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Opa, 66, with his daschund (Cherry) in 1973

Opa, 66, with his Daschund (Cherry) in 1973.

Opa (my paternal grandfather) became a father at 27 years old when Dad was born on June 28, 1934.

Born in 1907, Opa lived through two world wars and the depression. Over the years, Dad told me many stories of his childhood growing up in Berlin, Germany.

Like the time he stole a horse from the Russians so that his family and neighbours could eat meat.

And the time he and his teenaged buddies lifted a Volkswagen over the owners fenced-in yard with a small gate – too small to drive a car through!

But I know very little about Opa. I know that he was raised by his aunt, and that he may not have known some of his siblings.

And once when Dad was in elementary school, he wet his pants in class because the teacher wouldn’t let him go to the bathroom. Opa went to the school the next day to talk to the teacher. Dad never knew what Opa had said, but the teacher told Dad that day that if he ever needed to go to the bathroom, he had permission to just go, didn’t even have to raise his hand to ask.

I know that Opa was athletic and participated in track and field. I know from our visits to Germany as a family, that Opa struggled with alcohol and by the time he was a senior, a half bottle of beer was enough to do him in. Yet even at a ripe old age, Opa could still walk up the stairs on his hands.

Opa passed away on June 28, 1987 (My Dad’s 53rd birthday). Opa had suffered a stroke on a Thursday. Dad booked the earliest flight he could get but unfortunately Opa passed away around the same time Dad’s plane landed in Berlin that Sunday.

I remember when Dad phoned to tell me Opa was dead. He was so calm on the phone, so matter-of-fact. I, on the other hand, burst into tears. Dad tried to console me. When I composed myself, it dawned on me to ask Dad how he was doing and comment on how awful it must be that his father died on his birthday. “I’m fine. Everyone dies eventually Diana. I’m ok.”

On June 28, 2012, I happened to be back east at my parent’s place for Dad’s 78th Birthday. We were talking about this and that when suddenly out of nowhere, Dad with glistening eyes said, “It’s 25 years ago today that my father died.”

I touched Dad’s arm.

What could I say?

Maybe you never quite get over the death of your father.

I get that now.