Tomorrow we get to wake up and venture back to Hauptbahnhof train station in Central Berlin down to Frankfurt, Germany. Per travel guides, Frankfurt is the banking capital of Germany and likely more business-oriented then most of the places we have been so far. But on a personal note, Frankfurt is the closest major city to Wiesbaden – where my Mom grew up.
My Uncle Ingo is going to meet us at the station. I have not seen my Uncle Ingo since the summer after my Mom’s funeral when he returned to Utah for the tradition of getting a permit to find an appropriate headstone among the Wasatch mountains. This was in 2002 although I cannot recall how I was there or if the only purpose of me being in Utah at that time was to get the stone. I wasn’t yet living in Utah on my own but I have some photos to recall the experience. This was the first time I met my cousins. Ingo’s kids were very little back then. Now they’re teenagers and it’s a wonder that they even know who I am.
Here I go rambling about none sense, trying to remember things that poke through a repressed time of my life. I ramble because I am nervous. Very. Nervous.
Of the few times I have seen my Uncle Ingo, I recall that he has moments of being very quiet because he assumes his English is not very precise. And I feel like I am pretty much the only person in the extent of our German family that knows absolutely no German – the majority of which I have learned just before this trip from Stark who is fluent in the necessary phrases. Still, something about being German puts me in a place where I don’t even want to try to speak it until I have perfected it (which makes no sense, how do you perfect something without trying? but it makes entire sense if you consider where I get my stubborn from). I find myself at a loss on what I might say to Ingo. We have communicated half a dozen times over email and I feel like there’s more than just a slight language barrier here. Regardless of which language I choose to write to him, I feel as though my messages may come across with a desperation that no one would know how to respond to. That, in and of itself, feels like a barrier.
I do not know what to expect. I am not sure that I even have any expectations except that I know there is something deep inside of me that is entirely frightened and a little bit hopeful. The problem isn’t in meeting my cousins again or finding Ingo at the train station. The nervousness is in visiting a life that was once my Mom’s and not being able to ask her any questions or piece together the “Why” or the “How” from her own recognition.
I feel like as soon as I see my Uncle I am going to burst into tears and if I don’t, then I’ll be fighting them quite obviously to the point of likely shaking when he hugs me hello. He has good hugs. I’m not sure if they truly are always so warming or if he just has impeccable timing in giving them. I just remember being at my Mom’s funeral in Texas (we had two funerals – one in Texas and one in Utah) and my Uncle Ingo being there standing so tall above anyone else and next to my Aunt Ilse. Neither of them could fight back tears when they first saw my reaction. My brother led me to the casket, without audibly explaining that I need to say goodbye for myself. I had written a poem and I wanted to bury it with her. As we stood over her, she didn’t seem like anyone I knew. The way a dead person looks is entirely unfamiliar and wax-like. They did her makeup all wrong. My brother had a firm group on my arms in a sort of half-hug. It was nice to know he was there with me as I decided where to place the poem. I thought maybe I could put it in her hands, but as I reached out to touch her I just as quickly stepped back with complete and utter shock as to how cold she was. There were no more illusions that she may still be with us; no hope that she would suddenly rise again. She was beyond any cold we feel on this Earth except in passing. The horror of it separated my brother and I as he continued to say his goodbyes. I burst into a mess of tears – the kind that come with no sound and no feeling. It was in that moment that my Uncle Ingo took me in one arm and folded me in as if he had wings. Suffocated by his stature, I at least felt comforted here. I felt safe.
These are the kind of memories that I am thinking of as I realize that tomorrow I may be welcoming more questions into my life than can be answered. I have no expectations of what to see or what to find out, but I know that if needed… I’ll be looking for that hug to know that it’s all going to be ok.