04 July, 2013

Bucket-loads of treasure

I hope I'm as cool as my grandparents when I get to their age.

I'm staying with Granny and Grampa Dietsch, in New Jersey for a week and this morning, Grampa was writing an email to a man called Charles in Papua New Guinea.

"I wish he'd write in English," he said, "my Pidgin is a little rusty."

It's been a few decades since Grampa's had to use it.

I asked Grampa about how he and Granny got to Papua New Guinea.

"Well, let's see, this must have been 1950 or 51. I was about twenty three and I was heading to Manus (a small Island in Papau New Guinea) with Liebenzel. But before I left, I made sure to propose - Hilda was only nineteen so we had to wait another year until she could marry me. And Liebenzel wanted you to be in the mission field for two years before you got married but there was no place for her to stay on the island by herself. So I left and a year later, Hilda came over and we got married. She took a plane to Australia, then a ship out to the island. We had to delay the wedding by a two weeks, though, because there was this sailor that died in a car accident and I had to do the funeral.
I remember a team of Australian cricketers stood at the door of the church building, more like a hut, and watched. They wouldn't come inside because they were Catholic.
And then (he chuckles here) I got malaria that night and your Granny spent the first week of marriage nursing me!"

Granny called us in for breakfast and after we'd eaten our toast and boiled eggs, Granny and Grampa Dietsch read the Moravian Devotional and prayed together. It's a part of their morning routine - Grampa reads the German and Granny reads the English. Yesterday, they got into a discussion about the finicky German articles -di -da -das and so forth. Apparently Granny is better at knowing which one to use.

"You just grown up hearing what the right one is," she said.

Then it was the roots of German names. Dietsch comes from Deutsche (as in Deutschland) and Faustel (my great-grandmother's name) comes from the word "faust" meaning "fist".

"So, Faustel mean's 'little fist'", Grampa said, "oh but my grandmother had a big fist."
He chuckled.
"She loved the comic book, The Phantom, and read it to us kids there, but she couldn't read English so she just made the story up from the pictures. And, if the phone rang she'd pick it up and shout, 'Hello!? Nobody home!' and hang up."

At this point in the story, Grampa's giggling so hard he has to take his glasses off and wipe his eyes.

Grandparents hold a bucket-load of treasures. 

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