Biene’s Flight to Canada
1 a journey made through the air, especially a scheduled journey made by an airline
2 the action of fleeing, such as flight from turmoil
The New Oxford American Dictionary”
A Very Peculiar Itinerary
On April 6, 1966 Biene’s best friend Ulli pulled up her Mercedes at Elisabeth Street 9 to pick up Biene and her mother and drive them to the Düsseldorf Airport. Having taken the passenger liner Ryndam the year before, I was unable to give Biene any advice on the best possible airline route from Germany to Calgary. The Frankfurt International Airport would have been a better choice. For it was then and still is one of the busiest travel centres with non-stop flights to all major destinations including Calgary. As it turned out, Biene’s odyssey with two stop-overs, one in Paris, the other one in Montreal, was going to be the last endurance test on her patience, which had already been stretched to the limit of her strength during the past twelve months.
After the final farewell and one last appeal from her mother to keep her independence (meaning not to get married), Biene stepped onto the regional plane to Paris. She was travelling light, although in those days airlines were far more generous than today with the weight of your luggage. Her suitcase contained only the most essential articles of clothing and personal effects. Perhaps her mother perceived it as a hopeful sign. The sweet illusive prospect of having her daughter back by Christmas had made her departure a little easier to bear.
In the late afternoon, Montreal time, Biene had just made herself comfortable at the window seat on the plane bound for Calgary. Tired and a bit exhausted from the long journey across the Atlantic and the tedious passport control by Immigration Canada, she let her thoughts and feelings dwell on the joyful moment awaiting her at the Calgary Airport and on the time together with me in our humble basement suite. She could barely contain her excitement mixed in with the fear of the man whom she only knew, except for a very few visits, through their three years of correspondence. Yet, it was a pleasant fear, as she described it in one of her last letters to me. She managed to calm herself knowing that the love she felt for me would overcome all fear.
Suddenly an announcement over the intercom brought her back to the immediate presence. In a calm and reassuring tone the pilot explained that due to some engine problems he would have to fly back to Montreal. When Biene looked outside, her eyes became glued in horror to the engine on the left wing. A trail of thick smoke was pouring from the defective engine. Fortunately, a short time later the plane landed safely, but caused a two-hour delay for the passengers on their flight to Calgary.
In the meantime my brother Gerry (Gerhard) and I were getting ready to pick up Biene at the airport. The Chinook winds, which had brought spring-like weather to the city of Calgary less than a week ago, now yielded to the cold front chilling to the bones everyone who was foolish enough to venture outdoors. I was grateful to my brother and his wife Martha for providing accommodation for Biene until the time of the wedding. Biene seemed to have forgotten that this arrangement was part of the conditions we had to fulfill for getting her landed immigrant status. ‘Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis.’ Times are a-changing and liberally minded people may scratch their heads nowadays and ponder in mockery and disbelief over this old-fashioned provision by Canada Immigration of the 1960’s.
At the airport we found out to our great dismay that Biene’s plane was delayed by two hours. I admired Gerry’s patience for having to wait that long before he could drive back to his home in southeast Calgary. This being Wednesday he had to work the next day. And I had a psychology lecture to attend in the morning. Shortly after midnight we were standing at the gate, through which the first bunch of travellers were passing and were being received with cheerful hellos from friends and relatives. As their number dwindled to a trickle and the flight attendants were marching through the gate, Gerry noticed the grave expression on my face and in his own peculiar way to cheer me up remarked matter-of-factly, “Don’t worry, Peter. Biene is not coming.”
He had barely finished teasing me, when a figure, rather slim and bundled up in a black coat emerged all alone in the doorway. The fluorescent light gave her a pale appearance. But her smile upon seeing me was unmistakably Biene’s. Weaving our way through the remaining stragglers we approached each other faster and faster like driven by powerful magnets feeling the overwhelming forces of attraction every step of the way. Then we embraced and kissed each other, while Gerry looked on amazed at the sheer length of time we took just to say hello.
So it came to pass that exactly one year after we had kissed each other good-bye in Germany, Biene and I were wondrously reunited at the Calgary Airport.
End of Book I