It’s a dog’s life

It’s beyond me why people say:

It’s a dog’s life.

Most of the pet dogs I see are spoilt rotten and pampered by their owners and everyone who sees the dog, wanting to stroke it, cuddle it, tickle it, etc, etc.

Let me introduce you to Titch, born August 1983, “crossed Rainbow Bridge” August 1997.  Here he is, aged 8 or 9.

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Mother: Jack Russell, Father: German shepherd.

Temperament:

  • Much more Jack Russell than German Shepherd.
  • Very affectionate, especially if you had sweets, or indeed any food on you.
  • Very sweet-toothed: even if you were talking about buying a three-piece suite, he would come running to you from wherever he was, in the hope of having a chomp of a boiled sweet or jelly baby.
  • He would often come up to you, place his chin on your lap, paw at you and beg for a good fuss.
  • Very playful, always after a belly rub, tummy tickle or stroke, or even the mention of those words.
  • He loved being tickled under his “armpits.”  Stop suddenly, and you’d get a growl of reproval from the dog.
  • He loved play-fighting.  The rougher the better, especially wrestling on the sand of Redcar beach.
  • He loved being bounced up and down on your knee.
  • He loved his walk in the local hills, especially chasing after the pheasants hiding in the ferns.  “Come on, chaps, I only want to play with you, not eat you.”

Titch

Titch caught parvovirus at the end of August 1997.  Till then, he had been fit and healthy all his life.  Within a day he was crossing Rainbow Bridge.

The sad thing is, I cried more on the day he went than the day Sunray passed away.  I guess it’s all to do with untimely death.  Sunray had had enough.  He was fed-up.  Titch was still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, would jump out of his basket every morning, wanting to go for a walk and a wee-wee.

Have a canine day, won’t you!

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Conrad Schumann

Do you like quizzes?

Q: What happened on 13 August 1961?

A: The Berlin Wall went up.  (Pretty much overnight.  German efficiency.)

Next question.

Q: Who was Conrad Schumann?

A: A picture describes a thousands words.

ConradSchuhmann

So, he managed to escape from East Berlin into the West.  Was it a happy ending?  No.  Yes, it was good news at first.  He had escaped to freedom.  But 37 years later, after difficulties with his family still living in Saxony, Eastern Germany, the iconic freedom icon committed suicide.  A very unhappy, tragic, ending.

Have an iconic day, won’t you!

 

The shock of capture

In January 2000, as Lance-Corporal GermanGinge I did a military interrogator’s course.  Three expressions are still embedded in my head:

  1. ICATQ (“I cannot answer that question.”)
  2. The shock of capture

The shock of capture is the “Oh dear, oh dear, oh f*ck!” moment when a prisoner of war realises the game is up: he has been attacking you, has lost the fight, and he is now hoping his enemy will not kill him.

Today Mrs Grasshopper went through the shock of capture.  Since her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer at the end of October 2017, Grasshopper (my old Klassenkamerad) and I have been in daily contact, swapping jokes, URL’s for corny 70’s songs and then interspersing with businesslike “sitreps” (“situation reports”) on Mrs Grasshopper’s progress.

Yesterday was another major milestone: another appointment with the oncologist.  The oncologist agreed with Grasshopper’s suspicions that Mrs Grasshopper’s increased self-dosage of oramorph, the increase in her tumour marker to 6000 units and several other symptoms were indicative that her cancer was spreading – despite ten sessions of heavy-duty chemotherapy.

This afternoon I phoned Grasshopper.  He was stoic.  He has been ever since diagnosis.

Pads brat banter. I pull his leg about being a policeman.  He pulls my leg about being a “ginga.”  We laugh.  The Germans in the Düsseldorf sit and try – as ever – to eavesdrop on our Anglophone conversation

Then the $64 million question.  Deep breath.

Grasshopper, now, tell me to f… off and mind my own business if you like.  How did Mr Grasshopper react to the oncologist’s prognosis yesterday?

Grasshopper told me she had had a major meltdown down the local cafe this morning.  The realisation that she does not have long will probably die soon.  The realisation that she cannot ask her enemy, the cancer, not to kill her.  The shock of capture.  The thoughts.  All the what-ifs.  Every single “why?” question.

Next time you are moaning about:

  • Your bus being late
  • There being no milk in the fridge
  • Your team losing their World Cup match

Please think of Mrs Grasshopper.

No picture this time, just a song.

Have a shockless day, won’t you!

Rest in Peace

Last Friday Schatz and I flew to England for a long weekend, coming back to DUS yesterday.  The “main event” was to visit my Dad’s grave, as I was in hospital here in Germany when he was buried.  In truth, I probably would not have attended his funeral, sad to admit.

In the days before our visit, for Schatz came with me, I had printed out:

  • The Lord’s Prayer in English
  • The Lord’s Prayer in Germany
  • The Lord’s My Shepherd
  • A plan of the cemetery

We turned up in ideal cemetery visiting weather: dull and overcast, with drizzle.  I brought my printouts.  I had forgotten to call at the florist en route to pick up a bunch of flowers for the grave.

 

To paraphrase Julius Caeser, I came, I saw, I… felt nothing much.   By referencing to other graves that had stones on, I found my Dad’s grave within five minutes of arrival.  It was non-descript.  No gravestone.  (There never, ever will be one for him.)  No wreath, no bouquet – either removed after so many days, or maybe, sad to say, stolen by local chavs.  Just broken earth.  It didn’t really look like a grave to trigger the “time to let British stiff upper lip wobble.”

Schatz went and grabbed three daffodils quietly from a corner of the cemetery.  She placed them on the grave.

I had kept my promise to my Dad last autumn that we would definitely come to visit him in April this year.  I just hadn’t anticipated under these circumstances.

We prayed at the foot of his anonymous grave.  I discreetly photographed his grave.  He has a picturesque view of the Yorkshire Moors.

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It started to drizzle more.  I looked Schatz in the eye.  We nodded.  It was time.  We left the cemetery and headed back to the main road to get ready to head to Whitby for the fun part of the weekend.

No tears.  No emotion.  No numbness.

I came, I saw, I departed.

Have a closure-filled day, won’t you!

 

Sunray – Dead and (not yet) buried

Sunray – Dad – died suddenly, albeit not unanticipated, on 16 January.

  • Am I mourning?  No.
  • Has it sunk in?  Not sure?
  • Am I still relieved that he died and did so quickly, rather than painfully and unsteadily like people dying prematurely of cancer, etc?  Yes.

Sunray was a man who made a lot of mistakes in his life.  (Admittedly, who hasn’t?)  In his twilight years on particular, he had fallen out with pretty much all his siblings and two of his three children, something he had done for years and decades.

Since his death: what has happened?  Everything I had expected.

None of his siblings would organise or pay for his funeral.  Nor would his offspring.  It’s your funeral, as they say.  I could have, but I am more concerned with his soul than his body. I can only pray for God to show huge mercy on his soul.

Instead he gets a public health (pauper’s) funeral next Tuesday morning.  Not even a proper funeral.  Not even a service.  Nobody in the end would turn up.  (Maybe his former Squadron Sergeant-Major out of a sense of duty and loyalty to his men.)  Nobody would meet the local vicar to prepare a eulogy.  Instead the hearse will pull up at the grave.  The pall bearers will lower his coffin into the grave.  They may their heads to him.  They may even say a short prayer.  The wreaths from his old comrades will be placed on his grave.  That’ll be it.

I will mark his life and death with friends here in Germany with an informal, structured, mini-service.

  1. To thank God for his life.
  2. To thank God for his death.
  3. To beg God for mercy for Dad.
  4. To beg God for love and forgiveness of all our sins.

When I next head home, I will stand by his grave and say a prayer for him and his soul.  That’ll be more meaningful for me than a funeral service where kind words are said but not really meant.

Have a merciful day, won’t you!

Sunray Down

Sunray is down.  Sunray passed away died one week ago.  Sunray is was my Dad.

How do I feel about his passing away death?

  • 80% relieved
  • 10% “It hasn’t really sunk in yet”
  • 10%… well, I’m not sure

Thankfully when death came, it came quickly.  Heart attack on the way back from the shops.  I had feared bluebottles at the window, police having to smash down his front door and find his lifeless body on the sofa.  I am grateful that when the end came, it came relatively swiftly.

For the last three to four years Sunray had not been enjoying life.

  • Riddled with arthritis
  • Out of control diabetes
  • Personality disorder
  • Depression
  • A sad, lonely, unwashed, embittered old man, his only company – a bottle of whisky and twenty Benson & Hedges cigarettes
  • Estranged from almost all his family
  • At best, tolerated by the rest of his family

A very pitiable end of life.

Will I go to his funeral?  No.  Will there even be a funeral service?  No.  Sunray had fallen out with his family so badly over the years, that nobody was prepared to organise or pay for his funeral.  Maybe his ex-Squadron Sergeant-Major from Army days would have come.  But nobody else.

Despite his faults I did love and care for him.   Agape love.  My last contact with him had been a phone call four days before his death, a very jovial call.  Was he on the way up?

I will visit his grave later in the year, say a prayer over his grave.  That is more meaningful to me and to him than a Theaterstück of a funeral service, where kind words and cliches are said to an almost empty room.  I’m not bothered about seeing his body one last time.  I am more concerned about his soul.

Heavenly Father, I beg You, have mercy on Dad’s soul.  Amen.

Have a merciful day, won’t you!

The Fifth Commandment: Part 1

The Bible commands in Exodus 20:12:

Honour your father and your mother.

And truly I tell you, it’s a good commandment.

That’s the Biblical quotatation for you.  From theology to humour.  Now for an old East Germany joke…

A school teacher asks little Fritz:

“Fritzchen, why are you always speaking of our Soviet brothers? It’s Soviet friends.”

Fritz replies:

“Well, you can always choose your friends.  You can’t choose your family.”

Many a true word said in jest, Fritz.

This been a somewhat frustrating weekend for me.  Philip Larkin was spot-on when he wrote This Be Verse(I leave you to read the poem in your own time.  It does have a small typo.  I think the second word in the poem should begin with an “m,” not an “f.”)

My Dad, “Sunray,” is a “problem child.”  Lonely, with few friends, alienated from most of his family, with an alcohol dependency a “grumpy old man” personality.  Not exactly the most attractive thing to write in his online dating profile, but hey, ho, there you go.

Because Sunray has a low boredom threshold.  He tends to phone me every two or three times a day on Saturdays, sometimes even more than that, reaching double-figures.  The same again on Sundays, even though he knows I am out at church most of the day on Sunday.  This being even though I phone him from work three times a week and end up having long chats with him, so he can tell me his “When I was in [insert name of garrison town]…” war stories again and again.  And again.

And again.

And Again…

This Saturday I relented and called him back to keep him quiet.

Another anecdote about Fallingbostel 1965, which I’d heard only about…. ooooh… some fifteen times this year…

Three minutes into the call Sunray declares:

Anyway, I don’t want to chat any more.  Bye.

Two hours, three hours, four hours later, more phone calls from him.  That was the pattern on Friday.  This time, on Saturday, I ignore the calls, probably much to his chagrin.

As Schatz was here, I decide to pull out my landline cable to get some peace and quiet.  Later in the evening I re-connect the landline.  More phone calls from him, not leaving a message.  Then at about 20:00 the calls stop.  He’s probably drunk his quota of rose wine and climbed into bed for the night, muttering his mantra, “Every single f*cker’s been f*ckin’ me about.  Sick and tired of it.  People f*ckin’ me about…”

Enough about Sunray.

Have an honourable day, won’t you!