Chapter 25 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part VI

Philosophical Musings on Love, Marriage and Family

Church in Watzenborn-Steinberg
Church in Watzenborn-Steinberg

Now it was my turn to write and lay out my philosophical musings on love, marriage, and family within the context of their place in society. Just like Biene, I allowed my thinking to go far, even taking a fanciful glimpse into a romantic notion of immortality.

          When I think about two people, who love each other, I see two streams that arise from two different springs, wind through narrow ravines and then, free again, pour into a wide valley, sometimes wedged in, sometimes wide, yet steadily growing in power and strength, finally join and from then on flow together towards their goal, the sea. Who can say which is greater, more glorious and more beautiful? Perhaps an onlooker from one region would praise the charm of the first river, while another would be more pleased with the foaming waterfall in a gorge of the second. What the two have in common is not remarkable, because their charm lies in their difference. So it also appears to me between a man and a woman! For with them as well we see their intrinsic value in their being different from each other.

As we both are different and only when united have a common goal, so will different tasks occupy our entire being. Thus, dear Biene, I am certain, you will want to be wife and mother and you will see in this task your greatest and most beautiful role, and I would like to be husband and father and make sure that I put on a solid foundation, what you in your uniqueness will accomplish in the home through love and warmth for husband and children. And should someone ask us about our understanding of equality, we would simply reply that it is respect for each other’s uniqueness. We will then have said much more than if we had spoken longwindedly about the social position of man and woman in the human society. With it we express the idea that we do not wish to distort nature’s laws in our desire to be equal, but in responsibility for each other and for the family we are on par, of equal worth and value.

          Each person, no matter how insignificant and low in the eyes of the world, influences his environment by his very being. His parents care for him and draw him into their thoughts and feelings. And so he also influences their decisions, as long as he in some way depends on them. Because of him they postpone perhaps a vacation trip or even cancel it; because of him there is perhaps a car accident or perhaps not. Few people are connected with him with their decisions, but the few are intertwined in a remarkable way with thousands of other people, who in turn have an impact with their actions on others. Thus, everyone makes a small contribution to the history of mankind. One need not be Caesar, Napoleon or some other great figure to change the world we live in. Everyone does it, whether he is aware of it or not. But it is good to know one’s power to this effect.

A teacher, who is ambitious and uses his subject areas to have good students graduate year after year, can say at the end of his career, ‘My knowledge and my thoughts did not remain buried in books or in my head, but have beneficially spread among so many people. He will be satisfied with his life, and after he will be long gone, his ideas and thoughts mysteriously live on in thousands of minds and produce for a long time to come precious results. Would he not catch through his work a tiny sliver of immortality? I find, if one looks at life that way, the world appears much brighter, even death loses some of its sting. Thoughts, ideas, knowledge are invisible and work in the shadow of the human spirit, until they step forth in action and then, even if it only happens on a small scale, change the world. You may wonder, dear Biene, what I’m driving at. I would like to lead a life with you and be there for you and the family. And that is only possible if I enter a profession, which first of all brings joy to my heart and secondly offers us financial security. Later on in my profession as teacher I hope to positively affect young people and, as much as I can, will follow with great interest their life’s journey. The question will always occupy my mind, ‘What will become of them?’ However, in my work I will never forget the family and leave its care and worry to you alone. You know, dear Biene, I believe that we live on through our children. And even if one day we will have become old and gray, part of us will always carry over to them, our flesh and blood, and after years of nurturing certainly also our way of life. I would like to cling to this idea, which in its realization will bring so much comfort to us, and it is my greatest desire that one day all this will become reality.

Mother
Mother

          Sitting on Mother’s sofa, Biene and I shared these wondrous thoughts that have so prophetically crystallized into words written down in Biene’s special dream book. They were clear and easy to grasp, to which we could attach our hopes. They were destined to be the blueprint for our entire lifespan.

 

Chapter 24 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part IV

The Wall Comes Tumbling Down

Excerpts from our Correspondence Half a Century Ago
Limburg in the Lahn Valley - Photo Credit: Allemagne Romantique
Limburg in the Lahn Valley – Photo Credit: Allemagne Romantique

After the night-long train ride I was physically exhausted, but somehow refreshed in mind and spirit. In the next couple of days I felt like I was riding high above cloud nine.On my walks to the nearby derelict mill the dreary landscape shrouded in dense fog did not conjure up depressive thoughts. On the contrary, I let the new-found tender feelings guide me. I was whistling and singing bold scout and army songs and offered Mother a cheerful good morning, when I arrived at our home’s doorstep. A few days later I received Biene’s letter.

November 16th, 1964

         ” My dear Peter,

I would so much like to ask you: Come back right away and stay with me and no longer depart from me. Alas, I know that it is not possible and that you would come immediately if you could. I felt so miserable, when I walked off the platform. What would I have given to step on the train with you to travel anyplace with you no matter where. I feel so unspeakably lonesome, and the question gives me pain: For what do I live and for whom?  I am so distressed and it hurts me so much in the terrible knowledge that you can only come to go away again and soon forever. Dear Peter, please forgive me. I don’t want to reproach you for anything. With your visit you brought me much joy and you undertook the long, strenuous journey, and yet I am sad and my longing for you is even greater. I would like to love you so much and be with you and make you happy. When I have calmed down a little bit, I will write you again.

          Your Biene”

Meandering Lahn River - Photo Credit: allemagne romantique
Meandering Lahn River – Photo Credit: allemagne romantique

No rhyme nor reason will ever explain why during my reading of her lines a dark cloud would cast a shadow over my entire being. Instead of rejoicing over her letter, I was deeply disturbed, not so much by her pain, suffering and longing for my presence, but rather by my own stubborn refusal to wholeheartedly accept her declaration of love. I was stewing over Biene’s sudden turnaround regarding the wall, which she had erected for whatever reason and which I had so foolishly and cowardly accepted. After I had brought the emotional stew, a mixture of confused anger and painful stubbornness, to the boiling point, I rashly wrote her a response. I told her that I had gotten used to the wall as a sort of protection against another blow of fate. Distrust had entered my heart and I was unwilling to start all over again. I had barely thrown my letter into the mailbox, when I felt sorry. I had a broken a promise I once made to myself, never to reply in haste and thoughtlessness. I was expecting the worst. Within 48 hours her reply arrived in the mail.

Dear Peter,

Something in your letter has frightened me. For I have again recognized how much I had hurt you at the time when it appeared to you as if I wanted to erect a wall between us in order to protect myself against your affection. Oh Peter, believe me that I had never wanted this, instead I had always longed for your affection. Perhaps you had also felt it. For why did you write in spite of everything and were so kind to me? But you are distrustful, because you could never really understand me. Maybe you don’t know or just cannot believe how I cling to you and how much I love you. For the longest time I myself did not think it possible that it is so, and therefore I wanted to warn you in order not to disappoint you; for I really did not know whether I really loved you as much as it seemed. Dear Peter, this is one reason; alas there were also many other reasons, which I cannot so quickly explain to you. Only after you had come to me did I dare to admit how much you mean to me; and now, Peter, I know it for sure. And now it is certainly too late; for you yourself say that you have resigned yourself to the limits of our friendship and no longer have the same longing as before. It oppresses me very much that it no longer means as much to you that I love you, as it would have meant to you before.

And now, when I want to dream something beautiful about us, this thought destroys it: It will not be! How much I wished now you would still dream about us studying together and be together every day. See, dear Peter, such thoughts are entering my mind and many more…

How I’d wish that I could bewitch you and give you a love potion just like it happens in fairy tales so that I won’t lose you…

Your Biene”
 

Castle Lahneck in the Lahn Valley - Photo Credit: wikipedia.org
Castle Lahneck in the Lahn Valley – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

Not waiting for a response from me, she quickly sent another letter making a last ditch effort to save what appeared to have already been lost.

My dear Peter,

Guess Peter, what I did last night. I took all your letters out of the portfolio and read them all once more. Alternately I became quite sad and quite happy. How strangely things have come to pass with us, if I think only about the past year!  In my subconscious I must have always loved you. When I look back, I recognize it, this feeling had to struggle first through much darkness and confusion to the light. And now Peter, it is the most beautiful feeling that I have ever experienced. I believe that if I could really be every minute with you, I would fall apart experiencing so much happiness.

          To you dear Peter, I send a secret Christmas kiss, which you would get under the Christmas tree.

          Your Biene”

After reading Biene’s Christmas letter, the realization hit me with stunning clarity that if I could not see a wall, could not feel a wall, then in all likelihood there wasn’t a wall. Indeed, at the trumpet call of love from deep within her heart the wall had come tumbling down. The dam had been broken, and I found myself swept up by the torrent, against which no further resistance was possible and would have been sheer foolishness. Willingly I went with the flow and felt the tug carrying me unerringly into the direction of my dreams.

Chapter 22 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part X

koblenz-altstadt
City of Koblenz – Photo Credit: Ferienwohnungen.de

Vittorio’s Entanglement in Sex, Love and Marriage

In our room there was a 17-year-old volunteer with the Italian sounding name Vittorio. At this tender age he was the youngest soldier in the signal corps. He had committed himself to a five-year service in the army and was obviously seeking a life long career with the Armed Forces. As a government employee in uniform he had a sizable income at his disposal, which he squandered with his buddies in the local bars and in establishments of questionable reputation. So it was no surprise to any of us in the room that eventually he fell victim to one of the ladies of the night that was plying her trade in the lucrative barracks city of Koblenz. What I found bizarre, even shocking was that he was openly bragging about his amorous adventures with a prostitute, who had apparently singled him out as an easy target. Even the most hardened comrades in our room gave him contemptuous looks when he treated his sordid affair as if it was true love. At the end of a long weekend he felt especially inclined to proclaim from the top of his bunk his progress with the most wonderful woman he had ever met. I wondered how many women he could have possibly met considering that he was only seventeen. A more outspoken roommate asked him in a sarcastic tone, “Are you paying for her services?”

“Not any more than what you would if you took your girlfriend out on a date,” Ramona was quick to reply.

“Well, well, you don’t seem to understand. Let me put the question to you a bit differently. Are you paying to have sex with her?” Everyone in the room was itching to know how the argument about this hot topic would end.

falckenstein-army-barracks-koblenz-casino-falckenstein-kaserne-koblenz-org
Falckenstein Barracks – Photo Credit: casino-falckenstein-kaserne.org

Vittorio was not easily intimidated. He knew how to fight back. He was aware of the saying that a good offense is the best defense. So he countered, “If you were a volunteer soldier and had a tidy income like me, wouldn’t you make her gifts and give her money because you love her?”

I was sure that our roommate must have felt a bit nettled by Vittorio’s suggestion that as a draftee with a mere pocket-money he would be in no position to argue with him on this matter. Unable to respond to this powerful argument, he resorted to the most obscene and offensive language I had ever heard. If this had been the end of the story, I would not have considered it worthy of being part of my autobiography. As a matter of fact, the story was just beginning.

In the weeks that followed Vittorio was getting more and more quiet and was no longer bragging about his most wonderful woman. I thought that he was afraid of our unnamed roommate. But I was wrong.  One Sunday evening he returned much earlier than usual to our room. He appeared to be in a very agitated state of mind. Not caring whether we wanted to listen to him, he started ranting and raving about the woman he once loved so dearly. We were stunned by the complete reversal of his opinion and wondered whether or not we heard him talk about the same woman. His language now was just as crude and offensive as if his antagonistic roommate was still lecturing him on the definition of women of ill repute. He described the most wonderful woman in the world as a crooked slut, who first was content with twenties, then wanted fifties, and now demanded his entire monthly income.

“I am finished with her,” he screamed, “I will not see her again; she is a whore; she can go to HELL!” Then he threw himself on his bed and cried like a little boy that he actually still was.

aaltstadt_koblenz
City of Koblenz – Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org

It was near the end of the summer shortly before my transfer to Marburg, when a woman walked through the barracks gate and requested to see the commanding officer of the second company of the signal corps. The above lieutenant learned that one of his soldiers, Private Vittorio to be exact, was the cause of her being with child. The officer concerned about the honor and respectability of the army in general and of his unit in particular had Private Vittorio called in and confronted him with the woman he had vowed never to see again. The officer after having established the truth of the woman’s claim suggested in unmistakable terms – one might say he decreed that Vittorio marry the woman who was expecting his child. Upon proof of marriage Private Vittorio would receive two weeks of paid leave for their honeymoon.

Vittorio told us later how things had been arranged in the office and that he was going to get married. Having flip-flopped once more he proudly announced that he was the happiest man in the world to have such a wonderful woman for a wife and soon to have a family. His words were gushing out in a sentimental torrent. This time nobody dared to interrupt him; even the quarrelsome roommate kept quiet. Vittorio had chosen a dubious path. I felt pity, even compassion for the young man who had in my opinion such a small chance of success in his upcoming marriage. I never found out what became of him and his wife to be.

Shortly afterwards I was on my way to Marburg. I left Koblenz with mixed feelings. Not aware that with the recommendations from the commanding officer I would soon be teaching again I looked back with regret at the rewarding instructional sessions, which I had enjoyed so much. I would also miss Josef Hegener and our nature excursions into the local hill country . On the other hand I felt relieved to get away from the revolting environment that our room had become of late. Even though I had been open-minded about listening to and jokes, I knew that Vittorio’s story was not a joke. It was a personal tragedy that shocked me to the core. If there was one good thing that came out of this sordid affair, it made me more determined than ever before to seek and strive for a better world. While an ideal by its own definition remains unobtainable, it nevertheless provides a vision and a goal worth aiming for. To the extent we struggle and make the effort to approach the ideal, we define our human character. With a fresh new sense of optimism I was looking forward to spend the remaining 180 days of my army time in Marburg. I promised myself to meet Biene again, as soon as an opportunity would present itself. For me she represented the embodiment of the light and the hope for a better future.

Chapter 22 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part III

A Good Friend’s Advice

 The Klopp Story (Book 1) Continued

starnberg-starberg24-de
Starnberg – Photo Credit: starberg24.de

Gauke and I were dining at the Gasthof zur Post, a small inn not far from the beautiful Starnberg Lake. We savored the tender pork roast served with the traditional dumplings and salad. It was midweek and hardly any tourists ventured out from the big cities to see the lake country in the dead of winter. So we had the cozy dining area all to ourselves in the ideal ambience, where the refreshing Bavarian beer and conversation make a great pair to enhance friendship and companionship. We had decided to accept the captain’s advice and make the best of our remaining time in Bavaria. I was still reeling under the effect of the double whammy of a lost opportunity for advancement in the army and the specter of unrequited love. But the fine food and drink started to ease the tension and made me at least for the moment forget both the headaches and heartaches of the past three weeks. My friend started talking about his sweetheart in a town near Frankfurt, with whom he got together almost every other weekend. The previous summer they had gone on a bicycle tour out from the searing city of concrete and steel. Following the picturesque River Main they found an idyllic spot at one of its tributaries, where they pitched their tent. They had a most wonderful time at the campfire gazing at the stars, listening to the nearby murmuring brook, then huddled together, as the chill of the cloudless night made them seek each other’s warmth. Hearing Gauke so passionately describe his summer weekend with his girlfriend, I almost choked. There was my friend and comrade sitting across from me with a romantic spirit just like me although with one painful difference. What he had so vividly portrayed that I could almost sense their happiness, he had experienced in the real, tangible world in perfect harmony of body and soul. In my dream-like fantasies I had visions of similar experiences. But they were mere figments of my imagination coupled with the hope that somehow or someway, if I waited long enough, they would as if by the stroke of a magic wand become reality.

bayrische-stube-lukullum-de
Bavarian Pub – Photo Credit: lukullum.de

Gauke not knowing the feelings he had stirred up within me kept on talking. “Now, Peter, do you know what the sweetest moment is when I come home on the weekends?” He was so eager to tell that he did not wait for me to answer. “When the train arrives at my hometown just a few minutes before midnight and I step off the train, I see at the end of that long empty platform behind the iron gate my girlfriend with her long black hair fluttering in the night breeze.”

I wanted to shout at him, ‘Stop it! You are torturing me with your romantic talk!’ Instead I quickly grabbed the stein of beer and gulped down the cool liquid in a desperate effort to quell my emotions. As if Gauke had read my mind, he briefly interrupted his ardent story telling and ordered two more mugs of beer. Then perhaps sensing my embarrassment and uneasiness over all this romantic talk he quickly added in conclusion that he was invited to meet her parents this coming weekend and being only an ordinary soldier he was quite a bit nervous about it. I was thankful to Gauke about his tactfulness. For his talk reminded me of everything I had done wrong in my relationship with Biene and it confirmed what Dieter Krug had already stated on our scenic bike tour up the Moselle valley. To capture the affection of a heart and to desire to be loved, the two need to be together to feel each other’s presence and to experience each other through the five senses. This can never happen in and through letters. Remove the sight of your love walking with you on a shady trail on a warm summer day, remove her cheerful laughter, pleasant voice, her songs, remove her touch, a walk with her arm in arm, remove the sweet taste of her kiss, remove the fragrance of her hair and skin, and you will have blocked the gateway to each other’s soul, doomed to wither and die. We had been drinking our beer in silence, when Gauke indicated that now it was my turn to talk. After a long pause I told him that I had nothing to say.

“I noticed that you were writing a novel about her. And you want to tell me that you have nothing to say?” he rebuked and teased me in a jokingly disarming manner. Then he began to extract bit by bit like an experienced lawyer the details of my relationship with Biene and in doing so put them like little pieces in a mosaic clearly before me. He was surprised to hear that I had met her only once; he was even more surprised to hear that I loved her on the basis of mere letters; and he was most surprised to hear that she was engaged to a young man in Holland. He shook his head in utter disbelief. He ordered another beer for us. The he spoke kindly and softly no longer like a lawyer. With his balding head and the concerned looks on his face he actually looked more like a counselor.

“Peter, I urge you. Let go of her. The love you feel for her has no foundation. The love you think she feels for you is not based on reality but comes out of the make-believe world of sentimental novels or movies. Let go of her. You are heading for disaster. A girl who is engaged to marry another cannot possibly love you. And if she does, she is as crazy as you are, and she too will be heading for disaster. As a friend I give you my advice, let go of her, Peter.”

We sat for a while and silently finished our beer. Gauke was sensitive and kind. He did not speak another word. On the way back to the barracks I thanked him for his friendship and told him I would take his advice very seriously. I slept well that night as if a great burden had been taken off my chest. How could I have suffered so much about something that did not exist? With such rhetorical musings I drifted off to sleep.

%d bloggers like this: