Edith's memories of her father
My first memory of my father was the end of 1945 I was 4 years old. I had never seen my father before and I don't remember if I had ever heard of him before. Anyway, it was around November 6th, Saint Nicolas Day in Germany, when children who had been good throughout the year got goodies (candy) or if they had been bad would get just a lump of coal or something like that. My father must have just returned from the prisoner of war camp in Italy during the night and I do remember that when I woke up the next morning there was lots of candy at the end of my bed. Something I don't remember that we ever had before. (Our father had always been very fond of sweets until the day he died. He must have been saving this candy all the way back from Italy).
To me, it was very strange when our mother told us that this was our father and he had come home from the war. I didn't even know what a father was; up until now it had just been our mother and the girls.
I remember that he was very handy with just about anything. During the lean times after the war, when nobody could buy anything, our father would make us sandals out of our mother's old leather handbags. They looked just like they had been bought at the store, or so we thought, because nobody else had any sandals to compare them with.
Having always thought of myself as a fashion plate, once we moved to Frankfurt, I always had to have the most expensive and best Italian shoes I could find. They cost me a whole month salary at that time. After looking at them in the display window for about a month, I finally purchased them and brought them home to show them proudly to my parents. Our father bent and twisted them and declared them to be nothing but junk because they where too thin and delicate. Of course he was right about the thin part, because they would not wear very good and after a few months there where no soles or heels (they where the size of a pencil top) left on my shoes. Being very handy in the cobbler profession, after having made sandals for us after the war, my father offered to resole and re-heel my very expensive Italian shoes. Well, that was quite a story. The material for the heels consisted of layers of old bicycle tires, and after a while walking in the shoes, they got larger and larger and squashed out on the sides. For the soles I ended up with a half inch sole instead of 1/8 of an inch and it felt like I was walking on a platform shoe, which where not in fashion at that time.
Another little episode was "The Faschingscostume". Helga and I were going to a "Faschingsdance" but we had really nothing to wear that was cute and sexy. Helga, the genius in sewing always had some material lying around, so that afternoon she made us fancy outfits. Needless to say not too much material was used, so they were pretty skimpy. Something like Playboy bunny outfits, black taffeta and purple sashes, purple up to the elbow gloves and purple hair and spike heels. Well, when our father saw these outfits, he opened the door to the wood stove and was ready to burn them. Our mother finally convinced him not to do that, because Helga had worked so hard making them. After he had calmed down we quietly sneaked out of the house with our costumes on. Several years later we had the same problem with a cat costume. That time we had to sneak the costume out of the house, he really did not want us to wear it.
Our father was very protective of me and on several occasions he would follow me into the city walking our dog "Trolly", to check on some of the places were I met my friends. This one club "The Paradiso" was one of my favorite places to go. One day as I was sitting with some of my friends at this club I saw my father enter the place with Trolley in tow. I knew he was going to make me go home and probably embarrass me in front of every one there, so I quickly scooted under the table. The dog and my father stopped in front of the table and looked around, and not seeing me, he was ready to leave except the dog had gotten my scent and kept pulling him back. Thank God that my father did not pay any attention to the dog and finally left. I did leave the place as soon as he was out of the door and got home before he did. Years later I told him the story and we all had a good laugh about it.
We also had a few laughs about our father's picture taking. He had this old, very good camera, but it did not have a flash attachment. Every Christmas when he took the family picture, he would buy this old fashioned powder to make a flash, like they used in the old Wild West to take pictures. This powder came in an envelope with a string attached that he would have to light. He would attach that bag to the doorframe of the living room, and then he would set the camera so he could get into the picture himself. He would then light the fuse to the powder bag and run to be in the picture. The only problem was that more than once the wallpaper caught on fire when the powder packet exploded and the whole doorframe plus wallpaper where charred and black.
The same thing happened when he was making wine out of the grapes that he grew in his garden. He had this elaborate "still" in the living room with all kinds of turned glass gizmos that where gurgling when the fermentation took place. This still would periodically explode and all the wine, pulp and God knows what was flying all over the living room walls. Our mother was not very happy.
The most touching and emotional episode with my father happened when I was leaving Germany to immigrate to the United States. As always our father got up his normal time in the morning to go to work. He just very casually said good bye to me, just like I was going to be there when he came back from work. I remember that at the time I was hurt that he would not show more affection because he really did not know when he would see me again. But, off to work he went.
My flight was not leaving Frankfurt until about 10:00 A.M. In the meantime I had instructed every one not to come to the airport or I would have cried my eyes out. When the time came for me to leave, I took the bus to the airport and was checking in my luggage when I heard a familiar voice calling my name. It was my father who had never gone to work at all but had instead taken the bus or streetcar and had gone straight to the airport to see me off. The tears were flowing then. I will never forget what it had meant to me that he had shown up. He cared very much, but found it hard to show it.
Years later when he came to visit us in the States I actually learned more about my father then I had ever known in the 18 years that I had lived in Germany. He was the most goodhearted person you would ever want to know. He really enjoyed his visits to America.
On one occasion Pete took him out to a driving range to hit some golf balls and we also took him to play golf at a small golf course, which he thoroughly enjoyed. Pete also bought him a golf club that he cherished and took home with him. The few things he did not care for over here was the lack of good bread, the waste of the huge lawns that had not been turned into vegetable gardens and that our street system was not build in squares. The reason was that he got lost in our neighborhood on one of his strolls. He figured that if you go down one street up the other and come back down in a square you would be back at the house. That obviously did not work because it took him several hours to show back up at our house. He could not remember what the street address was, so he had to back track as good as he could remember.
Sitting in a chair was not in the picture for our father. On his visits over here he would always ask you what he could fix or work on. One day it was chopping our fire wood and the next day pointing the chimney that was in need of repair. He could just not sit idle.
The great part about remembering things that happened in the past is that our father will never die, these memories will keep him alive forever.