A very large group of relatives on my dad's side are departing for Germany where they are meeting up to have a reunion with my dad's side of the family. My grandpa was born in Germany in 1880 and came to the States when he was 25 years old, I believe. He was the eldest and the only one to leave until some time later, the youngest also moved to Iowa. His name was Mark.
Grandpa's family lived in northern Germany around a town called Norden. His brothers and sisters stayed in the area to raise their families. I visited there in 1989 and met so many of them, I barely remember the names. And having a lot of Germany blood flowing through me, I have to say I find the language baffling and difficult to figure out. In this part of Germany, called Ostfriesland, there is a Dutch influence which makes the dialect much easier to figure out....at least relatively speaking.
My grandpa was 75 years old when I was born and was always an old grandpa in my eyes. He used a cane, then a walker, and spent many hours sitting in his chair in the corner of the living room where he could watch out the window. He spoke in a loud voice, possibly because he had lost some hearing while in the Germany army when a cannon went off near him. At least that's the reason I recall being told. He would speak German to my dad and his siblings when he wanted to have a more serious conversation with them. I didn't understand and never learned the language. Our schools taught Spanish.
Grandpa used to sit at the table and eat hard boiled eggs, sliced open and topped with butter, salt and pepper. He smoked a cigar and had a spittoon next to his chair. We thought that was pretty gross, as I recall. My grandma waited on him and always seemed happy. She was his second wife and quite a bit younger. His first wife had died, although I'm not sure when. My two uncles were quite a bit older than my dad and my aunt. In fact, the oldest (Uncle Rudy) married my grandma's sister. We always thought it was funny that our great aunt was also our aunt. My grandpa's sister-in-law was also his daughter-in-law. My dad's aunt was also his sister-in-law. You could go on and on.
I spent time yesterday going through some old photo albums of mine. I got my first camera, a Kodak Instamatic 105, when I was 10 years old. Being now a little old, like 47 years old, the color prints are a bit faded. Being stuck in a photo album didn't help them, but that's what we did. Anyway, I found this photo which is one of my favorites. I used to come home to Iowa for visits after I moved to California in 1974. This photo was during a visit to my grandpa who lived in a nursing home during the last 10 years of his life. It makes me feel good to look at his face and remember his voice. I love that we're holding each other's hand. My sister commented that she likes how he's smiling at me. It's a photo that captured a connection between us. I love it. You were a treasure, Grandpa John.