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

Four Deaths in Four Months

President Kennedy, "Ich bin ein Berliner" - Photo Credit: cnn.com
President Kennedy, “Ich bin ein Berliner” – Photo Credit: cnn.com

But first I had to endure another blow. Death had given me in quick succession several reminders of our transitory life here on earth. On November 22nd at the Maxhof army residence. I was listening to the American Forces Network (AFN Munich). The DJ suddenly interrupted the Country and Western music and after a short pause announced that President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas, Texas. Later that night it was reported that he had died of his gun shot wounds. I was shocked over the news of this tragedy, as I had taken a liking to this great man, for his fortitude to force the Soviet Union to remove their missiles out of Cuba. I liked the way he had publicly committed himself to the security of West Berlin. His famous statement, ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.’ will remain in me for as long as I live. Then in January our staff sergeant Wohl had a fatal accident, when his VW beetle collided with a public transit bus on an icy hillside road in Feldafing. Gauke and I and two other comrades accepted the sad task of becoming his pallbearers. I will never forget the heart-rending sobbing of the widow in the front pew, when the officiating priest addressed her with a few consoling words. A couple of weeks later, almost if death intended to remind me again of its presence, I lent sixty marks to a comrade so he could buy a train ticket to attend his grandmother’s funeral. On the morning of February 26th I was called out of the office to see the captain for an important message. This time Gauke stayed behind at his typewriter, and I went a little puzzled and worried to captain’s office alone. After I sat down, he informed me with genuine regret that my father had died of a massive heart attack during the night of February 25th. The officer granted me a five-day compassionate leave, effective immediately. I was numb. I could not respond with a single word. The captain deliberately ignoring military protocol shook hands with me and spoke kind words of condolences. Only a small number of family members, aunts, Erna’s relatives and friends attended the funeral in Michelbach. I wrote and dedicated a poem to my dad. The poem ended with a line in Latin:

Viventium, non mortuorum misereor.
I mourn the living, not the dead.

Grieving Father’s death and attempting to overcome the blow, I wrote Biene that I needed time to respond to her wish to see me again. It also took me quite an effort not to mention her pen pal from Morocco in my letter. Perhaps I should not have suppressed my feelings. For jealousy although often portrayed as a negative force has its legitimate place. Just as we need fear to protect us from dangerous situations, a small dose of jealousy at the very least reveals that you care and are sincerely concerned about your partner’s affection.

Novella 'Carthage' Dedicated to Biene
Novella ‘Carthage’ Dedicated to Biene

Back at Maxhof I began to edit and to copy in my very best handwriting the novella ‘Carthage’ into a thick green covered notebook. I dedicated the more than 200-page book to Biene. As it was not only a historical novel but also a testimonial of my love to her, it turned out to be quite literally the longest letter I had ever written. More importantly it ended in such a way that Biene herself one day could write the final chapter not as a flowery addition to an imaginary tale, but a true story with Biene and me being the main characters in the real world. At the time of my transfer back to Koblenz I was back home to celebrate my 22nd birthday.  There I mailed the book to Biene, after I had mysteriously hinted in a previous letter that I would be mailing her a very interesting book portraying us as Claudia and Publius. In the accompanying letter I wrote, ‘Dear Biene, you have sensitivity and understanding, Even though in this book everything had happened over two thousand years ago, its content is so current and volatile that I would not dare to show it to anyone but you. Whoever opens his heart is twice as sensitive and vulnerable. You will read many a chapter filled with blood-curdling details about this fateful city. Just remember what happens here in terms of physical suffering and pain is to be understood at the psychological level. I have been writing the novella for a long time. Personal experience and history went hand in hand to create it. The shock I experienced last fall put a sudden end to the story. You will notice that the form of the narrative lost its formal structure and the story ends in a desperate monologue. About some of the things, which I have written, I think differently today. But I have not lost my idealism. I am searching for a world, where I can turn my hopes and aspirations into reality.’  I felt like a general, who in a last-ditch effort committed all his troops and resources and staked everything on one card to win the battle and claim the prize of victory.

Gertrud (Biene) Panknin
Gertrud (Biene) Panknin

Summer 2016 – Part III

Making Room for the New House

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Our Old House before the Demolition

 It all started with a threat, a very serious threat indeed. I still remember the day, when our son Michael dropped in for a quick visit and announced with an authoritative voice, “One day, as soon as I am rich enough to do it, I will come with a giant bulldozer, push your old house into the lake, and have a new one built for you.”

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The metal roof of the mobile home is already taken down.

Of course, at that time, we took his announcement as one of his typical jokes, which revealed in one way or another his hidden criticism of our dilapidated dwelling.

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Levi is taking down the timber piece by piece.

In spite of the modern appearance on the outside, our house had many problems. Too late I had realized that we needed eaves troughs. The water running off the roof penetrated the poorly vented crawling space. The floor joists began to rot. Hard to believe but true, mushrooms grew in great profusion out of the rotting wood and dispersed their harmful spores into our living space. Then roof specialists came into town and offered to the gullible residents of Fauquier Professional services. They replaced our cedar-shingled roof with a convenient metal cover. The only problem was that the ‘specialists’ failed to put tar paper under the tin, the annoying consequence of which was that ice was building up under the cold metal and would melt during the milder days causing water to drip right through the ceiling. To prevent any further damage I placed a fan into the attic and let run all winter to draw out the warm humid air. I could go on and on to describe how the house began to lean, such that following the laws of gravity marbles, even pencils and pens would be rolling off the table, or worse how over the past forty years pests both large and small established permanent residence in and under the house, mice, ants including the much feared carpenter ants, pack rats, raccoons, even skunks, just to name a few of our uninvited visitors.

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Now it’s time to dismantle Biene’s beloved sunroom.

Let us return to Michael, who earlier this year turned his ‘threat’ into reality. Of course, he refrained from dumping our home sweet home into the Arrow Lake. Instead, we needed to dismantle the house – actually two homes, the original building and a double wide mobile home attached the former. To dispose of the doublewide in an environmentally friendly way turned out to be easy. I simply sold it on Facebook and had the new owner agree to remove it at his own expense.

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The sunroom is no more.

The buyer’s helper did a fantastic job of salvaging the tin, the rafters and practically the entire roof over the mobile home. So I approached and offered him all parts of the old house, windows, kitchen counter, water tank, toilet, and even the ancient purple bathtub in exchange for removing and recycling the entire roof with all its timber and insulation. He even took off the vinyl siding most of it undamaged from the walls and will use the material for the house he is planning to build in the near future.

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The metal roof of the old house is gone.

What a way to recycle and to reuse stuff that would have otherwise landed in a landfill!

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Only the walls are still standing.

To be continued …

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.

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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.

Summer 2016 – Part II

Action-packed Visit by our Son Richard and our Grandchildren Mateo, Azure and Emeline

Klopp Family Chart I – IV & V

Richard and his Children Spending Happy Hours at the Beach
Richard and his Children Spending Happy Hours at the Beach

A week after our family reunion on Galiano Island (see previous post) Richard and his children dropped in for a month-long visit. There were many joyful moments, such as horsing around with the grandchildren on our yard and at the beach, picking beans with Azure, appreciating and praising Mateo’s daily progress weeding in the garden, playing board games like Agricola and Settlers of Catan, watching Richard’s creative works of statue building, chatting with our visitors from Montreal, just to name a few of the highlights.

Opa pulling his Granddaughters across our Yard
Opa pulling his Granddaughters across our Yard
Richard and Emeline Relaxing in Mateo's Hammock
Richard and Emeline Relaxing in Mateo’s Hammock
One of many of Richard's Creation at the Beach
One of many of Richard’s Creations at the Beach
All dressed up for the Nakusp Medieval Days
All dressed up for the Nakusp Medieval Days
Splashing Contest with Biene at Taite Creek
Splashing Contest with Biene at Taite Creek
Azure and Emeline Eating a Snack on our Deck
Azure and Emeline Eating a Snack on our Deck
Mateo teaching his sister Azure a Board Game
Mateo teaching his Sister Azure a Board Game

Yet, there were also stressful times caused by the unfortunate timing of the visit that coincided with the impending demolition of our home, which had given us warmth and shelter for the past 40 years. I had to focus on moving furniture into make-shift shelters, and on planning and preparing for the new modular home, which our son Michael had ordered to be built for our golden years.

Biene swimming at an Island Beach
Biene swimming at an Island Beach

When things were at times too hectic and chaotic with the daily household routines, I often took my wife for a canoe ride so we could relax for a couple of hours at a lonely beach of a small island near the Needles ferry terminal.

Back on Track

To all my friends and followers I am sending out my apologies for resuming later than promised my blogging activities. As I am relaxing in the sunshine of a glorious late summer day at our favourite Taite Creek campground on our beautiful Arrow Lake, I am typing up the major themes of the Klopp Family blog for the coming fall and winter.

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Keeping Company with Blue Herons

Before I delve into that I wish to express my sincere regret front having had the time to read and appreciate our posts during the last couple of weeks. The summer months – normally already very busy with travels, visiting family and friends, and activities away from the computer – turned out to be extremely strenuous and stressful this summer, although the events also brought a lot of joy into our hearts. After our family reunion on Galiano Island, our son Richard, our grandson Mateo, and the two granddaughters Azure and Emeline spent their vacation with us in July and August. Unfortunately, this was also the time of preparation for the removal of our old house to be replaced by a new modular home, which our son Michael ordered for us to be built on the site of the demolished house.

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Early Morning Magic at Taite Creek Campground – Photo Credit: Gertrud Klopp

So you know now why I am writing this introductory post at the campsite. For my wife and I are practically homeless for the next couple of weeks and have to make do in our small travel trailer.

For the fall and winter season, I will focus on the following themes:

The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story (continued)

Revamping and Improving the Family Trees

Fauquier – Nature’s Beauty in the West Kootenays (continued)

Fauquier – Its History (continued)

Aunt Anna – Baroness of Von Waldenfels

Local Enterprises and Cottage Industries

Contributions by Family Members in German

Family Review of Summer 2016

Without home access to the Internet I will publish at the beginning just one or two posts per week. I am looking forward to read again all your posts and am really excited to find out what is going on in your part of the world.

Chapter 20 of the P. and G. Klopp Story – Part II

Getting to know my Army Buddies

We did not have much time to really get to know each one another in Room 203. But before we settled down for the first night, I had learned that most of us came from the same region in Northwest Germany. However, nobody came from the same town no matter how big and, as I discovered later, no more than two were high school graduates. It seemed to me that someone in the personnel department had done a good job in creating groups from social and regional backgrounds as diverse as possible. This was to prevent cliques from forming and to promote harmony. The other high school graduate was a violinist . He planned to further his musical talents after his mandatory 18 months by studying at a music conservatory. He had applied for a transfer to the band division of the army before he arrived in Koblenz showing convincingly that regular army service would ruin the dexterity of his delicate fingers needed for becoming an accomplished violinist. I took an instant liking to him and, enthused about his virtuosity, recorded on quiet weekends many of his solo pieces on my tape recorder. Overall the troop in Room 203 fitted nicely together. Perhaps the only thing that made me feel slightly uncomfortable when conversing with my comrades was that in contrast to the heavy Low German accent of the Ruhr industrial area (the Ruhr Pot) I spoke the standard High German, which made me stick out like a sore thumb in the otherwise very congenial group. But that did not seem to bother them in the least. They would often good-naturedly tease me or would say, if they had a problem or question, “Let’s ask the professor. He will know.” In short, I had the good fortune to be among a good bunch of people. And if there was any misery coming our way– to be sure there was going to be lots of it -, it would come from the drill sergeants, whose job was to toughen us up for the tasks ahead.

Old City Center of Koblenz - Photo Credit: wikipedia.org
Koblenz at the Confluence of the rivers Rhine and Moselle – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

At the morning line-up we were standing on the pavement neatly arranged in a triple row from the tallest to the shortest. I occupied a fairly safe position from the critical eyes of the corporals in charge of the inspection. I stood in the third row on the left being one of the tallest in the company. The soldiers in the front row were the most vulnerable to harassment, where a missing button on the uniform, an half-open fly, dirty boots would come under an instant scathing rebuke peppered with such earthy language, were it not delivered half in jest with great exaggeration, it would have scared us right out of our wits. We at the back internally chuckled, when the sergeant noticed that we were not perfectly lined up and scornfully shouted, “You are standing there like the bull pisses!” or at the fly that a soldier had not completely buttoned up, “You pig, it smells like leather around here!” If one had learned to develop a thick skin, these verbal assaults were of little consequence. They simply put you on the alert to make sure that at line-up time you looked prim and proper by military standards. If you were found with dirty boots, the consequences were of a more serious nature. You usually wound up losing a weekend leave over such an outrageous crime against the honor of the army. On rifle inspection days you could expect similar punitive action, if you allowed a few dust particles to settle inside the shiny barrel of you rifle. Comments describing in most hyperbolic terms the lack of care for our most precious weapon were quite common like, “It looks like a herd of elephants has been stomping through your gun barrel!” Finally the captain as if on cue arrived. After his noncommissioned underlings had done the dirty job of whipping us into shape, he could afford to play the nice guy. With his kind, encouraging remarks he radiated the image of a loving surrogate father. He even suggested during one of the assemblies that, if we had a problem, which kind of problem he did not care to specify, his door to his office on the ground floor would always be open to us.

Army Buddies of Room 203 - Peter at Center Back (1963)
Army Buddies of Room 203 – Peter at Center Back, the Violinist at the Far Left

I was always looking forward to the afternoon line-up. Not only did I feel well rested after the noon break and pleasantly drowsy with a nutritious meal in my stomach, but also I was also full of anticipation that there might be a letter from Biene. At least once a week the sergeant would call out my name, and I would happily emerge from the back row to receive my mail. If a red wax seal adorned the backside of the envelope, I knew it was a letter from her. I buried it deep into the side pocket of my army pants, so I could secretly read it during the boring afternoon lessons on the organization and structure of the fifth tank division, to which we belonged.

Gertrud (Biene) with Papa Panknin in the Gruga Park
Gertrud (Biene) with Papa Panknin during a walk in the Gruga Park

There was only one other soldier, who received letters with the same frequency as I did. One evening, when all the other comrades were out for a beer, he proudly showed me the content of his girlfriend’s letter, which I was not in the least interested to see. From the top to the bottom of a piece of foolscap she had written repetitively just one single sentence: I love you. My roommate looked at me with that special kind of vulnerable expectancy that warned me to be careful with my response to this rather bizarre love-letter. He had to share his happiness with someone like me of whom he was almost certain, but not quite certain that I would not mock his tender feelings apparently so out of line with the rough environment of our life in the army. After a long pause of hesitation, which must have heightened the young man’s tension almost to the breaking point, I simply remarked, “A very powerful message!” Of course, I kept Biene’s letter in my pocket, her words were so precious to my heart that I would not have shared it even with any of my best friends. For it contained her responses to the world of thoughts and feelings about each other on a more elevated plane, where the word love had not yet surfaced and its presence could only be fathomed on second and third reading somewhere hidden between the lines.

 

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