Chapter 33 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part IV

Walking the Line


Historical Photo of the University of Calgary in the Mid 60’s

After a few sessions in the Calculus Course I realized that I had underestimated the scope and depth of this extremely demanding subject area. I was of the mistaken belief that I could easily sail through its content with a minimum of effort, as the course appeared to be merely a review of what I had already learned at the German high school. Also the lecture hall for the Math 211 students was overcrowded with more than two hundred students in attendance. The course was compulsory for all first-year students in the Departments of Engineering and Education. Then there were the obligatory tutorial classes, which were much smaller and more conducive to the nature of a question-and-answer period. The tutor, a young graduate student by the name of Jenkins, was very keen on telling us off-color jokes and even more questionable mathematical riddles very much to the embarrassment of the female students in the class. When asked to explain how to go about solving a particular math problem, he appeared often evasive and rarely was of any real help to anyone. So we got into the habit of helping each other.

This is how I got to know Brian Fisher, with whom I immediately struck up a friendship that was going to last a lifetime. I helped him to get through the course with a passing grade, while he freed me from my social isolation  His mother was a very caring person. Seeing that I had been on a hunger diet she insisted that I should join the family for Thanksgiving. For the first time in my life I looked at an oven-roasted turkey, smelled the aroma of the carved up slices on my plate that together with the mashed potatoes drenched in mouth watering gravy, the cranberry sauce, and the mix of carrots and peas presented a most wonderful culinary delight. This was truly a treat for someone like me, who out of budgetary constraints was content with a diet alternating between chicken noodle soup on one day and chunky dinner out of a can on the next.

In the meantime the calculus course had become increasingly more difficult. We were now struggling with the concepts of mathematical limits and the first derivative. At the end of the tutorial class a female student intending to become a music teacher approached me rather timidly and asked if I could give her some help with a problem that Mr. Jenkins had been unwilling or unable to explain. Why the curriculum required that primary, music, art and all other teachers not embarking on a career in secondary math had to take this course, I could never figure out. I was able to give her some valuable clues without providing the answer. On the next tutorial class she cheerfully told me that thanks to my help she was able to solve the problem and asked me a little less timidly this time if I could spare a few minutes again after the tutorial to assist her with a question she had some trouble with. As I showed her the steps that would lead her with some work of her own to the answer, I noticed how excited she had become during my lesson. And when I saw her joyfully singing and prancing down the hallway, I realized that she had more on her mind than just receiving extra help from me. So I told her there and then that my fiancée was coming to Canada next spring and that we intended to get married soon after her arrival. Disappointment was written all over her face. But she managed to say, “I am so happy for you two.” I had to repeat the story a few more times during the course of the year, when I felt I was being approached by some other girl with similar intentions. I had no trouble doing so and did it each time I felt in my heart that someone has been trying to cross the line. Before I immigrated to Canada I had often listened to the popular Johnny Cash song ‘I walk the line’ on the American Forces Network in Munich. It has been one of my favourite tunes and lyrics to this very day.

34 thoughts on “Chapter 33 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part IV

  1. I love that song also. And I took calculus in high school and realized that I had hit my limits (no pun intended) with math. There were just three girls in the class and about 15 boys. The boys and teacher (and one of the girls) would tell math jokes–calculus jokes—and the remaining girl and I would sit there completely baffled. Perhaps if one of those boys had been as kind as you were and offered to help, I might have actually taken a math course in college!

    Great story, Peter.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Dear Amy, thank you for your kind and heart-warming words! Math is an exciting subject and Calculus is a challenging subject for the mind. Taught with enthusiasm and proper knowledge on the part of the teacher it can be very enjoyable. I would have helped you, but keep in mind I was walking the line. Haha! Merry Christmas!

      Liked by 1 person

      • LOL! I have a feeling that with the right teacher, I might have enjoyed it. But he was teaching to the top of the class, and I wasn’t there. I never took math again, I am sorry to say. Have a great holiday.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Agree with Amy, Peter. This is a great and heartwarming story, so well written❣️I see it at all for me as if it’s a film (now, wouldn’t that be a good idea?).
    Sending you and your beloved Biene our heartfelt wishes for a Merry Christmas and a healthy, peaceful New Year ❣️🌿❤️🌿🤶🎄🎅 We cross our fingers for your therapy and Siri and Selma sprinkle your path with fairy dust for a speedy recovery.✨🌟💫✨
    See you next year, dear Peter
    The Fab Four of Cley xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never enjoyed math, and don’t much care for TA’s who don’t take their job seriously. But I’m glad to read of students cooperating and helping each other out, and of your sense of honor, and “I walk the line” is a good theme song for all of us.
    I hope you and your family have a nice holiday season. I’m enjoying reading these life-stories. Cheers! RPT

    Liked by 2 people

    • There is only one explanation for you not having enjoyed math. You must have had teachers who did not like math themselves. Thank you for your interest in our story and your kind words! Merry Christmas and all the best wishes for the New Year, Robert!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sehr spannende Erzählung. Deine doppelte Diät rührte mich an: Junk good and nice girls approaching u.
    Interestingly this story is written in an English which I can follow without any difficulties. It appears to me, that you choose to write in a way non-native speakers don’t have to overcome hurdles.
    Danke und beste Grüße!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for your insightful comment, Gerhard! Coming from a German language background my sentences still tend to be a bit too long. Often before publishing I go over my post one more time and chop up the sentences. Readability is the key to good writing. I can see how non-native speakers can profit from a simple (not primitive) style that is akin to the everyday English of the common people. You must be a night owl writing comments at such late hour of the day in Germany. Good night, Gerhard!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Calculous sounds like a a challenge. Especially the young lady with romance on her mind. So good that you got a lifetime friend out of the experience. Students helping each other is so good. Enjoying the story. Merry Christmas to you and Biene and your family!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post as always Peter. Math was never my strength and I stayed away from it as best I could. The tales of your diet in college brought back a few memories of my college days. I use to cook up rice and then mix the rice with chunky soup. I would eat this for weeks at a time. To this day I can’t stand rice. I am looking forward to new post from you in the new year. All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Peter, I agree with almost all the comments reading here. Yes, your story is like watching a film, since I’m a photographer I visualize each of your posted stories about Biene and you. Can’t wait for the story until finally Biene arrives in your arms in Canada. It tremendously saddens me that you have to go through cancer treatments. I understand that this in not the place to share more of your health being, yet I wish you healing and better health. My thoughts will be with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liebe Cornelia, herzlichen Dank für deinen lieben Kommentar! Glaub mir, es bedeutet mir sehr viel, gerade um diese Jahreszeit. Thank you also for visualizing our story as a film that unfolds before your inner eyes! Also your good wishes for my health are very much appreciated, With the support like this I am looking with confidence into the future.


      • Thank you so much for your concern and care about my health, dear Cornelia! I am back in my hotel room awaiting further treatment tomorrow. I am very optimistic that I will recover completely. The hardest thing is to be away from my wife and my family. I will continue with my blogging. Thank you again for your kind words and I wish you a Happy New Year!


  8. How do you call your wife, Peter? Trude? A friend of mine calls his wife also Trude.
    My wife has Gertrud as her second prename. The first one is Christl.

    Yesterday someone estimated my age as 50. Actually I will turn soon 64. Imagine this guy learning that my wife is older than me, with a certain margin
    but she looks my age and in her heart she seems to be 20.
    Greetings to u 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Gerhard, I really like your comment about your wife and presumably you too being young at heart. The realization that the chronological age is not important is the first step toward a proper attitude of life. Too many young people are leading a meaningless life and in a sense are closer to the grave than we are.
      Gertrud has never been called Trude. For outsiders Gertrud is her name, but for family and friends she uses her nickname Biene.
      Guten Rutsch ins Neue Jahr!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. As usual, I read the post and the comments with interest. While I agree with Ankur that the enthusiasm of the teacher is a very important factor in the success of any class, I think there may be limits. For example, I doubt there is a teacher anywhere on the planet who could lead me to an understanding of calculus. I’m afraid math and I have never been able to get along. My brain simply freezes in terror in the mere presence of numbers.

    Liked by 1 person

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