(Written by my Mum)
Recently was the 31st anniversary of my father's death. This was a reason for me to look back to my childhood and what he was to me. Meike asked me to write a guest post, here it is:
My Father, I called him "Papa", was born in the month of May, during WWI, his mother, my beloved "Oma Engel" (that means Granny Angel) delivered at home, as usual in this times. He was the oldest, then came a little brother, who died in child's age, and then came Otto, I introduced him to you in this guest post.
Oma was a cook in a home-style cooking restaurant in the town where we still live. Her husband, my grandfather, was a porcelain painter, he came from the German East (now Poland) and before coming to Ludwigsburg he workd at Meißen's Manufactory.
Here he couldn't find work in his profession, so he worked in the office of a big health insurance.
They had not much money, but weren't poor; they had what they needed and were content.
Papa went to Grammar School, and after this, he became apprentice in a big enterprise in the neighbouring town. He was trained as a toolmaker, a craft nearly unknown today. That apprentenship took four years, and he stayed at the same company nearly until he retired.
In his youth he must have been rather sporty; he drove a motorbike and flew gliders.
Then he met my mother, they fell in love and married, shortly before Hitler came into power and WWII broke out. Of course he had to be a soldier and was sent to the front. He was POW in Russia but came back rather healthy. (His father lost his job, because he refused to say "Heil Hitler", someone denunciated him.)
When I was born, the world was burning allover, Papa was in Russia and learned much later that he now had a little baby girl. I didn't hear the bombs, my mother said I was sleeping all the time in a little basket which she could take to the bomb shelter when the alarm sounded.
|The family in autumn 1946. Erich was 31, Else 30, my Mum one year old and her brother was six. (I know this because it is on the back of the photo in my Oma's handwriting.)|
My first memory is of Christmas, when my father gave me a doll's kitchen, with a real working little electric stove (everything made by himself), and every pot, plate and pan like my mother's, just tiny. I could cook little pancakes or soup from stock cubes.
He also made a little shop, with electric light showing "Kaufhaus Engel", (Engel's Store). Engel was our family name, it means angel. Mother filled all the drawers in the shop with little sweets, nuts, fruits, and my 5 years older brother and I loved to play with it, we even had play money.
In this time after the war these toys were something very special, because you couldn't buy them in a shop or order from Amazon.
I admired him for this, and all the other little toys and things he made for us children, such as toy furniture, a little bed for my doll, a chair for the teddybear and many more.
Our name "Engel" I loved so much that one day, I think I was about 3 years old, I told my parents: "You know, when I am big, I will marry Papa, then I can keep my name Engel". Mutti asked: "And what about me?" I thought for a moment, then replied: "Oh, you will be dead then".
In our basement he had a workshop in one room, very cold, no heating, where he had good tools, the most prized was a turning lathe. He made the prettiest little wooden boxes and bowls with it, here is one he gave me for my 3rd birthday for little trinkets, it is only 6 cm in diameter.
The greatest for me was when Papa allowed me to sit on the ground on a thick doormat underneath his working table, where also his turning lathe was. I liked the sound of the machine's motors, the smell of the metal chips, all in all really nothing to inspire a little girl, but for me it was heaven to be near my Papa, seeing what he could do with his hands, admire the result. Until my mother called me to come upstairs, because she was afraid I would catch a cold down there.
There was really nothing Papa could not do or fix, you could bring him everything, and he would make it alright. Once he was away on a health cure, and he sent me lovely letters in his beautyful exact handwriting, always with handdrawn little pictures.
On weekends, when he did not have to work (Saturday morning was still a working day back then), we went to a nearby forest to pick strawberries, rasperries, or just flowers for my Mom. (I called her Mutti.) Most Sunday mornings, Mutti cooked a very good meal, and Papa and I went for a walk, mostly ending at a beer garden where I met other children and there was a playground for us.
In the evenings he told me stories he made up himself, about fairies, gnomes, giants, dwarfs and also animals who could speak, his imagination never ended.
Once he went with a friend to pick cherries from a tree that belonged to the friend's brother. The next morning when I woke up, there hung a big grape over my bed, all made of the big red cherries, it made me so happy, I did not even want to disturb this piece of art. (But I did...)
I remember Papa as a very, very good, kind and empathic man, but he was born in May, under the sign of Gemini, and Mutti always said: He has two souls in his chest, and sometimes this was true. He could be very, very furious, and when he was convinced of a matter, nobody and nothing could bring him off it. Or when he could not stand someone, he showed it and was not very polite. He was also rather jealous, it often bothered my mother.
When he became grandfather (five grandchildren), he also loved them and they loved him.
When he was 72 years old, he had a bad stroke, the whole left side of his body was palsied and he had to suffer for three horrible years, very, very ill. That was not an end he deserved, but we could only be there for him, though the main load rested on my mother. We tried to help her as best as we could, but we had to go to work and I think it was not enough.
He died at 75, peacefully at home, no more pain, no more sorrow.
--- End of guest post ---
I suggested this guest post when on November 19th, the four of us (my parents, my sister and I) met at my parents' and drank a glass of what used to be my grandfather's favourite type of red wine, Trollinger.
My sister and I called him Opa, the usual affectionate German term for grandfather. I remember him as the kindest and best Opa any child could wish for - not once during my childhood did I hear the words "not now" or "I don't have time" from him.
Like my Mum wrote, he could make the prettiest and most delicate things out of wood and metal, and we still own the toy kitchen and shop he made for his own children when they were little, so many years ago.
He also made up stories for me and my sister, often about the stuffed toy animals my grandparents kept in their living room for us so that we could play with them whenever we came visiting (which was often!).
Sometimes we got an incling of what he could be like when his "other soul" took over - a grumpy man whose sharp wit was directed at my grandmother ("Oma") or a particular neighbour he could not stand.
There is loads more I could tell you about Opa, but it would make this post even longer than it already is, and as a regular blog reader myself, I know that it is hard to read overly long posts.
I have added two photographs; since I do not own a scanner, I clumsily took pictures of them with my mobile phone and uploaded them here.