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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My German Heritage

My father was born in Germany and immigrated to the US with his mother when he was a child. He grew up here, he doesn’t speak German - you would assume he was native born.

Then you get to know him.

I won’t say that my dad actually goose-steps out of bed in the morning (although I do glance at his heels occasionally when he’s being particularly Nazi-like). But from time to time he exhibits characteristics that make me think that there is a reason for stereo-typing.

Punctuality : God help the person that is late or makes him late. You want to go fishing? Then you had better be on that boat at 6am sharp. I have watched my father pace around sighing and huffing at camp as he tries to round up everyone (because it is now 6:01 am) and actually heard him yell “Hurry up and get on this boat so we can go enjoy ourselves! Now!” Yes, hurry up and have fun. That is the German way.

Why Hitler was scary: I don’t recall my father ever hitting me, or really even yelling too much. What he does is look at you. He has pretty, blue eyes. Unless he’s mad at you. Then he has scary, cold, ice blue eyes. And I swear to God they vibrate. He will stare at you, quietly, and then you see this red color creep up from his neck to his face, and then the vein in his temple starts to throb, and still he says nothing. Just looks at you. And then you crack. You will confess to things you never even did and that he could't possibly know about just so he'll stop looking at you. I think he did it periodically just to see what we'd been up to. I’m just saying, if Hitler had a look like that, it’s no wonder he commanded a lot of people.

Over achiever: My 6 year old nephew is one heck of a fisherman. He outcatches most of us. And he does it in spite of the fact that his loving grandfather keeps throwing his fish back. Did you reel in a 22 inch trout? No goot. Back in de vater! Because there’s a 24 inch trout out there. Unfortunately, my poor husband caught his first fish, in fact the only fish he ever caught in his life, while on a boat with my dad. It was a 21 inch trout, which my dad promptly threw back. The only other thing my husband caught that trip was the boat motor. It’s only fitting it was my dad that had to unwind the fishing line off of it.

Engineering – Germans make good engineers. You frequently hear the phrase “German engineering”. They are logical and precise with an eye for detail. My dad can fix anything. He can build anything (he actually is a real engineer). However, he also thinks that if he knows it, it must be common knowledge. He forgets that although he is brilliant, he spawned two daughters who cannot add without a calculator. He takes great pains to try to educate us when he’s fixing things for us. We smile and nod.

Taking the fun out of things : Germans are very good at this. Are you getting your drivers license? Fun! Before you can drive your car you must be able to recognize and label all parts of the engine, be able to change a tire, fix a hose, jump a battery, replace a fuse and recognize various engine noises. Again, very logical, very sensible, very responsible. I just thought driving would be more fun.

I will not wait: This goes hand in hand with the whole punctuality thing. I spent years watching my dad roll his eyes, sigh, and mutter various oaths under his breath while trying to park at stores, wind his way through crowds of people, or sitting in the doctors office. Waiting is not his strong suit.

I thought my father was just an impatient, unreasonable man until one day I was trying to park at WalMart and I couldn’t find a spot and these idiots kept walking in front of my car and some other morons were taking up multiple spaces and so help me if I had to circle this lot one more time… My mother and my stepmother were in the backseat of the car remarking on how like my father I am and snickering. I realized then what a burden he must have been carrying all these years having to live with these people that just don’t understand how difficult and annoying having to deal with the general population is. I never gave him enough credit for being the long suffering, intelligent, rational, reasonable man he is.

I must be German.

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