My Father’s Secret Life in the Hospital of Death
Growing up in Chicago, my dad barely spoke of the horrors he witnessed during Argentina’s “Dirty War.” Then one day a doom-filled document landed on our doorstep and I finally began to understand.
Illustrations by Alison Rutsch
Six years ago on a muggy July afternoon, the weight of history arrived with a thud at the front door of my parent’s Chicago apartment. One thousand pages, dispatched from the other end of the world without warning, bore the marks of official authority:
“T.O.C.F. Number 2, Criminal Cases 1696/1742 Bignone, Reynaldo Benito Antonio, et al.”
The author of this unexpected document, a federal judge in Argentina, made a career of prosecuting criminals of the country’s so-called “Dirty War.” The subject of his latest investigation was Hospital Posadas, a seven-story building on the western outskirts of Buenos Aires where my parents once worked as medical residents. The judge’s report recounted dark days at the hospital. My father was a character in this story. His name appeared between pages 621 and 700 inside the overstuffed FedEx envelope.
The timing was remarkable. The judge’s report landed at my parents’ doorstep, more or less out of the blue, as my father was d…