
Bobby Bottner did survive, later resettling in areas that included Canada, Natick and now Sarasota, Florida.
Few father-daughter projects have been as extensive, and emotional, as that of Bobby and Dr. Tammy Bottner.
"My father is 77 and in recent years has been talking more about his past," said Dr. Bottner, who has been a pediatrician here for close to two decades. "He wanted his story to be told and had considered a ghostwriter.
"But I wanted to write it. I knew it would be a stretch but I felt this was an important story for him and his children and grandchildren."
It took more than a year to research and write the text, including trips to Belgium and Israel to meet with relatives who remembered the dark days in Europe.
Bottner said she had a lot of information but needed a method of telling a story that happened well before her time.
"In order to write this book, I had to take a few liberties," she said. "I had to imagine myself as my grandmother, as my grandfather, as my father, as each of the characters in the story, and to learn what they were thinking as best I could."
Some chapters provide insight on what it was like for Jews to live in Europe during the 1920s through the 1940s in segments such as "German Occupation," "The Anti-Jewish Laws," "In Hiding," "The Tide Turns," and "Liberation."
These are interspersed with the dialogue of Bobby, Melly (Bobby's mother) and Irene (an aunt), and what their thoughts were at the moment.
Bottner's father survived and migrated to Canada, where he pursued an engineering career and married a woman from Ottawa. The couple raised Bottner and her sister, Sharon.
But numerous aunts, uncles and distant relatives did not survive the war, and Bottner indicated that one of her motivations in writing "Among the Reeds" was her determination that their stories be told.
Another aspect of her motivation was that after her son was born, she had visions of being hunted by Nazis.
The experiences didn't happen to her, of course, but she felt she was enduring some of the emotions her grandmother had decades earlier.
She wonders if the trauma of her relatives affected family DNA.
Did she inherit the "memories" of the wartime trauma in her genes?
This field is known as epigenetics, the effect of trauma on the DNA.
Her thoughts on the subject provide another dimension to the riveting story.
"So many did not survive the Holocaust," Bottner said. "It was miraculous, really, that my father lived and was able to have a life and a family in another country.
"We both wanted to tell that story."