Chapter 29 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part IV

To my dear blogging friends: Summertime activities prevent me from writing comments on your posts. I promise to return to your stories and photos in September. Happy blogging till then!

“Welcome to the Calgary slave market!”

Learning the Difference between Up and Down

 

Calgary Hudson’s Bay Department Store 1965

Leaving the office building, I noticed a commotion at the street corner to the left. Someone near me shouted, “Quick! They are hiring over there.”

I ran as fast as I could to see what was going on. Half a dozen men were standing on the back of a half-ton truck, which was parked at a slant with two wheels on the sidewalk. The brawny looking men apparently were the lucky ones, who had been hired. A short man with the looks of an aggressive army sergeant was carefully examining those left standing on the sidewalk as to their suitability for hard labor. His keen eyes immediately spotted me and noticed that I looked healthy, well fed, and physically fit for the kind of work he had in mind. He merely pointed to the six men on the truck and said, “Up you go!”

In utter surprise by this speedy hiring process all I could do was stammer questions in my peculiar Oxford English mixed in with a strong German accent, “What kind of work is it? What is the pay? Aren’t there papers to be signed?”

Instead of answering my questions he barked, “Do you want a job or not?”

When I climbed onto the truck, he only answered my last question in a vague sort of way, “We will do the paper work later.”

When the man, who turned out to be my future boss, had collected altogether eight strong men, he critically looked them over once more weeding them out in his mind and fired half of them before they even had done any work. I was not among those who had to jump off the truck.

“Welcome to the Calgary slave market!” whispered a husky young fellow with a heavy foreign accent into my ear. I had just become a laborer in the work crew of Milne Construction Limited.

Barely thirty minutes later we arrived at the construction site, where an upscale apartment building was to be encased by a wall of bricks instead of the usual wood panel sidings. Mr. Milne assigned me to the foreman for placement at the site. He was from Yugoslavia, as were most of the steady laborers, who spoke only a few words of English, and therefore, as far as I could see, had been enslaved to provide cheap labor within the narrow confines of a construction company. Two masons were already clamoring for bricks and mortar. It did not take very long to recognize that this was not merely an introduction to my work routine, after which I could go home to have lunch, put some work clothes on and report for work in the afternoon. No, I was expected to start my job immediately and provide mortar and bricks to the impatient looking masons. Apparently my predecessor had been fired or did not show up for work this morning. After I had with the help of a pulley hoisted up a pail of mortar, I picked up the first two bricks with my bare hands and laid them on the heavy board, on which the masons were standing. In no time at all I had figured out the rhythm of providing a pail of mortar followed by twenty or thirty bricks in thirty-minute intervals. By the time lunchtime came around, I was very hungry and thirsty. One mason with a heart seeing that I had nothing to eat threw me a bologna sandwich over to the pile of lumber where I was sitting. I wolfed it down with plenty of water from the tap. He also talked to me in detail of what my job was all about. This was not a union outfit. If I didn’t like it, the only way for me to file a complaint was to quit. Also this was the beginning of a new building project. So at first, work would be relatively easy. But he warned me that once the wall would grow higher, the masons would continue building it at the same pace. That meant only one thing, with all my climbing up the scaffold I would still have to provide the same number of bricks within the same time frame. Mr. Milne came by to tell me that I was hired at $1.80 an hour and could keep it for as long as the masons weren’t complaining about me. That was indeed good news. For the next day I decided to buy some durable work pants and a pair of leather gloves to prevent my hands from bleeding.

Peter during Happier Times in the Canadian Wilderness

A few days later my mason friend entrusted me with the preparation of the mortar. That gave me a little break, because during that time another laborer had to move the bricks to the ever increasing new heights on the scaffolding. I also received my first lesson on the proper use of language on a Canadian construction site. My school English, especially when presented with a strong German accent, would just not do around here. My friend almost had a laughing fit, when he heard me ask, “Sir, shall I fetch a bucket of water and shed it on the mixture to soften the mortar?”

Good-naturedly he replied but with the intent of teaching me a valuable lesson. “Peter, you don’t talk like that. Your Yugoslav coworkers will not understand a single word you saying in your stilted Shakespearian language. This is how you should put it, ‘Hey you! Should I get a pail of water, pour it over this f…g mix, and stir till it turns into that soft sh*t the masons like to work with?’ I got the drift. This was the real world with hardworking people with both feet on the ground without that highfaluting talk raining down from academic ivory towers.

Another time, when the midday heat was almost unbearable, I was dragging two heavy boards up the rickety scaffolding frame. I was standing on the third tier taking a short break to catch my breath. Standing near the new stone wall with its heat radiating back, I was about to lift the boards one level higher into the steel frame above my head, when the boss looked up and to his dismay saw me what he thought to be loafing on the job. Pointing to the load I was carrying, he hollered, “Up!”

Noticing my hesitation to respond to his simple command, he shouted all the louder, “Up!”

What he did not realize at that very moment was that I was engulfed in a state of total confusion. ‘Ab’ means ‘down’ in German. I was thinking, ‘Even if the order makes absolutely no sense at all, I must obey. After all he is the boss. He must have his reasons’. By now the boss was seething with anger about the delay and he screamed at the top of his voice one more time, “Up!”

What happened next, he had not expected at all. “There,’ I cried and let the boards drop to the ground. It turned out that Mr. Milne in spite of his stern, autocratic style also had a sense of humor. He laughed and laughed, as he walked away from the scene of my embarrassment, ordering a little more kindly, “Of course, Peter, it goes without saying, you still have to deliver these boards all the way UP there”, pointing to the masonry people on the fourth level.

The three brother at a pretend poker game

 

 

Chapter 29 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part III

To my dear blogging friends: Summertime activities prevent me from writing comments on your posts. I promise to return to your stories and photos in September. Happy blogging till then!

Splendor of the Rocky Mountains and Disappointment at the Employment Office

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On the weekend before I began to actively look for work, Gerry took his family and me for a ride into the Rocky Mountains. Even though the mountains were partially concealed in a shroud of low clouds and fog, the stark unspoiled beauty of the wild scenery was stunning. Half way up to Banff, Gerry suddenly stopped the car at a viewpoint at Lac des Arcs. There we took a long admiring look at the majestic beauty of the Three Sisters, a trio of peaks in the Rockies named Faith, Charity, and Hope. Then my brother handed me the car keys and encouraged me with his peculiar tone of voice that did not leave much room for refusal, “Now Peter, you drive.”

Except for one day of driving lessons in an army truck I had never sat behind a steering wheel before. I received a one-minute lesson on the use of the power brakes, gas pedal and the simple way of putting the automatic transmission into gear. As it turned out, driving an eight-cylinder American car was a piece of cake. I enjoyed it so much that I did not notice how fast we were going on the four-lane superhighway, until Gerry remarked, “Watch your speed, Peter. For a greenhorn like you this is way too fast.”

          At the gate of the Banff National Park Gerry took over the driving again, and I had time to marvel at the mountains that began to close in on us from either side of the highway. Words cannot describe the splendor of the landscape with its rivers, mountain streams, lakes, and forests. I mailed Biene a booklet about the park, so she would be able to experience vicariously what I had seen with my own eyes.

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Peter at Lac des Arcs – June 1965

          On Monday morning bright and early I joined the ranks of the job seekers at the Canada Employment Office. While waiting in the long line-up for my turn to register, I listened in to the conversations among the men in front of me. What I heard and what little I understood was not very encouraging. The government workers here received daily memos from companies, which were looking for skilled, certificated workers, preferable journeyman ticket holders with years of experience.

          “How would I ever get experience, if nobody hires me?” I heard one man in his thirties complain.

          “They drop your name and application form into a file and tell you that if anything comes up they will notify you. It’s like playing in the Irish Sweepstakes. If you are lucky, they pull your name out of the hat,” said another.

          “Then tell me you know-it-all. Why are you wasting your time here?”

          “Because I sometimes get lucky playing the lottery!” was his smug reply.

          When I had finally advanced to the front desk, I had from all the talking around me the distinct impression that I would be going nowhere with my search for work at least not here, where the only people who had work were the government employees. In a sudden surge of sarcasm I felt that they were being paid for the number of applications they processed in any given day, for shuffling papers from one stack to another, and then burying them in their gigantic filing system, thus squashing the hopes and aspirations of people like me. I filled out the forms that the main clerk had handed to me and filled them out as well as I could. I wondered who would ever find the time to look over the detailed responses we were expected to provide. With a feeling of gloom and doom I stepped out of the Canada employment office into the sweltering heat.

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Happy Family Life at Gerry’s Place in Calgary

 

Chapter 29 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part II

Occupational Dreams and a Trip to the Dairy Queen

Calgary-1960s

Downtown Calgary in the Mid 1960’s

Every morning before breakfast the newspaper boy came by on his bicycle and dropped off the Calgary Herald at the front entrance. Actually he only dropped it off on rainy days, which happened very rarely in this semiarid climate. On all other days he would not even get off his bike. He would grab a paper from his bag and in a precisely calculated arc would land it right in front of the door. Before you knew it, he was already on the way to the next house. Later in the morning, when I granted myself a break from painting Gerry’s house, I would rush into the house and grab the Calgary Herald, which my brothers had left on the kitchen table. There was only one section in which I was really interested. I did not care about local, national or international news. Instead I quickly thumbed through the thirty odd pages of this massive newspaper until I reached the classifieds. There I soon found out what was hot on the job market. Day after day I noticed that there was an incredible teachers’ shortage in the province as evidenced by the large number of teaching positions in practically all subject areas, but especially in math both at the junior and senior high school level. The children of the baby boomers were flooding the school system, while many teachers were retiring.

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Peter’s Nephew Wayne 1965

But I did not ignore the ads from the mining, oil and other resource based companies, which were trying to attract high school graduates offering free training in their respective fields with pay. Reading about all these promising positions was like entering a dream world. In a sense it actually was a dream world, more accurately put a fantasy world. I did not recognize in my unrestrained enthusiasm that it was a long, hard road from the effortless reading of an ad to landing the job of my dreams. I found out much later that the positions had often been filled at the time, when they finally appeared in the newspaper. However, as to the openings in the teaching profession, I had a fairly realistic picture in my mind. I further learned that the farther away one was prepared to move away from the few major cities into isolated areas, where young city slickers would not be eager to live, the greater were the monetary and housing incentives that school boards were willing to offer. It was not uncommon in those days to offer $500 up front for each year a candidate would commit himself to teach with subsidized housing and isolation allowances to sweeten the pot.

Of course, in spite of Biene’s and my agreement we had made with each other to wait for two or even three years, deep inside we were always hoping for a quicker way of getting us two back together again. The first hint that Biene shared the same desire perhaps even more so came when I wrote her that I had almost made a foolish mistake in my career planning by responding to an ad from the IBM Company, which was looking for trainees in the fledgling computer industry. Indeed I felt, I would be the right candidate with my high school diploma and aptitude in math and analytical thinking. From Biene’s reaction expressing regret that I did not commit such foolishness, I could see that she too was counting on a shorter waiting period for our wedding date. In spite of these occasional flights of fancy that I allowed myself to paint a different future for Biene and me in Canada, I squashed any ideas that smacked of immediate gratification with regrets to follow in its footsteps. I realized that I could only be a good husband, father and family man, if I found fulfillment and satisfaction in my professional life. As one Gerry’s friend so correctly once stated, work you enjoy doing is not work at all, rather it could become a source of relaxation and happiness. It was my hope and aspiration that one day teaching would do the same for me, and so also for Biene and the family.

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Peter’s Brother Gerry and his Wife Martha – 1965

One day, after I had finished my paint job to Gerry’s complete satisfaction, he drove the family and me to the nearest Dairy Queen. He mentioned to me that I had a special treat waiting for me. I did not quite understand what he was ordering and wondered as to why he kept repeating the word Sunday. ‘What a strange world, in which one had to order a dairy product two days in advance’, I thought to myself. But then what a delightful surprise it was first for my eyes, then for my taste buds, after Gerry handed me on a large cardboard tray a gorgeous ice cream sundae served with syrup on it, whipped cream, chopped nuts and strawberries! It was truly a heavenly treat, even richer, creamier and more delicious than my grillage torte my mother used to order for my birthday parties in Germany.

Chapter 29 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part I

Chapter 29

Working from the Bottom Up

 

“Without ambition one starts nothing.

Without work one finishes nothing.

The prize will not be sent to you.

You have to win it.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

My First Job

Painting my Brother’s House

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The three Brothers from Left to Right; Peter, Adolf and Gerry

Arriving in the late afternoon at Gerry’s place on Fyffe Road in Calgary, I felt as if I was receiving a warm welcome way back in Germany. Gerry greeted us in German. He introduced me to his wife Martha, who also spoke German  with a strong southern dialect. The only one I could practice my English language skills was their three-old son Wayne. Gerry, always straightforward and forthright, told me that he had some work for me. He wanted me to paint the house, while I was searching and applying for a paying position on the job market. I was eager to get my hands dirty and do something real useful after all this loafing around during the past two weeks. I really surprised him with my cheerful reply, “Why, can I start tomorrow?” Well, it turned that he had to buy paint, brushes and other equipment first, before I could start doing the paint job.

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Gerry and his Beautiful Wife Martha

 

My sister Eka, who had come by train a few days before us, had already run afoul of Gerry’s house rules, not the least of which was that he and Martha alone were in charge of their son’s upbringing. Any criticism no matter how constructive that might seem to be to our sister was therefore not welcome. As I have indicated in previous chapters, as long as I could remember, she was always inclined to speak her mind, indeed a valuable attribute of one’s character. However, when her tongue was faster than her mind that was supposed to control the former, the problem could easily escalate to a downright family feud. Fortunately for her, she soon moved out, as she had found work as a nurse’s aid in a rural hospital in the small prairie town of Bessano 143 km southeast of Calgary. She had found out that recognition of her German qualifications as an RN would depend upon the successful completion of her senior matriculation. So she had a long arduous road ahead. Tenacious and ambitious like all of us Klopp children she went back to school, attended night classes and studied hard to obtain her grade 12 diploma. This was all the more remarkable, as she did not have the advantage of having learned English in school.

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Painting my brother’s house was more involved than I had anticipated. First, I had to sand the old flaky paint off the wood sidings, which was a dusty and laborious task that would take days to complete. While the job was time consuming, standing on a ladder and holding the electric sander above my head to reach the soffit boards was very tiring and not altogether pleasant with paint and dust particles flying into my face. The thought occurred to me that Gerry definitely got his money’s or, more accurately stated, his food’s worth of work out of me. Yet, I was enthusiastic about a job, where one could see its result for years to come. The best part of it was that I could take as many breaks as I felt necessary during which I drank some refreshment, which my sister-in-law so kindly provided from time to time.

Everyone was at work. When Gerry came home from work, he checked the progress I had made during the past eight hours and most of the time commented approvingly on the quality of my workmanship.

On the second week since our arrival in Calgary I was ready to paint. I enjoyed that part the most, because with each passing day the new white color had advanced a noticeable distance on its tour around the house. Not familiar with the use of brush and roller, I stained myself at the beginning with the paint dripping and splattering on my hands, face and clothes. But as my work progressed, I gradually looked more like an experienced painter at the end of the day. By the time June came around I had put on the second and final coat and Gerry’s home turned out to be most beautiful among the bungalows on the Fyffe Road loop.

The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – ChapterXLI

Chapter 41

One more Painful Twist

 

IMG_3558Rose

Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.

Nelson Mandela

Biene’s Father Gets a Stroke

March 17th, 1966 Velbert

My dear Peter,

Today in anticipation of spring the sun was shining its warm rays into our office and distracted me from my work. Herr Richter, a very understanding and capable department head remarked that I was in my thoughts already in Canada. But as brightly the sun may be shining and as much I long to be happy and light-hearted, it does not look as cheerful inside me. My father is very sick. He had suffered a stroke and must get rest for a very long time. I am sure that the excitement about me contributed to his illness, but the main cause was clearly his unhealthy life style. Dear Peter, you can imagine how things are now with me. Now that I can come to you, I cannot stand it here at home anymore. Also the barely concealed accusations that I am responsible for my father’s illness are tormenting me. I had been so happy after my trip to Cologne. Now I feel the full force of despair all over again. After an encouraging and conciliatory talk with my mother I had immediately booked my flight with the travel agency for April 6 to be with you already for Easter. Everything appeared to be so promising and now …  If my father quickly recovers, I will not postpone my flight; for I believe that the tension caused by my planned departure is harming him more than the certainty that I will be going away soon. I believe that it will be a relief for all of us, as hard as it sounds.

You are right, Peter. In England I was much stronger and also much happier. I could concentrate on myself and attempt to be myself, whereas here I am being torn apart by people, who love me, but wish to decide over my life according to their own ideas of happiness. Nobody can imagine that I wish for myself a totally different life and everybody tries to keep me away from my impending disaster. But they have no inkling that this way they make me and themselves unhappy. I know that it is right to come to you, even though many people think it is cruel.

I am looking forward to seeing you and spending the evenings with you in the tiny apartment. We will certainly then forget all the things which have burdened our hearts. And I hope that in your dreams you will no longer have to sleep with other girls.  For me as well temptations have been a constant threat. In England I had my freedom and your love in my heart. That gave me so much strength that I could easily resist the temptations. Even in my dreams I wasn’t searching for a more beautiful reality. Everybody liked me and also everybody knew that I love you. Here at home unfortunately everything is different. I cannot bear it any longer that I must hurt them so much. And yet I love you and I have made my decision. Sometimes I am in a state that I want to numb my senses. But have no fear. I will endure the remaining time I am here.

Now I am almost finished with my letter and have not yet thanked you for your long letter, which gave me a much needed lift. I am happy to hear that you have so much success with your studies. I will make certain that I will not be a distraction to your final exams when I am with you. Now, dear Peter, let us hope that I may soon come to you.

Be now sweetly embraced and kissed

Your Biene

P.S. By the way my inner calendar is very exact. Perhaps it is not good at all to worry so much about it.

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Paving the Way towards a Brighter Future

Peter’s Last Letter before Biene’s Arrival in Canada

March 25th , Calgary

My dear Biene,

I remember very well the time when I wrote you the first long letter. Just like three years ago I am sitting in the warm spring sun and hope that it will bring some warmth into my lines.

Your birthday letter has reopened the locked chambers of my heart with power and might, and a flood of new ideas is pouring out about our near future, our little apartment, our weekends in the city or at the lakes in the mountains. With so much joyful tension and anticipation I can barely concentrate on my studies and I am longing for a break from my intensive work.

Only at night time I am still being plagued by ‘nightmares’, which constantly warn me against the wedding soon to take place. They whisper threateningly that we both don’t have the assurance of the heart to throw ourselves into such an adventure. But in the light of a new day I always return to my confidence and trust. I have been searching deep within me and often discovered that the very weaknesses I had attacked most fiercely in you lie also hidden in me. You were in deep trouble, almost in a state of desperation. There weaknesses emerged in a way that greatly disappointed me. But after some time through self-discovery I was able to understand them. I wished you wouldn’t worry about this my disappointment any more. In the atmosphere, where nobody dictates what our happiness should look like, let us work on the healing of soul, spirit and mind and let us try to overcome our weaknesses.

I am little ashamed that you are a bit afraid of me. Perhaps I have sometimes given you cause for such fear through my seemingly cold behaviour. Perhaps you even believed that your father’s illness could provide the answer to my last urgent question. Now that I did not receive any reply,  I had to assume of course that you are sticking to your original plans. In the meantime your parents will have received my letter, in which in very kind words I have adopted your and your mother’s position and reassured your parents that you would not be in any kind of danger. I hope my letter will contribute to alleviate their fears. I also wrote that I was sorry if they felt insulted by my letter last Christmas. Hopefully you will understand that I could not apologize for what I had written. The strength to overcome my reluctance to write and to fulfill all your wishes came from the returning trust that from now on everything between us will develop normally and we two will forget the ‘sick’ period of the last three months. Should we not learn to trust each other, then spiritually speaking we will have built our relationship on sand and I will have no more hope. I am looking forward to make a little paradise out of our apartment. We will achieve this with love, imagination, and our skilful hands.

Thanks for the many kisses. It’s too bad that I was only allowed to imagine them and did not receive them right away.

Please write when the plane arrives in Calgary, so I can pick you up.

Greetings in love

Your  Peter

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Biene’s Last Letters from Germany

March 26th, Velbert

My dear Peter,

Finally after a long time I have a quiet evening, which I want to devote to you right away. Normally there is always somebody here for a visit, even though I am not always in a sociable frame of mind and would prefer to be alone with my thoughts. Today it snowed so hard and the streets were so slippery that my friend Ulrike, who had come in spite of it all, immediately drove home again.

Now I sit at my desk, on which I had written so many letters. A little oil lamp, which a friend had given to me for my birthday, is spreading a soft light that creates a dreamy atmosphere. And so it also happens that I am playing my opera records. But ‘Don Giovanni’ will come last, when I am already in bed and have switched off the light. You must feel for sure, what I am thinking. Indeed it would be wonderful, if you were with me now. God willing it will not be long until I can come to you. Thank God, my father is on the road of recovery. We all are breathing a sigh of relief.

In the next couple of days I will finally book a flight. Yesterday my passport with all its pertinent papers stamped and cleared ready for the flight came back from Cologne. I am getting more and more excited. Hopefully at least you will stay calm before the exams.

I have to work for another five days. During the last month I have become so accustomed to my work that I thoroughly enjoyed it. This was especially due to the very pleasant department, in which I had been placed. I would really love to work in Calgary at an office of a large company, if that will be possible. Do you think, we will find something suitable?

My dear Peter, how can I possibly control my excitement, until I am with you? I feel it more and more. Dear Peter, I must not carry on thinking of all these things. Otherwise my fantasy will run wild and I will get sick with excitement, Hopefully I can soon pass the exact date of my arrival on to you.

My dear Peter, try also to remain as calm as possible. But I believe, even if I had to travel to the Shah of Persia, I would not be as excited as now at the thought of coming to you.

For now be lovingly embraced by your Biene

March 29th, Velbert

My dear Peter,

Very quickly the most important information! I just returned from the travel agent. The flight is booked and paid for. Next week on Wednesday, April 6th I take off at Düsseldorf at 13 hours and will arrive in Calgary at 22 hours local time.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kind words with the good news in your last letter. I also thank you for writing to my parents. I am so happy about it. Your letter was well received by them. My father is getting better. I just don’t know how to manage to visit your mother in the remaining days. Unfortunately, my parents had also in this regard thrown obstacles in my way …

Dear Peter, although I did not do everything right in your eyes, I ask you for understanding. Unfortunately, it is true that letters can only reflect a fraction of the life and character of a person. Now I have to close and say goodbye.

Pray that all will be well.

Your Biene

The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Chapter XL

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A Young Man’s Anxiety about the Future

“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.”

-Noam Chomsky

Loving the Real Person, not the Fantasy Hero

March 11th, Calgary

My dear Biene,

You know me as a very cautious person, who often perceives the future as more ominous than it is. Yet now I can state with a clear conscience that I will certainly pass all my final exams in April. My academic achievements are already way above the average. In Math I collected so many percentage points that I wouldn’t need to take the final in order to pass the course. The last exam day is April 29th. Now if we were really reasonable, it would be best if you came in May, when all my studies will be over. But my desire is to see you again much sooner. Also I think it to be in our favour if you keep your fingers crossed right here close to me. It will certainly help.

Quite frankly I am getting quite a bit scared. I am really looking forward to your coming, but the burden of new responsibilities gives cause to think about many things. You must understand, Biene, why I had asked so strongly for preparedness for our great adventure. The inner bond between us must rest on solid ground. Biene, it is not the money that bothers me, but the fact as I had said before that you want to go away again, even if only for a short time. I don’t know, Biene. Call it selfishness, if you wish, but I feel it is not right what you have in mind out of love for your mother. Yet, I don’t want to dwell on it any more. I believe that your trip to the Canadian Embassy in Cologne will shed considerable light on this matter. In suspense I am awaiting your answer.

Dear Biene, I believe you that you are wearing my ring. Lately I really had to restrain myself. Often frightening thoughts are surfacing and I don’t know why. So the thought that had been tormenting me in my subconscious suddenly had slipped out. I felt a certain kind of relief afterwards, until I realized that I felt better at your expense and a few days later felt very sorry about this question.

The hero and angel from England will not appear at the Calgary Airport. But I consider myself lucky that the illusion of a superwoman has been taken away from me! Do you not also believe that it is the greatest mistake a man can commit in his ecstasy to no longer see his partner as a human being? I think that life taught me a very valuable lesson in this regard. Dear Biene, take also great care not to see more in me than reality will permit.

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Peter makes a Confession

Believe me, dear Biene, I am a paragon of faithfulness in my outer conduct towards my female fellow students. However, do external actions describe the entire human being? Was I permitted to absorb with burning desire the images of womanly shapes, which enticingly passed by before me in the great lecture hall of the university?  Was it OK to sleep in my dreams with other girls than you alone? Biene, when I thoroughly examine myself and notice in the depth of my inner being the flickering of thousands of secret desires, I must confess that I have betrayed you innumerable times. To admit this dark side to oneself takes a long time. Some, alas too many deny its existence. I don’t know what kind of impression I am making on you now. I don’t know whether you are relieved to hear it or whether you will pass a moral judgment over a completely amoral matter. I said yes to myself and henceforth I am getting along with myself much better. I believe that this attitude is also the precondition to get along with others.

Recently I dreamed about you in my sleep for the first time. I wonder why I did not do this before. After all you and our future have constantly been on my mind with anxious thoughts so much so that I lay awake often for hours after my evening studies. The dream was not something of the past. No, one Saturday morning you entered my room. I threw all my books into a corner. In a long walk we passed wonderful hours ambling through the Calgary Zoo. Finally I woke up caused by the disappointment that you had suddenly disappeared.

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Tackling a Delicate Problem

The Idealist is Voicing his Opinion

Dear Biene, regarding children you found a seemingly good solution by suggesting that we should go and see a doctor together. I would like to broach this hot topic right away. The doctor will help you in no other way than to recommend to you to swallow that notorious pill. Allow me to tell you, dear Biene, why I harbour such a profound resentment against any such plan. Please do not consider me old-fashioned, when I launch an attack against this form of birth control, even though it is being hailed as a great medical success story.

I do not wish to talk about the obvious health related consequences at this time, but more importantly rather discuss the hidden psychological effects on our life together. In my view the interplay between tension and relaxation determines our creativity. Ideas are sparked by the inner tension and within the subsequent state of relaxation rests true happiness. If now by using the pill our relationship deteriorates into something rather common or even vulgar, where inner tension never surfaces and, if it does, is immediately dissolved, then – so it appears to me – our life will taste no better than lukewarm water. Therefore, Biene, let us be ‘old-fashioned’. Watch your internal calendar and if your biological clock is halfway accurate, we will find a useful solution. I strongly believe it would be far better for us to become parents than to lead such a distastefully ordinary life.

As to my studies you should know that I have practically regained the lost  years of my German army time by having started my studies here in Canada. Since I am taking senior courses in German literature, I am ahead of my Canadian fellow students in my academic placement by at least two years. So should I have to interrupt my studies next year, I could already expect to earn a fair teacher’s income.

My dear Biene, should I have used another hurtful word in my letter, please do not be offended, but let your anger burn and your wrath be directed at me.

Always in love with you,

Your Peter

calgary-zoo-L-15

Peter Contemplates a Second Opinion

March 15, 1966 Calgary

My dear Biene,

How I hate this tedious letter writing! What is being revealed in our lines is but a fraction of who we really are. And the long wait makes our hearts heavy and sad.

There are two new developments which I would like to quickly share with you. My kind professor of German literature spent two hours to discuss our problems with me in his office. For the beginning of our married life Dr. Cardinal advised against my idealistic plan of getting by without any form of birth control. He acknowledges the same danger I described to you, the danger of a shallow life style, followed later by  a complete disinterest in raising a family. Yet, according to him, this problem is more characteristic of the common person of vulgar disposition totally immersed in the pursuit of pleasure.

My professor believes that you and I have sufficient moral backbone to return to our ideals, when we will have acquired a solid financial base for raising a family. We should not shy away from taking advantage of what modern medical science can offer us. On such a complex and difficult issue I think I will have to sleep on it for a while.

Dr, Cardinal expressed his envy in a good-natured way for our happiness. He said that he regrets that he married so late and had listened to his mother. Her opinion was that at the age of 23 he was still too immature to get married.

He also believes that it is sometimes necessary to foster illusions with your parents to alleviate the pain of the final farewell. In that sense he is partly in agreement with you and even justifies your actions. As you can see, Dr. Cardinal has been like a father to me. He asked me to pass on his kindest regards and he is looking forward to meeting you.

Now quickly to the second news item: I have been very busy looking for a small apartment for us. I found out that the Italian family upstairs will be moving out soon. I had a good look at the apartment and immediately fell in love with it. Mind you, it has not been painted for years, but I saw the potential of what we could do with it. The rent is only $55. It is like a large doll house, but large enough for two people. There is also a basement suite available in the neighbourhood, which I will have to check out in the next couple of days. As you can see, I have been busy in the search of a more pleasant living space for the two of us. If only the dumb thoughts and worries about our future would leave me alone!

Always in love with you! Your Peter