Monday, July 22, 2013

Mark Warren - The Father You Choose (from Esquire)

This is an outstanding piece of writing on one man's discovery of his father . . . after his father had passed away. I say no more than that . . . it's worth your time to read this, both for the father-son story and for the history of the men (and women) who survived WWII. There is also a great subtext in here about what it meant to be a man in 1940s Germany.

The Father You Choose

It wasn't until I met the woman who would become my wife that I met the man who would become my father

By Mark Warren

Published in the August 2013 issue of Esquire

Dieter lay in there somewhere, peacefully turning yellow and gray, his troubles over.

An hour before, the phone had rung. It was Princeton hospital. My mother-in-law was on the line, her voice ragged. She quickly handed the phone to the attending doctor, who told me that my father-in-law was septic, his body run through with infection, that he was having trouble breathing, and without intubation he would die momentarily. "What do you want to do?" the doctor asked me, her voice taut. As my wife, Jessica, and I quickly talked through the options with the doctor, Dieter's heart stopped. "Oh...oh...his heart just stopped," she said. "I'm...I'm sorry."

It is what he would have wanted, for although he'd been an American citizen for decades, he was still German enough to have no patience for the manic clinging to life that happens here, as if the mere beating of a heart made for a life. All the frenzy at the end seemed to him so foolish and undignified. He was a scientist. He wasn't religious. People die. Let them die.

But he wasn't supposed to die yet. He was too needed, too vital at a youthful eighty-two. Jessica was shattered at the suddenness of it all, and so was I. Things hadn't gone so well with my own father, but in life, things happen twice if you're lucky. There's the father you get and the father you choose. When I met Die ter, I understood what I had been missing all those years. I guess you might say that I got to know a father's love for the first time at age thirty. I liked it quite a lot.

It was a Sunday, the last day of September, 2012. We parked under a tree at the hospital, left the dog in the car with all the windows cracked, stretched for a moment from the drive, wiped our faces of the dried tears, and then began the hard walk inside. I tried to make a joke, and we went slowly, as if maybe if we didn't see what waited for us inside, it wouldn't be real. Our son, Zeke, who would turn thirteen in a week, walked with us, still in his soccer clothes from that morning. Zeke plays in goal, and had made three spectacular saves in the day's game. His Opa, who had been everything to him, would have been very proud. I stopped, faced him, put my hands on his shoulders. "Zeke, you don't have to do this," I said. "It might be scary."

"I want to," he said, his face hard. He turned back toward the emergency-room entrance and kept walking. We couldn't be too slow if we wanted to see him before they came and took him away for good. I was very proud of Zeke for braving the unknown like this, but I was a little worried, too. My father had died less than a year before, but he had been an abstract figure to my kids, quite old for all of their lives, quite infirm, rendered opaque by a stroke. But Dieter was the best storyteller in the world, the builder of epic sand castles, expert chess teacher, passionate tennis and soccer fan, fearless guide on many forest adventures and snorkeling expeditions, tender of the goose every Christmas, knew all the birds in the sky. A kind, patient, funny man. Slow to anger, slow to judge. Brilliant smile. Opa was dead.

Nothing of this size had ever happened to Zeke. Nothing had ever been this final before. I tried to explain that it was death that made love possible, that if things lasted forever, then nothing would be as beautiful or meaningful or good. It was a moment that called for fatherly consolation, but to me it just came out sounding like bullshit. This didn't make any more sense to me than it did to Zeke. Instead, I just wanted to cry.

By the time I was my son's age, my brothers and I had been dragged to what seemed like thousands of funerals and death scenes. It's one of the liabilities of having a large family and no money. We never went on vacation, we went to open-casket funerals instead, all horrifying, all accompanied by operatic grief. To see the adults in your life losing their shit was perhaps even more terrifying than being forced to reach up and touch the scaly embalmed hands of grandparents, uncles, aunts, and family friends, which, from my earliest memory, is what we did in my family. I learned the word formaldehyde and what it was used for early on. Luxuriating in death is, or at least was, the southern way. When I was six, a much older cousin, Sara Lee was her name, died or killed herself (I was never quite sure) with a drug overdose in Biloxi, and my parents tossed me in the car and we went. I remember that on the drive from Texas to Mississippi, the radio was full of news that Judy Garland had done the very same thing to herself, on the very same day, and so it seemed to me that bodies were everywhere, and from then on, when I would conjure a picture of Sara Lee in my mind, she would come up as Judy Garland. Nobody back then thought much about having six-year-olds around fresh corpses. No one was to be spared, I guess was the thinking. (Or maybe, more generously, no one was to be excluded.) And as if to be sure that this point was thoroughly made, I got to sleep in Sara Lee's bed on that trip to Biloxi. I remember staring at the ceiling for three straight nights as the wind blew the magnolia shadows back and forth across it.

I didn't want Zeke's last memory of Dieter to be so gothic and terrifying. But then suddenly we were signing in at the front desk and making our way past the nurses' station, where life seemed so very normal. A nurse was eating lunch and casually talking on the phone. People were laughing. Didn't they know what had just happened here? Didn't they realize what a life had just finished?

We met my mother-in-law, Christa, outside Dieter's room. Her shoulders slumped when she saw us, as if she had been holding her breath for a long time. "He looks so beautiful," she said.

And then, there he was.

His skin was smooth and cool as Jessica and I touched him and talked to him. His face was placid. I became aware of a sound I wasn't used to hearing, something between a cry and a wail, and realized it was coming from me. I turned to look for Zeke and saw that he was pressed into the back corner of the small adjoining bathroom, his back turned toward us, as far away as he could get without leaving the room altogether.

Dieter at age seventy-five in Marathon, Texas, and above in 2011, a year before his death.

February 21, 1942

My dear little Dieter,

You too will have earned your own letter as payment for your own long and detailed letter. Although mine won't be as long because I'm so exhausted from today's battalion exercises. Imagine, I wake up every day at 6 am!! Then outside of my room my mount is waiting for me to finish my coffee. I wait for a gigantic crane to pull up and I am attached to a hook and am slowly but surely lifted onto my horse. The stable boy stands at his head and spins the propeller, and soon I am zooming all over the place like a crazy monkey. The whole thing looks like a speeding motorboat, and the snow flies to the sides like in a giant wake. This is how it goes in this godforsaken place until I come upon my company walking in the woods. Naturally, from afar I look like the big bad enemy and the company runs into the woods so as not to be discovered. They are of course horribly afraid of me because I can yell very loud and often run around like a wounded goat-monkey (your mother knows this animal). After I've screamed the whole afternoon away, I turn around and zoom in the same way back to the encampment — in the afternoon I walk over to the barracks and watch them do their studies and do my own work. In between I direct the paper war on my desk, which means that it's far more exhausting than any real war. That's how one day follows another, and every night I discover that my bed is the nicest place of all.

I hear that you are pale and look small and are often tired. Naturally this can't stay like this, you hear me? You have to get more fresh air, instead of always reading. You can't neglect and misuse your body. You'll pay for it later. So be good and live healthily!! Lots of kisses and hugs from your Vati

The soldier was worried about his son. He had been away at war for much of the previous three years, and parenting from the front is rather hard to do. This letter to the boy came from East Prussia, in what is now Poland. Dieter's father, a battalion commander in the German army, wrote home to Berlin every couple of days, full of worry about his oldest son, whom he considered to be too soft. He kept with him a picture of the skinny boy in his lederhosen, beaming with his mother, as evidence that Dieter wasn't developing as he should. All head, no body. But there was only so much he could do, as he had eighteen hundred men under his command and would soon be marching across Belarus into Russia.

His letters home show him to have been whimsical and clever, as well as a fierce German nationalist who viewed the English and French as the enemy and was eager that the German push for the oil of the Caucasus and the breadbasket of the Ukraine be successful. An economist at the Humboldt University in Berlin, Hans Weigmann had lied about his age to join the army at sixteen during World War I and had been held as a French prisoner of war until well after the armistice, an internment that killed thousands of Germans and almost killed him. He would be sickly for the rest of his life from the starvation and forced labor he experienced during that period. But as a veteran and a reservist, Dieter's father was, by the time of Hitler's war, an officer, first serving at the Maginot Line, commanding a heavy-machine-gun company of 150 men, before being asked to join the regimental staff as an adjutant, with the rank of captain. France fell quickly, and his division was moved to eastern Poland as an occupation force. He would spend the next couple of years going back and forth between home in Berlin and Poland, where his unit would prepare for its part in Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia.

Dieter, aged eleven, with his mother in Zakopane, Poland, 1941.

It was from there that he wrote his son, who at twelve had become the man of the house, and his father was certain that he was not up to the task. He spent too much time reading, he spent too much time on the toilet, he wasn't properly tough.

His father, Hans, a captain in the German army, disappeared on the Eastern front in 1944.

Like all boys, Dieter joined the Jungvolk — Hitler Youth — in February 1940, the month after his tenth birthday. And it was only after he excelled and was promoted over the next few years — first to Jungenschaftsführer, then Hordenführer, and finally, on April 20, 1943, Hitler's birthday, to Oberhordenführer — that his father began to recognize the change in his son. In a letter to Dieter's sister, Nati, he allowed himself to imagine the proud moment when he, Hans, would walk through Berlin with Nati on one arm and Dieter, in full Oberhordenführer uniform, on the other.

And it is the uniform that Dieter liked most of all, with its kerchief and its braids, its belt with a knife holder and big buckle, its jagged Siegrune on the armband. Having been born in 1930, Dieter had spent virtually his entire life in Hitler's highly militarized state. In a family book, there is a picture taken in 1934, when he was four. In it, he is in full uniform, saluting, and the caption reads "Soldier Dieter." The biggest disappointment of his life as a young man was that he was too young to join the navy, because it was the naval uniforms that he favored most.

Schooling during these years was irregular. At one point, because of the bombing, Dieter's entire school, students and teachers, left Berlin for Zakopane, in the high Tatra Mountains of Poland, to a school housed in a former tuberculosis sanitorium. The boys would leave there at the start of the Russia campaign for another school in Slovakia, and all schools would close for good in the summer of 1943.

Dieter's family moved around much during these years as well, to escape the enveloping war. With his father gone, Dieter was responsible for moving his sister, mother, and younger brother everywhere they went. Each place they moved would be destroyed in turn. Staying with relatives in Wels, Austria, during an allied air raid, Dieter went on the front porch to watch the bombing and was blown down the stairs into the cellar of the house they were living in. The jolt saved his life, as seconds later the concussion bomb was followed by an incendiary bomb.

Since Dieter's schooling had been interrupted, in Wels his mother hired a Latin tutor for him. The man was so dirty and smelly that Die ter could hardly stand to be around him. And he had fleas. Dieter would come home itching and complaining about the man, but his mother didn't believe him. She went to see for herself, and also came home with fleas. It wasn't until after the war that they realized that the tutor's filth was a ruse to make him seem crazy and keep him out of the fighting.

It was also in Wels that Dieter witnessed his first atrocity. Late in the war, he and his family were living in an apartment house in the town center when a column of Nazi soldiers made its way down the main street, marching Jews westward through the town, from one of the camps the Nazis were evacuating in the east. From the high window of their apartment, the family's housekeeper tossed a loaf of bread down to the street for the prisoners. As Dieter watched, the procession stopped, entered the building, brought the housekeeper downstairs, and executed her on the spot.

In 1944, at age fourteen, Dieter was conscripted into the German army, first as a runner conveying messages between units. During air raids he would dive into craters for cover, next to soldiers deliriously praying the rosary. His next assignment was in a machine-gun unit of the Bavarian ski patrol. As the Americans advanced after D-day, they came upon Dieter's unit and sent a note into the Alps, ordering the boys to surrender. They did, and were set loose to walk home. Along the way, Dieter encountered German soldiers separated from their units, who were taking off their uniforms. They moved through the woods like ghosts. Run, they told him. Disappear. It's over. Arriving back in Wels, Dieter was immediately compelled to reenlist with a group of bitter-enders, who vowed never to stop fighting for the fatherland. But Dieter's mother had had enough. She went and retrieved Dieter from this group, telling the commandant, You have my husband, I need my son.

The irony is that Hans's war might have been over, too, but for a fateful decision. In early 1944, he had returned home from Russia to convalesce from pneumonia. He could have stayed with his family and considered his service completed, but he felt an obligation to the men under his command to return to the front, which he did in the spring. By this time, the German front in the east was collapsing, the Nazis were in full retreat, and his unit was already surrounded by the Russians. To rejoin his battalion, Dieter's father had to fly in across enemy lines. Within a few months, he would disappear and never be heard from again. For decades after the war, Dieter's mother would receive detailed accounts from her husband's men, precisely identifying his last known position and telling of how he covered his battalion's retreat outside Babruysk in Belarus, turning with his officers to walk back toward the advancing Russians as he sent his men in retreat. The last time Dieter saw his father, it had snowed, and as his father walked away from the house for the last time, Dieter gathered a snowball, cocked his arm, and hit him square in the back of his head. His father turned, shook his fist, and was gone.

In the months after the war ended, Dieter took to stealing food to support his mother. He looted the unattended storage depots with throngs of others, looking for anything to eat. He'd find cans of paprika, worthless as food, and once found a fifty-pound bag of sugar, which he struggled to carry on the handlebars of his bicycle, eventually being forced to dump half of it, which was traumatizing, as no one had seen sugar in years. His mother took in laundry from the Americans in exchange for rations, and Die-ter and Nati would scrounge in plowed fields for forgotten potatoes.

In Wels after the war, Dieter and his mother were forced by the allies to clean the nearby concentration camp and see for themselves what the Reich had rendered. By this time, his mother was in a state of nervous collapse, and for the rest of her life (she would live until 1992) would rely on Dieter for emotional stability. At the camp, she was so traumatized by the experience that he had to hold her tightly until she stopped shaking. He would not ever be able to speak to his family about the things he saw there.

With all Germans expelled from Austria, Dieter would make his way back through Germany on foot and in the back of a truck, sitting on an oil drum, watching the shattered continent go by, on his way to find family in a small town on the Baltic coast. There followed a period of years in which he would think deeply about how German society had gone mad, and about how he, although just a boy, had been susceptible to this madness. From his earliest memories, Hitler was all he knew.

"And so when word came that Hitler was dead, I wanted to die, too," he told me once. "It would take a long time for us to realize the horror of what had happened."

In formation (circled) with the Jungvolk — Hitler Youth — Poland, 1941.

The slow reeducation of my father-in-law as he completed his schooling, became a chemist, and, in 1961, came to America to do his postdoctoral studies, would define him for the rest of his life. He would become slow to judge, and slow to anger. Never would he again be subject to the irrational passions of the day. And as Dieter Weigmann became the man who would teach me some of the most important lessons of my life, this is the prism through which I would see him — extremely deliberative, cautious, fair, enlightened. A scientist, a man of reason. Being myself quick to judge, quick to anger, too ready to believe in stupid things, I wanted to be around Dieter on the chance that some of what he had might rub off on me. When I got over my amazement at the essential facts of his life, it would slowly dawn on me that these traits he possessed came to define him not in spite of his experiences but because of them.

For Dieter the war would never be far away for the rest of his life. And he would be vexed by a persistent question: How much of a Nazi had his own father been?

There's Dieter now, sitting in his wingback chair down by the fire, next to the massive ancient cabinet that he uses for storing liquor. He sees me, closes his book, looks over. "Can I interest you in a whiskey?" he says, eyes wide with pleasure. He nods his head as if to say, What'll you have?

The first time I met him was in this room. He was sixty or so then, thick white hair, deep voice, very handsome without a trace of vanity. His English was spoken with a slight accent, as if he had learned to speak it in London. He was loose in his limbs and had an easy grace. I never knew my father to enjoy a whiskey, or a nice fire, or a conversation, or to read a good book, though he would sometimes carry around a small missal in the breast pocket of his shirt. Dad never enjoyed a good laugh, either. I never knew him to turn his head as a beautiful woman walked by.

"How are you, Marcus?" Dieter says as he passes me my drink. It is a simple question, most often not meant to elicit an answer. But Dieter somehow always seems to mean it. "Have you heard from Russ?" Russ is my old friend from Texas, who grew up on the borderland along the Rio Grande, who had over the years become a friend of Dieter's and Christa's, too. We all rafted through the Santa Elena Canyon in the Big Bend together, spending nights camped at the bottom of its sheer fifteen-hundred-foot walls. When you're down there, you're just flecks of stardust in the immense night, and so moved were my in-laws by the blanket of stars you find in remote west Texas that they bought a little adobe house in the Marathon Basin, and before we knew it they were spending half their time in the high desert of my home state.

Out there Dieter was right at home, which is not necessarily the first thing you expect from someone of his accomplishments in Prince-ton. One of the first things I learned about Dieter before we even met was that he was a scientist. "My father is a scientist," Jessica would tell me. Dieter was by then one of the foremost fiber scientists in the world, having won the Olney Medal, which is sort of the Nobel Prize for textile science.

The very next thing I learned about Dieter was to be wary of accepting food from him. If something spoiled in the refrigerator, anybody else in the family would just throw it away, but Dieter would follow right after them, fish it out of the garbage, wash it off, and either eat it himself or feed it to some poor unsuspecting bastard. In this way, a compulsion rooted in horrible wartime privation became a family joke. He would enjoy the joke, too, as he would never think of lecturing us about his hard times. But I have eaten more garbage than I ever meant to, and I have not suffered, which of course instills Dieter's point more than any lecture ever could.

A man doesn't go and announce, I am going to be an example for you, I will show you how to live. He just carries himself through the world. And the most important lessons aren't declared or obvious, but more likely come along in the commonplace.

One time in Marathon, I woke up late, walked out into the backyard, and was immediately hit with an overpowering stench. The sewer pipe had backed up into the yard, and there was Dieter, leaning on a spade, standing ankle deep in shit, laughing.

He saw me, and the look on my face.

In his Jungenschaftsführer uniform, 1942.

"I knew you'd like it!" he said. "You've got to stop and smell the roses sometimes, Marcus." That kind of equanimity was new to me, in terms of fatherly experiences. For my father, this would have been the end, the absolute abyss. Darkness would have descended and never lifted. But when you've already been through the end of the world, not everything is the end of the world.

A few years ago I was working on a book project, and the deadline was crushing me. I hadn't given myself enough time to write, and I was panicking, so I left Jessica and the kids in New York and moved out to Princeton with Dieter for a month, to race the clock. I quickly established a routine of working day and night, and without a word being said, Dieter made himself my twenty-four-hour valet. Every morning as I awoke, he'd bring me a cup of coffee. "Would you like to see the menu?" he'd ask. "Or shall we just have the chef whip up something for you?" If I fell asleep on the couch, he would cover me with a blanket. It was the fall, and every morning he and I would take a walk in the changing colors, and we would talk through the day's writing, and every couple days, Dieter would read pages for me and tell me what he thought.

He knew that I'd given up on my own father, and he looked on me with a kindness for which I was not at all prepared, that it seemed he had been waiting for just this moment to bestow. Sometimes it was almost too much for me to bear. As he made us dinner, he would ask me about my life and say such encouraging things with love and without qualification, and I would look at him and think, Are you real?

Dieter had come to the United States in 1961, telling his family in Europe that he'd be back in two years, but it's just the way of the world that he would stay and raise two American daughters — Jessica and her sister, Stefanie — have American grandchildren, and become an American citizen (at least in part so that he could vote against Ronald Reagan).

Similarly, he began his postdoctoral work at a research institute in Princeton and never left, staying for thirty-five years and becoming one of three senior scientists who ran the institute. When it came time for him to retire, Christa arranged a surprise party for him, and since it was a surprise, Dieter didn't have the chance to prepare anything to say. But at the end of the evening, he stood to address the quiet room. And at the end of his talk, he paused, and began to get emotional. "In closing," he said, "I particularly want to thank Luddy Rebenfeld and Bernie Miller, my Jewish colleagues, who fifteen years after the war welcomed this young German like family. Anyone would have understood if they hadn't done that. But they did. They embraced me. I don't have words to express my gratitude."

It is the great irony of my life that the two essential men in it, my father and my father-in-law, fought against each other in the war. At the end of 1944, at the same time that Dieter manned his machine-gun position in the Alps, my father was at the Battle of the Bulge. It is an even greater irony that the man who would become my father-in-law was on the wrong side. But these two men were on opposite sides of an even larger existential war that rages house to house, family to family, life to life. Each would learn far too young that the world can be exceptionally brutal and utterly indifferent to human suffering. I'll never forget one of the first times they met. It was just after Zeke was born, and my parents came up to meet him. Everyone gathered at the house in Princeton. As my parents arrived, Dieter and Christa greeted them warmly, Dieter shaking my father's hand and embracing my mother. This simple show of affection was too much for my father, by then in his late seventies. He would spend the entire trip saying that he wanted to "punch Dieter's lights out."

Somehow, in spite of it all, Dieter turned the brutality of his early life into its opposite, and created a life of exquisite tenderness. My father would choose instead to — or, more generously, would have no choice but to — pass along the brutality in daily parcels. When my father would make himself an outcast, when he would have everybody wanting to leave him by the side of the road, me most of all, it was Dieter who counseled patience and compassion. "Let it go, Marcus," he'd say. "He's so unhappy that he can't help himself. Don't you be unhappy, too."

Dieter's library and bedroom in Princeton are still filled with books on the Second World War. He became a scholar of its massive movements, its madmen, its heroes, and all its pain and folly. Almost as if to explain himself to himself, almost as if somewhere in all those books, he might find his father.

In the time that I knew him, he set himself to the task of translating the incredible wartime correspondence between his parents — hundreds of letters — from the High German of the Reich into contemporary German. He intended to take the further step of translating them all into English, but he wouldn't live long enough.

May 4, 1942

...I feel physically incredibly healthy and vigorous. My cold has completely disappeared. I find myself mostly in a satisfied disposition, even when I occasionally feel in this bleak landscape an incredible longing for home and to be with you. In the everyday pace here the loathsomeness of war manifests itself with every passing day more distinctly. One hears of hanged or shot Partisans, and in the ranks

of the Jews death strides in, if the accounts are to be believed, a less than pleasing, even a loathsome reality. I cannot go along with that, and find that this will damage the regard for our people....

Hans wrote that letter to Dieter's mother, Jessica's grandmother, Zeke's great-grandmother, on the road between Baranovichi and Barysaw in Belarus. His unit had been on the march to the front since April 9,and, being infantry, Hans would observe, nothing had changed in 150 years — they walked into Russia just like Napoleon, still relying on horses to pull their guns.

Dieter was amazed at the bare fact of this letter's existence — that his father would have risked writing something so potentially perilous, given the strict monitoring of the mails at the time.

In his years of research, Dieter would come to believe that his father, as both an economist and a German nationalist, had been a committed Nazi in that he was a committed socialist, and approved of the vigorous rebuilding of the German economy and state. But it was this letter, in addition to a few others, that gave him some succor that his father wasn't a monster.

He would toil over the letters steadily for a decade or so, until he began to slow a little in the past couple of years, and stacks of them occupied a prominent place on the shelves in the little office he had set up in his bedroom in the house out in the woods in Princeton, next to the books on birds and dogs and sailing and adventure, and the spy novels and biographies and poetry and all the other books and pictures and things that fed an interesting mind.

It was in that room late last summer where he lay propped up on his bed, reading, when I went in to say goodbye, as I was leaving to head back into the city. He closed his book, took off his glasses. By this time, he wasn't getting around easily, and he had very suddenly started looking old. In a month, he would be dead. I leaned down, kissed him on the forehead.

"I love you, Dieter," I said.

"I love you, too, son," he said.

I left Dieter's hospital bed and walked toward Zeke. He was afraid, and who could blame him? He may be five-eight, and this year he will be the same age as Dieter was when he was drafted into the German army, but he is still just a kid. A kid with a deathly fear of zombies who was at that moment seeing his first dead body.

His back turned to me, I wrapped my arms around him. "It's okay, Zeke," I said. "Daddy, I'm all right," he said, fighting to get away. His face was hot and wet. He didn't want me to see that he was crying. I was worried that this was far more gothic than we'd bargained for. Why did we do this?

Slowly, though, after the first wave of blind grief passed, the room changed. The sobbing quieted. The lunatic adults in the room returned to their normal role as Zeke's parents. We sat around the bed, tired now, and started telling stories about the life that had just finished. And then suddenly, there was Zeke, sitting right next to his grandfather.

He leaned in close. "Goodbye, Opa."

That evening, I drove into New York to pick up our daughter, Oona, who is nine. She had been occupied all day at a play date and hadn't yet heard the news. As I told her, she began to cry and immediately said: "Nothing will ever be the same."

The night before had been Oona's birthday sleepover, which had been a lot of fun, but now the frivolity and finality crashed together in her head, and her face was pure anguish. "If I had known that while I was laughing and having fun, Opa was dying, I never would have done it, Daddy!"

Over the next couple of days, Jessica and I both consoled her, telling her that there was no one in all the world who more approved of laughing and having fun than her Opa.

There's a park down the road from the little adobe in Marathon, nestled in the primordial exposed rock of the Ouachita Range. It's called the Post, and the lonely and beautiful stretch of road out to the Post is crawling with wild turkeys and javelinas and the occasional cougar, and from there at night you can see the Milky Way brilliantly. This summer, Dieter will become part of those mountains. It looks nothing at all like Germany.

1 comment:

dl.miley said...

What a beautiful story. So real and touching. It was nice to meet this man in the story, and I would have loved to have met him during his life.