>Yesterday, I lost another connection to my past. My Uncle Klaus crossed over at a little before 9pm EST. He’d suffered several strokes in the last couple of years, but he was a survivor, continuously beating the odds. He’d also survived major heart surgery a few years ago. But last night, after several long difficult months, he gave up the good fight. In passing he left behind a wonderful wife (my aunt and godmother), three terrific daughters and four granddaughters. This picture is an old one, probably 25 years ago, but he didn’t really change much over the years.
Uncle Klaus was just a small boy when his family came to the U.S. I seem to recall stories that it was just before WWII and the Nazi’s, but I can’t remember for certain. I do know he never lost his German accent, which I loved to listen to as I grew up. Uncle Klaus and my Dad were like two peas in a pod. They loved to joke, and they would always try to top each other whenever they were together. My Dad often seemed to live for the moments when he could hit Uncle Klaus with a zinger. I think the same could be said of Uncle Klaus when it came to my Dad.
My best memory of the two of them is from one of the big family parties. It was a wedding or an anniversary celebration where there was a polka band and free flowing pitchers of beer. Dad and Uncle Klaus in their usual goofing-off manner got out on the dance floor dancing the polka together for a whole dance. Then they went back to partying. They both got sick together outside a few hours later. It was the only time I can remember my Dad getting completely polluted.
With Uncle Klaus gone, the world is somehow all that much dimmer because I won’t see him sitting at his kitchen table telling a joke. I won’t see him, and the invisible figure of my Dad standing nearby waiting for an opening to zing him with a one-liner. I won’t hear his laugh, or the laughter of others when he tells a joke. But I like to think that my Dad was there to greet him last night with the line, “What took you so long?” I just know the two of them are having one hellava party right now, and I don’t doubt they’re dancing a polka together.
One of Uncle Klaus’s favorite sayings was “Never give up.” He even had a favorite stuffed animal with that saying on it. Perhaps you’ve seen it, it’s a frog half eaten by a pelican, and the frog is trying to choke the pelican to death all the while, the slogan “never give up is attached to the animals.” I wish I could find one of those stuffed animals before Wednesday. I’d tuck it inside his casket in tribute. A silent way of saying I love you and goodbye.