Am I too harsh?

“Am I too harsh?”  I sometimes ask myself.  I’m a pads brat.  I’ve worn the Queen’s uniform myself.  I can do touchy-feely.  For a while.  And then I try to move on from moaning about the problem to resolving the problem.  I’m by no means a Marxist, but I do like his assertion:

“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point is to change it.”

I suppose my slogan would be in German:

“Meckern, und dann machen.”

(“Moan, and then do [something about it].”)

Today’s poser is this.

Jasna is a friend of mine.  She’s nearly 50 and works in education.  Her son is 21 and in his final year at university, reading Business Studies.  Personally, I think he’s more a creative type, and would have perhaps been more suited to a course such as drama or music.  But that’s his choice.

This academic year, son, has been coming back home almost every single weekend and often not going back to university, two hours away by train, until the Tuesday.  Weekends at home seem to be spent in bed, sleeping, on the living room sofa, snoozing, in the same clothes, four days flat.  His bath towel remains clean and dry – because he doesn’t shower.  It would barely be an exaggeration to say you smell him before you see him.  He and personal hygiene seem to be estranged from one another.

How does mum, Jasna, feel about it?  Recently she let off steam to me.

  • She was fed-up of him being at home, getting under her feet.
  • He was grabbing all the good food at home, from fridge, freezer, cupboards, you name it.
  • He was making the whole house stink.
  • He was rattling on to her about his pretty problems at university.
  • She couldn’t have the house to herself while he was there. She was desperately needing her “me-time.”

He came back yet again “just for the weekend.”   (Just fancy that.)

On Monday evening (much as I had anticipated) he was still home.  (He “didn’t have any lectures till Tuesday afternoon.”)

On Tuesday evening he was still at home.  The Tuesday afternoon lecture “wasn’t that important.”

On Wednesday evening…

On Thursday evening…

Each evening Jasna was expressing her frustration that son had not gone back to university.

Uncle Ginge tried to analyse.

  • Does he actually have any friends at university? Most finalists prefer being at university with their mates, rather than with their parents, cramping their style.
  • Actually, no he doesn’t. He’s a constant cadger (borrower).  “Oh dear, I seem to have left my wallet at home” is his regular comment when it comes to his round down the student union bar.

On Saturday evening – guess what, son was still at home.  Jasna was still letting off steam to me.  But “he’s definitely going back tomorrow.”  Er, right…

Sunday evening Facebook check-in:

Watching film at Super Deluxe Fleapit cinema in Ridsville – with (son).

Pardon?  My jaw drops.  What?  Ah, hang on, this is typical of Jasna.  She sends out mixed signals to her son.  I knew on Monday that he would still be at home a week after coming home.

Jasna changes her story from “He’s getting under my feet, he’s driving me up the wall.”

  • He’s been depressed.
  • He’s been an emotional support to me.
  • He cooked dinner for his sister on Wednesday.
  • He paid for the trip to the cinema tonight.

Jasna sends me a dissertation via WhatsApp.

Message after message after message after message…

He’s definitely going back tomorrow – tomorrow evening – if hubby will drive him back.

The Whatsapp messages keep coming through.

I resolve to: go for a shower, put the rubbish out, make a couple of phone calls, alphabetise my CD collection, clip my toenails, clear a paper jam from my printer…

  • Beep, another WhatsApp message.
  • Beep, another one…
  • Beep, you guessed it, yet another…

In the end – I respond.

“Is it your son’s job to be your emotional support worker?   You said he was depressed.  Oh, his GP said he isn’t depressed?  Shouldn’t he be back at university in the academic environment, in his ‘office’, studying in the library, meeting his mates (if he has any) down the union bar, working out down the gym, keeping himself doing purposeful activity (such as showering)?”

Then we get to the “money shot.”

“But, Ginge in Germany, you don’t understand, because you are not a parent.”

Of course.  I should have realised.  What a fool I am!  All my time as a teacher, uncle, etc, has proven useless.  I am just being too harsh on Jasna’s son.  When will I ever learn?

Have a lenient day, won’t you!

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Singalongasov

An inspecting commission came to a lunatics asylum. To greet them, a choir of the patients sang a song from a popular movie that says “Oh, how good it is to live in the Soviet land!”
The commission noticed that one of the men did not sing.

“Why are you not singing?”

“I’m not crazy, I’m a nurse here.”

Have a choral day, won’t you!

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Photo by Blue Ox Studio on Pexels.com

Classmates Reunion Part 1

Is the answer 42?  No.  In this case it is 41: 41 year since Grasshopper and I last saw each other, when we were cute little pads brats classmates at a British primary school near the East German border.

Praise be to Facebook!  Nearly ten years ago, Grasshopper and I got in touch after I had shared a 1977 class photo on our dads’ old comrades Facebook page.  Then there was the Big C Diagnosis on the last Wednesday of October 2017, since when Grasshopper and I have often chewed the cud, and bombarded each other with jokes and internet memes via Whatsapp.

Fast-forward to last Friday.  Too idle to take the bus from my flat to DUS airport, I take a taxi.  Having a bit of time to kill, I set up “office” at the ultra-modern McDonalds.  The day gets off to a good start.  Plenty of empty tables.  I take my breakfast with one large coffee (much needed to kick-start my day).  I sit down at a table on the edge of the restaurant.  Munch, munch, slurp.  Diary time.  Samuel Pepys/Adrian Mole/Konrad Kujau mode.  I check my smartphone.  Grasshopper’s plane has not taken off yet, according to the messages from LCY (London City Airport).  It’s delayed 45 minutes.  Time for another coffee and a quick lookaround to see where the toilet is… ah, there it is.  Just round the corner.

I’m looking forward to seeing Grasshopper in the flesh.  We’ve had some really good laughs over the years via the internet.  We’ve had some really good, deep conversations.  He’s a net contributor.  He’s a switched-on bloke, who does a lot of good work in his spare time for a youth organisation.  He has a similar warped sense of humour to mine.  He is also a big fan of Not the The Nine O’Clock News.

But will we get on when we meet?  “Captain Paranoia” keeps whispering in my ear.  People are different when you meet them in person, or if you mention Danny Jones, etc,  who you couldn’t stand, and then it turns that Danny Jones is in fact, best mates with Grasshopper.

I go order another coffee and make a few phone calls.  I surf on my smartphone and find a few cute animals videos to smile at and to forward to friends.  My bladder tells me it is time to stand up and move.  Toilet.  Off to gate to meet’n’greet Grasshopper.  Out he comes.

No hugs.  No embraces.  We pads brats don’t do that.  A good firm handshake and pleasantries.  Without further delay we head to our train, and then chat for England during the short hop to DUS Hauptbahnhof.

Twenty minutes later we two are sending Schatz a selfie from the Hbf, getting ready to explore my adopted home town.

Have a welcoming day won’t you!

[To be continued.]

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Photo by Flavio Ardito on Pexels.com

 

We Are Not A Babysitter Service…

I reiterate once more.  I admit it once more.  I am a care bear.

But even I have my limits.

Rewind to a few weeks ago.  We have a member of congregation, who is is a de facto single mother  (DFSM).  Husband works away a lot.  She’s lonely, possibly a bit burdened with bringing up a two-year-old child on her own.  Probably her German is limited.  Ditto (I suspect) her English.  I have noticed her several times in the past few months.  I have often wondered: is she possibly on Mogadon?  She often seems in a bit of a daze.

After there service one day, I hear a conversation a few metres away:

House group member:

Oh yes, we have a house group on Wednesday evenings.  You really should come.  We are looking at the Book of Acts.  We also enjoy fellowship, tea and cookies.

DFSM:

Oh, I will come.

Fast-forward to the following Wednesday.  It’s 19:45.  Most of the house group members are there.

Let me just interject here.  House group is also known as:

  • Home group
  • Hauskreis (literally: house circle in German)
  • Life group
  • Bible study

We get settled in for a good meaty session to look at the Book of Acts.

My mobile rings. It is DFSM.

An abrupt:

Hey, when is the service?

I tell her it starts in 10 minutes.  DFSM cuts the call.

We carry on, ploughing through the passage.

20:20, and it’s DFSM again.

Hey, where is the service?  I am at Blahblahstrasse.

We talk her through how to get house group.  It is now 20:24.  I have had a strenuous week month.  My patience is starting to grow as thin as my hair…

20:30 DFSM arrives.

Her 2-year-old child in tow.

Nobody says a thing.  Maybe they have other thoughts, but they keep it zipped.  Nobody wants to make a fuss.  I bite my lip.  I bite my tongue.

Group leader hands DFSM a bible.  DFSM seems puzzled.  Maybe, kann es sein, she thought she was coming to a service, where should could dump the reason for her Kindergeld onto others.  It’s house group, bible study, ma’am.  The study of the bible is the MoSCoW must-have part of house group.

Offspring screams.

Offspring shouts.

Offspring wanders round the flat, picking bric a brac up from our host’s bookcase.

We all politely smile and say how active offspring is.  I sit thinking about my day at work and how I was needing to share concerns and prayers.  It was not my intention to share babysitting duties.

20:45 Offspring is still screaming, shouting, wandering, climbing, touching and grabbing things.

20:46 Just like the tabloid investigative reporter, I make my excuses and leave, incisor teeth almost digging into tongue.

Bible study disrupted.  Offspring’s sleep pattern disturbed.  My blood pressure sky-high.  DFSM was content just to sit on the sofa and stare into space.  House group/bible study is meant to be participatory, not passive.  Not dump-your-kid on-“volunteers”-time.

Am I being too harsh?  Too un-Christian?  I checked with two friends of mine.  Even Billy agreed it was not appropriate to bring a 2-year-old to bible study at that time of evening.  Normally he will disagree with me on everything.  B in Oz, a mother of a 2-year-old, also agreed with me.  She said a child of that age should be in bed very latest at 8pm.

If you can’t achieve your aims at bible study (namely to, er study the bible), is there any point in coming?  The evening becomes not fit for purpose.  A Rolls-Royce is a nice luxury car, but it’s not suitable for ploughing a field, like a tractor would be.

Clearly, we do want to help struggling members of congregation, but not at all costs.  Would it therefore be more appropriate for members of congregation to invite DFSM out for a Kaffee und Kuchen one-to-one or to a women’s prayer group that meets daytime?  Can we create a win-win situation for all concerned?  Rant over.

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Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

Have a care-bearing day, won’t you!

 

One Year On

My Dad, Sunray, passed away died exactly one year ago today, suddenly at 14:00 GMT, while walking back from his local shop.

How time flies.

How was my grieving process?  Actually, IMHO, there wasn’t really one.  I was very matter-of-fact the moment I found out via a Facebook Messenger message from my younger brother.  I was in the office, collating an Excel spreadsheet.  I told my colleague, “My Dad has just died,” in the same way and tone that we would tell a colleague, “Our boss popped in, looking for you.”  I then carried on with my spreadsheet to meet a deadline for our rather unfriendly product owner.

I did pause to send out a Whatsapp round-robin message to Schatz and to church friends to ask for their prayers for Sunray’s soul.  Replies came in from single “prayer” emojis to long, warm messages from members of my house group.  I wasn’t in shock, but I think I was stunned.

I did not cry until I got home.  By then the posts and kinds words and funny stories about him flooded in on his regimental old comrades Facebook page.  Tears of grief ran out of my left eye, and of laughter from the right eye.  It’s what Sunray would have wanted.

That was then.  This is now.

I still feel relieved.  I still do not regret deciding to stay away from his funeral.  In any case I was still not well enough to travel at that time.  Even walking to my local shops and back was a major physical exertion.  I am glad that I visited his grave two months later, said a prayer or two over his grave and placed three daffodils on the broken earth, marking his relatively fresh grave.

I have prayed daily that his is indeed resting in peace and that God will let his infinite mercy shine on Sunray’s face.  Since he died one year ago, several more of his regimental brothers have died.  I pray that they will join him in the Senior Squadron bar to exchange “Do you remember when…?” stories.

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Sunray in November 1998

Have a poignant day, won’t you!

 

Another Day, Another Funeral

When I was in my twenties, I was attending weddings on a pretty regular basis.  Since I moved to Germany in early 2012, I’ve been attending funerals on a regular basis, admittedly not as me, but as church warden/verger/dogsbody.  Last week I even decided it would be prudent to keep several condolence cards at home “on stand-by” for the next few deaths within the church family.  I even admitted to Schatz last week that I often write Tripadvisor reviews in my head after each funeral.

  • Quality of the eulogy
  • Piety of the mourners
  • Was there any laughter among the tears?
  • Suitability of the songs/hymns
  • And so much more

Last Friday, I came with Schatz to a funeral.  Very rarely is there much “fun” in a funeral, even if it’s Grandma Beatrice who passed away at 103.  But this was not a “nice” funeral, where the Brits would sigh philosophically:

Oh well, they had a good innings.

This was a very difficult funeral.

  • A “professional” suicide.  (Let’s leave it at that.)
  • She had had a very unstable life from childhood.  (Let’s leave it at that.)
  • She had been well-loved by many friends.  It was standing room only in the chapel at the cemetery.

The lady vicar preached very well.  She bit the bullet.  She talked about the elephant in the room: the fact that this was a suicide.  The vicar mentioned God wrestling with her decision, but ultimately we humans have free will.  The vicar quoted from Psalm 130.  After the service, I thanked the vicar for using the ideal Psalm for this funeral.

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Upbeat songs were played during the service.  Tears were seen.  I squeezed Schatz‘ hand a few times, for the widower was a good friend and confidante of Schatz.

The mourners all filed out towards the grave for the urn to be placed into the ground.

Ah yes, I nearly forget to tell you, the two dog-lovers filed out towards the grave, bringing their two dogs along.  Thankfully neither dog barked.  Thankfully one of the owners had brought a sandwich bag in which to place his dog’s mess as “pooch” left a “present” en route to the grave.  I’m a great dog-lover.  But dogs at a funeral, and, moreover, at the burial?  Why?  Tell me why.

We reached the grave.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…

So called out the vicar, a fact which was quite ironic, given that a group of five or six smokers stood about 20 metres away from the grave, topping up their nicotine levels.

(Could they really not have waited a few more minutes, or stood behind the adjacent trees, out of sight?)

The mourners placed rose petals and shovelled earth on top of the urn.  Friends shook hands with, and hugged, the widower.  I shook hands with him.  I did not hug him.  Nothing to do with being British and not huggy-huggy.  I didn’t want to pass my bronchitis onto him.  (The smokers meanwhile carried on smoking.)

The vicar led the mourners in the Vater Unser prayer.  I prayed it in English.  A few heads turned in my direction, when the English language was heard.

Our Father,

Who art in Heaven…

The mourners filed out.  The smokers stubbed their cigarettes on the footpath.  Everyone headed off to the restaurant for the funeral buffet.  Schatz and I did not.  We headed home to my flat to decompress.

J, RIP.  May you finally find peace.

Have a despair-free day, won’t you!

Topic (sic) of Cancer

Cancer.  The Big C.  A tumour… and it’s malignant.  And probably many other euphemisms.

Mrs Grasshopper was diagnosed  with stage 4 terminal pancreatic cancer on 25 October last year.

Der Tod ist sicher.

Prognosis – how long before you die – twelve (12) months from diagnosis.  As at today, Mrs Grasshopper is still alive (but not alive and well).  Every day is a bonus.  Guesstimate now as to how long she has got is now 6-8 weeks, maybe a a few days later so she gets to see Christmas Day.  But who can tell?

Anyway this article is not about Mrs Grasshopper per se.  Death, sad to say, is certain.  That’s a brutal fact.  But what about Grasshopper, my classmate from the mid-70’s, hard-nosed riot squad policeman?

Ever since diagnosis, Grasshopper and I have kept the communication lines open.  He calls me “Padre Ginge.”  I send him and Mrs Grasshopper a pastoral card.

In the last two months, Mrs Grasshopper has been suffering new symptoms on a weekly basis.  Grasshopper has been dealing in a businesslike manner, being a trained medic, logging her symptoms and monitoring her slow downhill journey.

Mrs Grasshopper is in denial.  She truly believes she will be alive in two years to see her son’s graduation.  It’s unlikely that she’ll still be around in two months.  That’s a brutal fact.

To be honest, cold, callous and clinical, Mrs Grasshopper is not my main concern.  My main concern is to make sure that Grasshopper does not end up having a nervous breakdown while looking after his wife.  Today he admitted to me that he had had a meltdown this morning and had spent almost all day in bed.  That is out of character for Grasshopper, who is normally a very positive, matter-of-fact person.  We had a good long chat via Whatsapp while I was taking the tram into the city centre this afternoon.  He sound weary.  His voice was starting to crack a bit.  First time I’ve heard him like that.  Big boys do cry, or at least allow their voices to wobble a bit.

I mainly listened.  Grasshopper needed to let off steam.  I told him I was here 24/7 if he ever need a good rant.  I don’t want him having a nervous breakdown or “doing something stupid.”

Yesterday Grasshopper found this pastoral card from me landing on his doormat.

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Who cares for the carers?

Have a caring day, won’t you!