The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project

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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 II

21

98Mountain

Highway 1 near Banff in the Mid 60’s

Roses and Violets

December 26th Velbert

My dear Peter,

…With mixed feelings, but also in joyful anticipation, I arrived at the Düsseldorf Airport, where my mother, Walter and my friend Ulli received me with roses and violets. I was deeply touched! At home the same warm atmosphere welcomed me, which our apartment is always radiating. And when I then entered my room and found your letter on my desk, it seemed to me as if I had never been away. Yet the exciting new tidings stirred up my emotions. The photo of us in Michelbach rekindled all the memories and let me think of so many things. Only now did my mother notice that the other letter was addressed to her. Oh Peter, you should not have written the letter to my parents. I had wanted to prepare them slowly for everything.¹ I know, Peter, that only out of love to me you wrote the letter, and yet, Peter, you should not have written it. See, Peter, I always told you that my parents are acting out of love, and therefore we must not hurt their feelings. Your words hit my mother hard, because it sounded like hell was awaiting me here at home. In some way you are right, Peter. However, I implore you to apologize to my mother as quickly as possible. I know how proud you are; yet I ask you to do this for the sake of our love. So far my mother has supported our side to the extent that she was even able to change my brother’s mind. He was actually prepared to help us in case I wanted to come to you for a year.

Then Biene wrote that her mother had confided to her the story of a shocking tragedy. Out of religious reason Biene’s mother was not allowed to marry the man she truly loved. Because she was not yet of age, she wanted to force her family to consent to the marriage by having a baby. So Biene’s sister Elsbeth was born out of wedlock. But before she gave birth to the baby girl, her fiancé died in a fatal accident.

Biene also let me know in her letter that she had found employment with the American company Yale and Towne, one of the largest lock manufacturing companies in Europe at the time. She was hired as an office assistant responsible for translating technical documents into English. She had signed a contract for a period of two months with a monthly salary of 450 marks. So she would be able to save up enough money for the flight to Calgary, if her father was not going to provide any financial support. She also added that because of her work she would not be able to write me as often as before. Then she returned to the main issue.

In conclusion I earnestly ask you just one more time to write a nice letter to my parents and also to Walter. Don’t mention much about our plans for the moment. I will prepare them for everything.

In my thoughts I am already living with you, Peter. Don’t lose your confidence in our future.

In love Your Biene

Did you receive my Christmas card, on which I forgot to write By Air?

¹Please note: The sentences highlighted by me  in bold were like red flags in Biene’s otherwise affectionately written letter.

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 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.

 

 

Chapter 34 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part VIII

26
Manchester-england - tourist-destination

Manchester, England – Photo Credit: tourist-destinations.com

Biene’s Last Letter from England

December 10th, 1965 Didsbury

My dear love Peter,

As usual I can just drop a few lines although I am dying to write you all I have on my mind. Your last letter contained quite a lot of exciting news concerning my coming to you in Canada. I feel so relieved that everything is set going for it. I think the conditions are quite sensible and I do agree with them. Peter, imagine we both will get married in less than half a year. On the one hand it seems quite natural to me to get married to you because I cannot imagine another husband for me than you. Yet on the other hand it seems like an unbelievable marvellous wonder, which only happens in dreams and fairy-tales. The thought of it is really overwhelming me with thousands of exciting feelings.

On the 23rd I am flying home. I booked my flight yesterday in town. I am afraid that I will have to face much trouble at home. Yet I feel strong enough to defend my cause. My brother has caused all my relatives to write to me in order to bring me to reason. Are we really that foolish, Peter? I admit that our plans are extraordinary, yet the more I think it over the more I feel that we are doing nothing wrong. I must convince my family! I have so many arguments. But perhaps on both sides the emotional sphere is more powerful than reason, and since strong feelings are involved it will be difficult to come to terms. Oh I really wish I could see clear. At home I will see.

Mrs. Lande often wonders where I get all my patience from and why nothing can shake me and then she says that she really wished to know you because judging from me you must be a really marvellous man to make me always so happy. Do you know Peter that it is about a year ago that I realized how much I am in love with you? It was after the ‘Don Giovanni’ opera, after I had given you the little good luck charm, the magic ‘Glücksbringer’ and after you had left me, and the train had disappeared. I suddenly felt for the first time that I could never live anymore without you loving me. This discovery shook me so very much and stirred up all my feelings and frightened me to such a degree that I was really ill at night and then I wrote to you and then … oh Peter, I sometimes cannot believe that all I had so desperately wished in that night has come true. I do not believe in magic at all, yet you must admit that it was a strange coincidence that I gave you the ‘Glücksbringer’ just on that particular night. 

Yours for ever Gertrud

After this passionately written letter more than two weeks passed until I received a card, which did not even arrive on time for Christmas, because it had been sent by surface mail. But her last letter from England was so heart-warming that its message of courage and love sustained me through the darkest days of the season. In quick succession I jotted down all my thoughts about the best possible strategy for Biene’s handling of parental opposition to our plans. I decided to keep writing in small instalments and wait, until I had received word from Biene before sending off the compiled letters. This method also served to bridge the time. However, as Christmas was drawing near, worries about how Biene was making out in her struggle with her parents occupied my heart and soul. Was it not exactly two years ago that I had worried about losing her forever during the gloomy days in the army? Should it be possible that her parents gain the upper hand? Would they be able to soften her resolve to come and marry me in the spring? With no Christmas greetings from Biene or from her parents the stage was set for the loneliest Christmas of my entire life.

 

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