The Turning Point
In late 1960, shortly before Christmas, a letter from the highest state court arrived at the Panknin residence with the long-awaited good news. Their request for Papa’s pension and the refugee status associated with all the rights and privileges had been granted. However, having battled for seven years with the various government agencies, they had paid a high price. Frau Panknin had been travelling by bus and train to talk to the officials in person. At the same time, Papa Panknin did the massive paperwork to make requests and provide written proof to the authorities. One day, Elisabeth Panknin collapsed from juggling the nerve-wracking travels and her housekeeping chores at home. Papa had to write the Christmas letters to all their relatives and friends, as his wife was too weak to do so. Fortunately, Mutti recovered just in time to prepare the Christmas dinner for the family. After over ten years, they could finally sit down on Christmas Eve and enjoy feasting on a sumptuous goose dinner with all the trimmings.
The celebration of their victorious battle with the West German bureaucracy marked the end of their financial woes. It also turned out to be the end of their workload’s fair and equitable sharing. Up to this point, the couple had performed their domestic and professional duties along traditional lines. Papa, as a police officer, worked under highly stressful conditions under the Nazi regime, while his wife, in charge of their beautiful home, lovingly took care of the children. In those days, it was rare in most societies to have the predefined roles of husband and wife reversed. Today, it is very common, especially in Western societies, for a wife with higher qualifications to go out to work and leave the nurturing of the children to the father. Unfortunately, the basic things of life, such as shelter, food, and transportation, have become so expensive that both need to provide an income to make ends meet. They have to entrust their children to others all too often at an exorbitant price.
Coming back to my father-in-law, I believe that he was so deeply rooted in the culture of a bygone era that he, without any qualms, left the entire burden of the household to his wife while he was experiencing to the fullest extent the joys of early retirement.
More details in the next post …