I have always known that I was German. I have never met my grandfather, but I knew my grandmother long enough in my youth to remember her telling me German words. A few times, even, she sang in the language. She was a soft women, reserved in a distinctly kind way. I remember taking her out of the nursing home for the day and eating frozen pizza with her. One time, years before that, she watched me and my brothers for the weekend; for a school assignment I had to tell her a story and she had to write it down for me, and I can still picture her long, elegant cursive I was unable to decipher.
Sadly, I was young enough when she died that all I have now are these few fleeting memories. I never got the chance to talk to her about her life, really. For that reason, it is in death that I have learned the most about her. After her passing and as I grow, I try to put together the puzzle pieces of her life, sticking them together the best I can with the memories I have.
My grandpa, on the other hand, was never a presence in my life in any way but stories. I knew of him coming over from Germany. I knew he was a man who loved to savor his food, have a little piece of chocolate every day. Practical, smart, kind. Never before, though, have I got to hear the sound of his voice or the way he would tell a story. This past weekend made me feel close to him. It made me feel, briefly, like I knew the man I never got the chance to know in life.
When my grandpa left Germany to come to America, he left behind a sister. This sister had a daughter, who had another daughter, who had two daughters. All these daughters later and they still live in Nürnberg, Germany. When I knew for sure I would be studying abroad, I reached out in hopes that I could come visit them. Because of their generosity, they invited me to stay for the weekend.
It was surreal to get to walk the same roads, pass the same churches, that my grandfather once did. I got the opportunity to see relatives who shared my blood, but lived a different life than my own. If my grandfather had never left Germany to come to America, he would have never met my grandmother, had a family, fathered a daughter who would become my mother. I saw where he came from, and seeing the country made me feel incredibly close to the man I never got the luxury to meet.
Nürnberg was a beautiful city with great food and historic roots… but the most wonderful part about it was how connected I felt to my heritage and the people I shared it with. I like to think my grandfather would be proud to see me there in the presence of a large family he was part of, that he helped create. I think in some ways, with the ties to the past that were inexplicably there, he was right beside me the whole weekend anyhow.
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<p>Annie Lindenberg spends the majority of her year in Boston, MA where she is studying Writing, Literature and Publishing at Emerson College. Along with her creative writing pursuits, she also writes film and television reviews as a staff writer for Emertainment Monthly. When not writing or exploring, you can find her eating copious amounts of guacamole and starting books she has almost no time to finish.</p>