Looking for answers to life's questions

Though I slept fitfully last night, I was jolted up this morning in the dark by a ringing sound. Not the normal ringing sound of my cell phone where each person has their own special ring tone, but the abrupt sound of another kind of phone. By golly, it was the one in my headboard that I have in case I tip over and need 911. They can’t find you from your cell phone easily especially if you have an out-of-state area code like I still do.

My first thought was my neighbors are going to flip being awakened at this hour. I looked at the phone and the number was unavailable. I couldn’t figure out how to answer it or turn it off in the dark. I pushed some button and the next thing I hear is this familiar voice speaking in very loud German. Hallo! Siegrid here! I understood. But my mouth wouldn’t work. Once I turned on a light and headed for the living room so the shouting wouldn’t be heard next door, I answered. Yes, I’m here. It’s me, how are you, all in German, of course.

Lore' in blue, Siegrid, the loud one in purple

Lore’ in blue, Siegrid, the loud one in purple

She thought I forgot my words, but the truth was my mouth was stuck and so was my brain. It was early evening in Germany but early morning here. I haven’t been able to find the German word for Bells Palsy to explain what’s happened to me. I don’t know if they have one. All I managed to get from the conversation was that they were both, she and her sister, still well. As well as can be expected at 89-90. Siegrid has a birthday this month. I will return the call then. They had received my letter and were confirming that it was indeed my new phone number. I was delighted to know they were still among the living.So I will take some pictures and print out a small map to show them where I am.

Three old ladies sitting in a row. 2006

Three old ladies sitting in a row. 2006

I want to be clear that these ladies are not relatives. My mother met them on the internet and we visited them in 2001, the last year of mom’s life. She was doing a search for any remaining family that was left behind in East Germany. It was her first opportunity since the internet had become available. The actual relatives dismissed her, with a too little to late attitude, but these fine ladies who had the same last name, were warm and welcoming. They adopted us and we them. Mom was shocked that as the weeks went by during our travels around Germany, that I kept finding more German words I knew. They must have been locked in a trunk in my brain waiting to be needed.

How I spend each evening, even on vacation.

How I spend each evening, even on vacation.

A few years after mom was gone, I took my sister to visit. These pictures are from that visit in 2006. Once again, the more I heard the language, the quicker it came back to me. Now you have to understand, German was my first language. Dad spoke to me in English, I answered in German, understanding both. I attended American based schools starting with kindergarten. Mom believed that you spoke the language of where you were. We rarely heard German in the states and mom never spoke it in public, nor to us in the states. How did my mind keep all those words all these years and why couldn’t I find them at 6:30 on a cold Sunday morning?

The limits of my language means the limits of my world. ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

Comments on: "In Search of my German Words" (11)

  1. I’m so sorry your family members dismissed you and your mother. I’ve heard many of the East German’s felt lost after the wall came down feeling time moved on without them.

    My grandfather’s parents and grandparents came from Germany and his grandparents didn’t speak English so he would translate for his grandparents. My son as a teen wanted to surprise my grandfather and took weeks with Rosetta Stone to learn the language, the next time he visited his great grandfather he spoke in German. My grandfather no longer remembered more than a few words, so discouraged my son quit studying. I think from time to time about learning another language, maybe this will be the year?


    • I think mom had fun just looking on the internet. She was used to being dismissed by family. I’m still trying to decide if it’s worth it to work on that language unless I can find a way to use it. We have no family left there. My mother forgot all her words too. That’s why I had to come up with them all of a sudden on our visit.


      • I’m sorry your mother felt dismissed by family, that’s rotten, but I know what she felt, I too struggle with family issues and currently am just moving on without them.

        I just want to master a language to show I can, but I also remind myself that it’s good exercise for the brain to keep me young.


  2. It’s so nice to know two language and be able to converse, it’s on my bucket list. I know some french, but only the most commonly known phrases.


    • I know more when I use it more. I haven’t talked to anyone in German in so many years, my mind goes blank. Especially so when I’m not expecting to use it. I would like to visit one more time for several months and take an iimmersion language class.I never learned German grammar and have a third grade vocabulary. I love the French language and would like to learn that as well. I’m running out of time though. It helps so much if you have a great deal of opportunity to use the language. Bucket list, mine keeps changing. Hmmm.


  3. It was interesting reading your post as my mother is German but coming to England just after the war, would not speak it to her children. I can understand quite a bit when I visit family but not so good when it comes to speaking it.


    • My mother was just the same way. I’m the only one of four who has any command of the language and I sound like a third grader. If you are immersed in it long enough, you pick it back up. Thanks for stopping by. Happy to hear from someone else with a German mom.


      • Your welcome. I have to admit my happiest memories from childhood were holidays in Germany. My aunts were all wonderful cooks and great at craft (I think that’s where I got my interest from).


  4. I love this post! I bet you were very excited as your first language emerged again. I learned Spanish when I was in college and was completely “jazzed” when I could read the signs in Puerto Rico. Speaking, not so much. Aren’t brains amazing!


  5. I also enjoyed the post, in part because I am impressed by your attitude and because I know Germany relatively well, but am terrified to speak on the telephone. I think I rely on the non-verbals to a great degree. 🙂 Glad to have found your blog and I shall return often.


    • Thank you so much for stopping by. I know what you mean about speaking on the telephone. I have to do some prepwork prior, like going to the online translation site to get the words in the correct order. I’ll come by for a vist too.



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