“My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.” Charles Dickens
There lives an evil spirit in us all. It puts fetters on your feet and shackles on your thoughts. It impedes good deeds and wastes precious time, not minutes, hours, or days, but years, decades, even en entire life span. Many have learned to master it, but I am not one of them. For me, it is a monster of titanic strength and insidious cunning. As long as I can remember, I have been struggling with this maleficent force that has been leering at my weaknesses and taunting me from within. Yes, I do admit, I often succumbed to it, but also successfully put up resistance against its crafty attempts to lure me into the swamp of idleness when vigorous action was required. That monster is commonly known as procrastination. It has been working hard to thwart my plan to write a family history.
The project had been on the back burner for almost fifty years. Before we got married, Biene and I decided to prepare an outline of the history of our two families. To keep things simple, we wanted to retrace our roots only as far back as our grandparents. We immediately went to work. Biene asked her mother and other close relatives for information on her family background, while I contacted Uncle Günther, a retired army officer, who was also very interested in the history of the Kegler family, my mother’s branch of the family tree. At first Biene and I were very excited about what we felt would develop into a joyful and rewarding project. It was like creating a symbolic union of our families before becoming husband and wife. However, procrastination reared its ugly head, threw all kinds of obstacles into our path, erected seemingly insurmountable walls, and slyly whispered into our ears, “Postpone, delay, sleep on it. Give it up, it’s too difficult, it can’t be done.”
Indeed the task of just going back two generations proved to be extremely difficult. There were no problems on my mother’s side (Erika Klopp). Uncle Günther had done a thorough job in compiling all data with the usual vital statistics starting with my mother’s parents Carl and Elisabeth Kegler, then giving an account of their six children, three boys and three girls. Four of them married and had children. In the two booklets that he duplicated for his nephews and nieces he went with his descriptions as far back as to the great-grand parents. For each person in the Kegler Clan, my uncle wrote a one-page curriculum vitae with a list of dates as well as of their accomplishments. But on my father’s side (Ernst Klopp) a bewildering picture emerged that was far too sketchy and complex for me, the twenty-two year old young man, to tackle. My grandfather, Peter Friedrich Wilhelm Klopp and his wife Emma had all together sixteen children, of whom my father Ernst was the youngest. Personally I knew only four aunts who were still alive, when the research of our roots began: Alma and Jula in Berlin, and Anna and Meta in Freiburg located at the southwest corner of Germany. Following several massive heart attacks, my father died on February 25th, 1964 in Michelbach, where he was buried. Giving in to the delaying tactics of procrastination, I did not write to those remaining aunts, until they too had passed away and had taken their knowledge with them into the grave.
While I was serving as soldier in the German NATO Forces from 1963 to 1965, Biene and her twin brother Walter were still attending high school and lived with their parents in Velbert near Essen. Biene did not fare much better in her family research. While she made much progress in gathering data about many of her relatives, her efforts to gain detailed information about her sister Elsbeth were completely stymied. Biene’s mother (Elisabeth Panknin) did not wish to share any particulars about her first-born daughter except that she hinted at some tragic event in the distant past. A veil of a secrecy hung over the unwritten story of Biene’s sister, who lived in Gotha in the former German Democratic Republic. So the obstacles that confronted us in our family research appeared insurmountable to us, and the project began to fizzle out and was put on the back burner for almost five decades. You see, there were more important things for us to do, such as getting married, attending university, finding work, and above all raising a family. Five boys were born almost with the precision of an arithmetic progression: Robert (1967), Richard (1969), Anthony (1972), Michael (1974), and Stefan breaking the progression by being born six years later. Providing for their basic needs, food, shelter, education and love, took up all of our energy and time. In short, writing a family history was totally out of the question. But when Stefan left home for his IT training in Calgary, Alberta and I finally retired from my teaching profession in 2001, I thought that now was time to get back to my family research.
However, procrastination threw new obstacles onto the path, which I now thought to be wide open and leading directly to the final goal. It reminded me that I still had so many other important things to do. Its threatening voice from within was loud and clear, “Plant and tend the garden in the spring, mow the lawn at least once a week, don’t forget the garden needs weeding, you must also harvest what you planted in the spring, go huckleberry picking with Biene, in the fall you must gather and split firewood for the long winter months, repair broken-down household appliances, shovel snow from December to February, etc., etc….” I noticed that it was using the stick to intimidate me with that endless array of chores. There was also the softer voice of temptation, “These are your golden years, Peter, enjoy them, catch and live the moment, Carpe Diem! why burden yourself with the past. Participate in the simple pleasures of life, while you still can. Remember, your project was doomed a long time ago, because you lost all your living sources with the death of your aunts, uncles and parents.”
So another twelve years slipped by. The list of activities that filled my days to the brim grew more plentiful with each passing year. When friends and family asked me how I was enjoying my retirement, I replied, “My days aren’t long enough to accommodate all the things I want to do!” On second thought, I should have said more accurately, “My days aren’t long enough to accommodate all the things I should be doing!”