I am so delighted that my friend Erika Kind agreed to do a guest post for me. I have read and enjoyed hearing of the wonderful, warm relationship she had with her grandfather. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if we all had a person with whom we share unconditional love and the bond that is never broken?
Grandpa and I
My grandfather was born 1927 as the only child of his parents. As far as I know he had a happy childhood. But his good times ended before he was even 20 years old when he was conscripted for WW II. He often told us about the war, his struggles in captivity and starving till he was just skin and bones. My grandfather was Austrian. After Hitler invaded Austria they had to fight for Germany. At the end of the war when all the horrible facts were revealed to the general public, he was shocked to no end to learn what he had been forced to fight for. Due to infections and lack of food, he developed cirrhosis of the liver which eventually killed him. My grandfather was a policeman all his life,. He was living and working in Vienna. Here is a photo of him with his father.
My “Opapa”, as we called him, was a tall, handsome man. He was married twice. His first wife was my mom’s mother. They got divorced when my mother (also an only child) was 11. When I was born, I was his pride and joy. I am sure that we are true soul mates. We had this certain connection. He was a young grandpa at the age of 43. When I was about 5 months old my parents moved with me to another part of the country about 600 km away from Vienna. Afterwards, I only saw my grandfather when he came for vacation for two weeks a year or when we went to Vienna for 3 weeks during the summer break. That’s me and grandpa. My grandfather did everything for me. He always knew how to cheer me up when I was mad or sad. I loved the way of making me laugh, imitating voices and roles of popular comedians. He loved music. We always sang as we walked through the woods. He also kept me entertained imitating instruments like drums and trumpets. He built a huge model railroad layout for me, though it took him years since he could only work on it during his two week vacation with us. Grandpa knew everything about the Austrian history, really EVERYTHING! Whenever we walked around Vienna, went to a museum, or visited a castle or burg, he was like a historic almanac. Of course he not only knew about the historic persons and how everybody was related, but all the data of all happenings. Naturally, I did not appreciate it a bit. As a child or teenager, I did not listen, finding it boring. Only days after he had died, a question about history came up. I reflexively thought I could ask Opapa… and started crying the next moment. During my teenage times I pulled back and didn’t talk a lot. I was in a lot of pain and didn’t let anybody in, not even my grandfather. I know that I was not nice at times and even mean. Grandfather never ever said one single word. He never acted hurt or annoyed. Never! I guess he was the only person in my whole life who never made me feel guilty. He just let me be. Five days before he died he called my mother. I was planning a visit a week later and he wanted to catch up with data. He wasn’t well at that moment and I am pretty sure he knew what was coming. When he called I was waiting for my sister to get ready for our Volleyball practice. We were already late. I did not take the call and just told my mom what to tell him. In the end I could have taken the call because they ended it before I left. I missed my last opportunity to hear his voice. It took me many years to forgive myself for missing this chance. My grandfather died in 1990 at the age of 62. In my mind, I still see his smiling face and his curly grey hair going weird in the wind. I still see the way he was dressed, the way he walked and moved and hear his special laughter. Most of all I still feel his loving spirit!