The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project

Reflections on Life, Family and Community

Category Archives: Autobiography

Chapter 36 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part IV

14
113Mountain

Banff National Park – Mid 1960’s

A Troublesome New Year’s Eve

Then I considered that we originally had promised to wait two or even three years for each other and that only the episode of the engagement ring had rushed us to cut the waiting period down to less than a year. Biene had greatly suffered when she was without any sign of life from me for more than three weeks and had pleaded with me to let her come. I could see now that in my desire, which was just as strong as hers, to be together with her I had foolishly given in, when our future was still uncertain. Thus, the original plan, which was sound and would have given her parents plenty of time to get used to, had been rendered unrealistic and indeed ridiculous in their disapproving eyes. In a flash I felt responsible that my very own weakness had brought about the mess that she was in right now. Angry with myself I considered writing to her parents according to her wish, which she imploringly expressed several times in her letter.

The Chinook winds that had started to blow earlier this evening were now howling at full strength around the building and made the basement window rattle. In the distance a few firecrackers announced the start of the New Year. Lying on my back, while others were celebrating, I composed in my mind the message that was going to bring our derailed original plans back on track. I would apologize to her parents. I would tell the story of her engagement ring and would describe Biene’s desperation, when she did not receive any letter from me for such a long time. I would tell them that she had urged me to let her come to Canada as quickly as possible and that I had agreed on the condition that I would have to be admitted first to the Faculty of Education or have a well paying job. Finally I would kindly propose to her parents that I would wait until the successful completion of my teachers’ training program in exchange for their kind approval of us getting married after I had become a teacher. With these thoughts going through my mind I sat down at the table and feverishly reached out for pen and paper. I was just about to write down the opening sentence, when I suddenly remembered how in anger and frustration I had once reacted by writing a spiteful response to the prospective in-laws, which only served to harden their already inflexible position. No, this time I would sleep on it for a night or two. And if I couldn’t sleep, I would rather suffer through a wakeful night than committing another blunder.

Late in the morning I awoke like from a nightmare. But I was relieved to know that while the letter that I was going to write would have brought complete satisfaction to her parents it would have caused most certainly grief and misery to Biene and to me as well. Who could expect us after all the emotional upheavals we had already gone through to wait another year or even a third year to be reunited? I could see clearly now the trap I would have walked into, out of which there would have been no escape. Wisdom dictated that I waited until I had more information from Germany. Having scored a major victory over myself and restrained my impetuous inclination to surrender to her parents’ wishes, I felt much better and with relative calm resumed my studies the following Monday.

Chapter 36 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part III

29
99Hoodos

Hoodoos above the Bow River

Biene’s Dilemma

It was New Year’s Eve. I kept reading her letter over and over again, but it did not help to calm me down. In fact the turn of events stirred me up more than her brother’s argumentative diatribe in the fall. In my tortured mind I saw everything that deviated from the course of action we had agreed on as a betrayal of our dreams. Through the dark lens in my anguished soul I gazed at gloomy images that made everything she described feel like a bad omen. The heart-warming reception with roses and violets at the airport was for me a well orchestrated attempt to strengthen the threads in the web, out of which Biene would find it difficult to break free. I also found it strange that one letter on her desk turned suddenly into two letters and that her mother would recognize it only now, which was clearly addressed to Frau Elisabeth Panknin. Nor could I understand why my so lovingly written letter could have insulted her so much. It contained only kind words. I admit I did plead with her to let Biene go in peace. But to make this single sentence, which expressed my deepest love and concern for Biene, the actual cause of a complete turnabout in her attitude towards our wedding plans was in my view a travesty of her true intentions.

Ultimately it bothered me the most that Biene told me that because of her new job, which had not even started yet, she would not to find the time to write as often as before. Clearly she wanted to keep me in the dark. That was my painful conclusion. I felt a surge of angry revolt take hold of my heart. I threw myself on my bed and stewed over the new situation for a very long time. There was not a single word about getting married in the spring. On the contrary, in an effort to appease her family she had already made a major concession. She wanted to come for a year to find out if she could stand it to live in Canada. The once comforting words she once wrote from England were beginning to mock me, “Even if you were as poor as a church mouse, I would still come to you, because I love you.” Had our love not been tested enough? Why all of a sudden was there talk about a trial period to see if she could be happy in Canada?

What I did not realize while I was tossing and turning on my bed was that she was confronted with one the greatest dilemmas in her life. On the one side was her mother, who loved her dearly and who did not want her to go away into a distant land, to marry into an uncertain future and become unhappy. On the other side was I, the man, whom she loved and wanted to marry. For her there seemed to be no other way to get out of this conflict than to play a dangerous game of deception. If she had only revealed to me that she needed to keep her mother in the belief that she would be able to retain her independence and freedom, while she was only visiting me until next Christmas, I would have cooperated and she would have spared me the distress I was in. A short message would have sufficed to keep me in the loop. All I needed was a word of reassurance that nothing would change in our plans. But no matter how often I read Biene’s letter, I found no such comfort and I was deeply worried.

Chapter 36 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part I

36
Storm Clouds over the Rocky Mountains

Storm Clouds Gathering over the Rocky Mountains

The Bombshell from Germany

Broken Road

It can be easy
to breeze through life
when you are cruising along
on the wide open, straight path of the highway.

But often times
it is the bumps and dips and obstacles
on the broken roads
that lead to the best and most beautiful things in life.

Quote by kind permission taken from the post “Broken Road” in Jodi’s blog

THE CREATIVE LIFE IN BETWEEN

Disquieting News for Peter

For three months from the time I had written my first letter to Biene’s parents to the moment she had returned to Germany, Biene and I were united by a common goal. We had mutually agreed on the details of a carefully laid out plan. It was simple and straightforward. Biene would come to Canada, marry me within a month or so and would take on together with me the challenging, but rewarding task of building our future together. We both received letters from Germany, which all expressed the same thought, total opposition to a foolish undertaking that would not only make us unhappy, but Biene’s parents as well.

Working together from a common base, even though thousands of miles apart, we fought off any attempt to make us give in to all kinds of threats, financial blackmail, or urgent pleas to come to our senses. The only person who showed some understanding to our plans and had struck a more conciliatory tone was Biene’s mother. But she would only go so far as to make a vague promise to let her daughter go one day. As long as Biene was in England, Biene and I were of one heart and one soul. We were both far removed from the place, where our controversial wedding plans were being challenged and hotly debated. Under the barrage of criticism we suffered together, we responded together and promised each other not to soften our resolve to get married. Above everything else stood out Biene’s urgent plea to set all the wheels in motion for her coming and to tell her what steps she needed to take in her dealings with the Canadian Embassy in Cologne. Then on the 23rd of December after a tearful parting from the Lande family, Biene finally flew home to join her family just in time for Christmas.

In spite of complete lack of communication from her for more than two weeks, I was still feeding on the strength and inspiration of Biene’s comforting last letter from England. However, in my worries about her impending troubles at home I also became increasingly more sensitive and vulnerable, feeling lonely and helpless in the drab and dreary basement room. Three days before New Year’s Eve I finally received her first letter since her arrival in Germany. When I had finished reading it, my hands were trembling, and my heart was pounding. I could not believe what I had just read. I was in such a shock that for the longest time I was unable to think clearly. In a state of utter despair about the events that threatened to derail all our plans I was pacing to and fro on the basement floor not knowing what to do. After I had sufficiently calmed down I reread the letter in search for some comforting clues I might have missed at the first perusal. Like a drowning person who clutches at straws trying to keep afloat I searched for a hint, a hidden meaning, or even the mere absence of an entire sentence that Biene in her own emotional turmoil may have intended to write, but had failed somehow to put it down in writing. But there was none. My devastation was complete.

Chapter 35 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part III

44
UofC1

University of Calgary – Winter 1965

Waiting for a Sign of Life from Biene

During the long wait for Biene’s first letter from Germany I jotted down a few ideas, bits of advice and the latest news from Canada Immigration. I intended to compile my notes and send them to Biene on the first sign of life from her. But there was no sign of life, not even a Christmas card, and I was increasingly getting more worried as the days were dragging on.

December 15 My dear Little Bee, I know, you will experience a hard time when you will have returned to Germany,, and if you don’t mind, please take my advice. There is only one argument in support of your coming to me, which is  that we belong together as husband and wife. No matter what the conditions here in Canada will be at the beginning, no matter how poor the prospects will be for me being  still a student and  having no professional income at all, no matter how insecure the future seems to us or to your parents, the only reason, which remains powerful regardless of all these obstacles, is that we love each other. We are convinced that this love is true and, therefore, all the obstacles can be overcome by the strength of our love in marriage. Consequently, please, when you arrive at home, argue with the sincere and great power of your emotions, because in them you are completely safe. Reason is – in the minds of your brother or your parents – not used to show you the right way to reality, but is a vital instrument for their own emotions. Thus, actually, emotions are fighting against emotions: theirs to hold you back, because they want you to stay, ours to come together and to get married. You must have this in mind, when you come home. For we talk about emotions on both sides, and ours are morally on a higher plane and should, therefore, win the victory. Thus, stand firm on the ground of your emotions and don’t venture out into the field of reason wrapped in the skilfully disguised emotions by your relatives.

December 18th  My dearest Biene! So many exciting news I have for you! Oh Bee, love without being able to love is illness. Believe me, I need your healing presence. I am terribly excited, because my mission is finished on the Canadian side of the ocean. Now it is your turn, brave girl! First of all I have to tell you about the last events at the Calgary Immigration Office. To some extent I feel sorry for your parents. For your time left in Germany must be cut short to a maximum of three months. Here are the details: The officer was a really friendly man and helped me portray our situation in a most positive light. Each aspect of your coming was shown in a favourable light: you had become a stenographer, the money I possess here and in Germany, the money you would probably bring with you, the money I would earn next summer, everything was summed up and spoke in favour of your coming. Even the fact that my brothers and my sister will support us was stated. Finally came the great surprise when the officer asked me, ‘When do you want her to come, in two or four weeks?’ I was struck as by a thunderbolt and answered that I didn’t know that your admission to Canada would go that fast and that I really expected you much later when I would have finished my first university year. The officer was not very pleased to hear that, because all the facts, which we have stated, wouldn’t be up-to-date in May any more. Now listen, dear Sweetheart, we finally compromised on the end of March or beginning of April and he gave me 45 days to marry you.

This will involve a lot of new problems, I suppose, because I didn’t really expect you earlier than May. But actually, the problem starts right here in Canada. For you will have to live at my brother’s and assume a good job, maybe in a household for the beginning, whereas I shall be completely involved in the final exams of the winter term. Thus, it will seem as if you have come into a strange, cold (March, April) and unfriendly country where even your dearest Love will have no time for you. I have to confess to you something; I am even studying on Saturdays and Sundays in order to cope with the requirements of the university. A few hours a week will be all we can spend together till the exams will be over, and our wedding will be only possible four weeks after your arrival maybe with yet unfriendly weather. If you see the hard work at my studies before the exams in terms of love, that is, if you recognize in each hour I spend for the progress of our future my great affection for you, as the warmest kiss would ever show you otherwise, you will have fully understood me.

Dec 26th My dear Sweetheart, I felt a little sad when I got no Christmas greetings from you. I spent Christmas Day with my brother Gerhard and his wife and their little son Wayne. It was really a nice time though I would have preferred to celebrate Christmas with you under a genuine Christmas tree.

I thought it was a good omen to get the final decision concerning your immigration to Canada on Christmas Eve. I enclose this letter to show you how far things have advanced by now. Since I cannot meet you in Montreal because I still study in March and April and I don’t want you to endure the early spring storms on a passenger ship, I would like  you to come by airplane and fly directly to Calgary where I can meet you at the Calgary Airport. Put the most necessary things into your suitcase and all the rest especially heavy things into a wooden crate, which will come by ship and train half a year later. Every travel bureau will advise you what steps to take.

Although I haven’t had any news from you for such a long time, I will no longer wait and send you all my letters off to you.

Hoping that all is well I send you a thousand kisses. Your Peter

Chapter 35 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part II

29
Biene at the Keglers April 65

From Left to Right: Helga Kegler, Aunt Mieze, Mother, Biene, Peter and my Sister Eka –

Waiting for a Sign of Life from Biene

A Unique Kind of Love – Part 2

In April of 1965, Biene’s parents gave her permission to see me one last time, before I emigrated to Canada. It surprised me at the time that they were so generous as to grant her several days to be with me. Later on it dawned on me that they were not counting on our relationship to last with such a long period of separation that lay ahead of us. So a little bit of generosity would help to sweeten for her the farewell, which they expected to be the beginning of the end of her relationship with me.

mill

Old Mill at Watzenborn-Steinberg (Pohlheim) – 1965

Our rendezvous gave us the last opportunity to be close together at my mother’s place, to feel each other’s presence on our walks over the greening fields, and to hold hands while contemplating our future in blissful anticipation in front of the historic mill in Watzenborn-Steinberg. Experiencing the pleasures of an occasional kiss, given shyly, yet so passionately generated a deeply felt longing, which was to colour and penetrate the sentiments in our correspondence  during our year-long separation. But for their ultimate fulfilment these tender feelings had to wait on the back burner of Father Time, while our fervently written letters brought us nearer to each other on a much higher plane than possible in any other way.

When problems suddenly and unexpectedly sprang up from parental opposition to our wedding plans, our love as if by divine order was tested to the very limits and almost to the point of despair. The crisis also brought to light the two different ways of handling a given problematic situation. Biene was always trying to see the other side, feeling empathy even for people who opposed her decisions, and showing flexibility and openness for alternate solutions and compromises. By contrast, guided by a mathematical mind set, I perceived in human relationships the need to connect two events in the shortest possible manner, deciding on a carefully planned course of action, and once perceived as the right path pursuing it tenaciously and yes, I admit, often stubbornly. While each way has its own peculiar strengths and weaknesses, containing a recipe for rocky and often turbulent times to come, the benefits far outweigh the negative aspects.  As it turned out in the end the two opposite characteristics merged in  a complementary fashion to pave the way to a successful marriage.

 

 

Chapter 35 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part I

31

Waiting for a Sign of Life from Biene

“The nature of the epistolary genre was revealed to me: a form of writing devoted to another person. Novels, poems, and so on, were texts into which others were free to enter, or not. Letters, on the other hand, did not exist without the other person, and their very mission, their significance, was the epiphany of the recipient.”
― Amélie Nothomb, Life Form

60

Peter and Biene – On their last Rendezvous in Germany April 1965

A Unique Kind of Love – Part 1

Looking back at our story of over fifty years ago, I do not hesitate one moment to assert that the kind of love between Biene and me, evolving at a snail’s pace over a period of four years has been rather unique among the more common ‘boy-meets-girl’ relationships. Before Biene broke lose from her parental ties and finally joined me in Canada to become my wife, we had met only six times. These were very short visits not longer than half a day for most of our encounters.

In the judgment of society’s accumulated wisdom on love relationships there was not enough time to really get to know each other. The verdict on our chances to succeed would have been abundantly clear. Considering that we did not have the time to test the turbulent waters of a future joint venture such as marriage, our plans to marry would have been declared as doomed to failure right from the very beginning. Being confronted with a seemingly insoluble mystery, one feels compelled to search for an explanation.

My dear readers of the Klopp family blog, who have been following me for quite some time, you already know at least in part the reason for the happy end to our story. Hundreds of letters have been travelling back and forth, first within Germany,  then between Canada and Biene’s hometown, then between Calgary and Didsbury, and last but by no means least again between Canada and Velbert. I published a few of these heart-felt letters to give my readers a sense of the nature of our most unusual epistolary relationship. On my next post I will attempt to throw some light on the manner in which Biene and I differ when confronted with complex issues in a time of crisis.

 

 

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