Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My Grandfathers, the source of my genes.

Following is an “excerpt’ from a chapter of my life. - Werner.
My Grandfathers.
My paternal grandfather, Franz, or ”Franz Opa”, as we called him, at the time of writing this, has been dead for over 50 years.  But for me, he is never out of my mind, and that’ll be until I take my last breath. I’m now three years older than my grandfather was when he died and I hope that when I’m long gone, the future generation of the Schmidlin line that I have established in Australia find this story, as well as the many others I have written, interestingly – but sadly, I’ll never know.

Franz Opa was my mentor and my role model,  all in one; he gave me guidance, and he was my companion and my inspiration. Opa exerted great influence on me in my formative years, since at that particular time my father was away as a soldier in the war. I was fortunate to learn a great deal from him and luckily inherited many of his superb traits and characteristics.

Franz Opa was good at everything he touched.
  He was an excellent wine and fruit grower, he was good with his hands and enjoyed tampering with all sorts of things, and he liked to make things from wood. He was an excellent letter writer; he was a man with a vision and always looking far beyond the horizon. Opa didn’t suffer fools lightly and his counsel was always sought and appreciated in our village.  He was a man of resolve and perseverance. But he was also immensely practical, mentally as well as physically. There was no doubt, that he was a real “do it yourself person,” able to improvise, skilful with his hands, always ahead of his time in his thinking. If we’d had computers then, grandfather would have been the first to have one.

Grandfather had three hobbies: growing vegetables, flowers and especially the latest roses. Beekeeping was another love; he had more than fifty beehives, which were kept in the purpose build shed in the garden, which we dubbed the “Bee House”. I was involved in all of those hobbies and it was like nourishment for my insatiable curiosity and appetite for learning practical things. He always had to have the latest nursery catalogues and when a new rose variety was released, he bought it. His pride and joy was a huge rose bush on which he grafted fourteen different roses and when they were all in bloom it was a wonderful colour spectacle – and a sight to behold.  Opa also had a great sense of humour and I must have received a large dose of his genes. I am forever grateful to Opa for what he taught me and I always look back to him with great admiration and will always hold him in high esteem.

Opa was also the president of the local rural bank, and was entitled to a fee, but he refused to take it; saying, “I earn money from the farm. I don’t need it”. Who would do this today?

In the summertime when the asparaguses were growing,
Opa used a special long knife especially designed for cutting the asparagus plants deep down in their mound. It had a handle with a long shaft and at the end it had a slightly curved 5 cm long cutting edge. They were easy to find as they betrayed their presence by lifting the soil on the smoothed-out mound. The mound had to be patted smooth again with a board after every cutting. In their growing peak, they just kept on shooting and had to be cut twice a day. Sometimes, I was the victim of grandfather’s great sense of humour. One day he told me, with a serious mien, that it was too dangerous to go near the asparagus mounds in the garden. I fell for it and asked why, he replied with a broad grin: “Because the asparaguses are shooting.”

Opa taught me many skills and my inquisitiveness must sometimes have driven him close to despair, as I constantly badgered him to know how this and that is done and why that was so. However, I have recognised early in my life that by asking questions is an excellent way to learn. My gift of the gab was well known to everybody, and to shut me up could prove difficult. I remember well, Grandfather frequently remarking, “When you die, they’ll have to kill your mouth separately, otherwise it’ll keep on talking!”

I had known both my grandfathers
and to distinguish between the two we referred to the paternal grandfather, as “Franz Opa.” The maternal grandfather, Albert Würz, we referred to as “Würz Opa.” However, Würz Opa died when I was only four years old and most of those years he was sick and bed bound with tuberculosis. It was him who I got in trouble over, because I helped the grave digger with filling in his grave after the graveside funeral ceremony. Picture: Würz Opa with his horse.

However, what I learnt about him in my later years was that he was also a practical, innovative man and also had a great sense of humour. It appears that I have inherited a double dose of humour genes from my two grandfathers.

Franz Opa was born on the 18th of January 1874 and died on the 23rd of August 1947. I never forgot the day he died. My parents and we three kids were up since 5 am in the morning to catch the 6 am train to Freiburg, where we had intended to go to the circus, which was performing for the last day. Oma came up to us on the second floor to inform us that that Opa had just died. Needless to say, we didn’t go to Freiburg. It was a great shock for me to lose my friend and my mentor, but nevertheless, death is inevitable, and what a wonderful way to go - going to bed to sleep and never waking up. He will never be out of my mind as long as I live.
My thought for today: - Werner
Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.
Albert Einstein


Ailsa said...

That’s a lovely story about your grandfathers. You must have had a particularly close bond with your maternal grandfather.

Renee H said...

Great story, thanks for sharing Opa. You have an amazing memory!

Janelle said...

What a wonderful and endearing story about your grandfathers, thank for sharing this with us. I’m sure that your children or grandchildren will find this very interesting. What an unselfish person he was not to take the bank fee he was entitled to. That doesn’t happen today. Keep writing, Werner, my family and I love your postings.

Annette Sheppard said...

Beautiful - reminds me of my Australian born, German parentage grandfather.

Sonja said...

Thanks Dad, for this and all your interesting stories about your life. I can just imagine what Franz Opa was like from your clear description of his character, and it's great to see the photos as well. How wonderful to have this record of our family history, and I'm sure it will be appreciated by generations of our family to come.

Luciana said...

Luciana wrote-
Dear Werner and Sonja!
Thank You for sharing a part of your history showing the love and integrity your Grandparents had for all things wholesome and the loving memories You have of them.
And what joy to know that your loving daughter Sonja has welcomed the good news of her ancestors and will treasure the family history and make sure that she will set the hearts of the generations to come on "fire" with loving pride for them ... and, no doubt, for You too!

Yes, it is wonderful to grow knowing the love of our parents and grandparent, and other family members ... plus the love of good friends who become extended family as we walk the walk through life on this planet. And then, in life after life, we look forward to meet our loved ones who went before us.
I do ask the Loving God of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, to find me good work to do when my spirit leaves my body. Because i do wish to help our families and friends in whichever way is possible.

I am told that a sure way to let our busy families know the stories of their elders,and take the time to learn our stories and remember
their ancestors, the ones who gave them life, ... is to leave our intellectual property, and our spiritual testament (will), it is to leave in all in our "Last Will and Testament".

It is indeed a pity to know that most people are well informed about the ups and downs of film & sport 'stars' ... the royalty, the famous and the infamous etc., but they do not know the things that really matter about their own families, how they really felt, their dreams and longings, their spirituality, their sorrows etc., and how they manged before and after they became parents. The sacrifices and the joys they experiences ... the people they met who made a difference to their future, mentors, educators, employers, and the list goes on, to bring their story to life for the family, after the funeral, to be read and remembered and passed on, recounted at story time to the young ones, and at family gatherings in memory of the departed.

Lawyers tell us that some people leave their stories together with the usual Testament which is normally only concerned with material things.

Marg said...

Thank you Werner - what an interesting article, and what an interesting life you have had.

Doris said...

Always interesting stories Dad, has anyone traced family tree, or do you know any history before your grandads. Cheers Doris.

Jill said...

Werner, what wonderful memories you have of your amazing grandparents. Jill

Jenny Bell said...

Werner, What a lovely story about your Grandfather, it made me think of my own grandfathers & the things they gave me & our family, throughout their lives.