We entertained a visit from Eric’s nearing-80 grandparents this weekend. It was spectacular and enlightening. I heard their story in great detail for the first time over beer and soft pretzels.
Opa was 11 when World War II ended. Starting at 17 he worked for three years as an accountant’s apprentice in Germany. He told his mother he was going to France for a soccer tournament, and she signed for his passport at the age of 17. Instead he bought two suitcases and paid $200 to cross the Atlantic and headed for Canada.
Oma’s sister moved to California and soon wrote home saying that she was lonely, and Oma quickly got her mother to sign for her passport so that she could join her sister in America. She boarded a similar ship and also landed in Canada. She stayed there for a while before moving on to America.
Oma and Opa met in Toronto. Opa would pay $0.35 during his time off to spend the day in the movie theater learning English. He was coming out of the theater one night and she was going in, and he stopped her. That was the beginning of everything.
Oma took Opa with her to California. They later decided they weren’t so fond of the ocean, but were surprisingly intrigued by the mountains in Colorado. Opa’s friends didn’t believe that there could be mountains that peaked at over 14,000 feet.
They lived in Denver (paying around $100 a month in rent) before paying $3,400 and becoming the proud owners of not one but TWO properties in Keystone, CO. They would drive up with flood lumber and “pound nails” whenever they could, and soon had built their first house from the ground up.
After all was said and done, they had made it. They had made their own way in life. They created something that they never could have had separately accomplished in Germany.
Life doesn’t have to feel as awful as it seems, even when it seems at its worst. Especially when things seem to be going horribly awry, remember that you are not a child in WWII Germany, and that you don’t have to build your first home by hand in your free time. Appreciate life even in this shitty shitty economy, because you are allowed some of the most spectacular opportunities possible.
Learn something from your grandparents today if possible. They have so much knowledge that you can’t even fathom. Listen and ask questions, and don’t let them stop telling their story.