I met him the first time that I came to Germany (and Europe) twenty nine years ago. I (and a friend from university) had just arrived in Bamberg, jet lagged and tired. It is a long story of how we met but that is the topic for another post. Suffice to say he drove us to a place where we wanted to go in Bamberg since it was easier to drive us there than to explain to us where it was. We got to meet his entire family in the six weeks that we were in Bamberg and they all befriended us .
When I came back to Bamberg to study business management two years later, this family enveloped me in their love and offered me a place to stay till I found something of my own. Shortly thereafter they sort of “adopted” me which is why I refer to them as my “foster” family. What was supposed to be a temporary solution till I found an apartment of my own, turned out to be my home till I left about a year later to join Bernd in Munich.
Many who know me have heard me talk about this wonderful family and how much they mean to me. My foster mom is an amazing and inspiring person. The bonds that I have with the rest of the family are also very precious but this post is about my “foster” dad.
He was a man of few words but when he spoke he often made you laugh with his sayings and jokes. He was very kind, gentle and loving; loved cooking and having guests at his home. He was generous to a fault – with his time, energy, love and in sharing all that he had. But he could also take a stand when it was needed.
He started work very early and finished in the afternoon which meant that I spent a lot of time with him. He was the one who taught me to cook since he normally cooked dinner (I was twenty three years old then and all I knew to cook was scrambled eggs). He took me grocery shopping and showed me how to choose the right meats and veggies. But that was not all.
He saw the lost and unsure person that I was, took me under his wings and became the father figure that I so needed. He was a man who expressed his feelings not in words but in actions and in hugging or putting his arm around you. This was a very new experience for me because from where I came from, affection was rarely shown. When it was shown at all, it was by pulling my leg or “lovingly” teasing me. When I grew up, physical demonstrations of affection were very rare and as I learnt much later, I am someone whose language of love or affection is physical. So you can imagine how I blossomed with the affection and affirmation that I got here.
He was so proud of me, not because of what I had ever achieved or would achieve but because of the person I was. He called me his little sparrow; he filled my life with so much of laughter, love and joy.
And when Bernd and I became a couple, he welcomed Bernd with the same warmth and love as he had welcomed me. I was still staying with them when I married Bernd and one of his greatest regrets was that he couldn’t give me away in marriage (the reasons for that are not for this post). He was by far the best dressed man at our wedding and he had bought a new suit for the occasion. Even for a man of few words, he was strangely silent that entire day and as I learnt later from my foster mom, it was because he was very emotional about the fact that I had “grown up and was leaving home”.
We kept in touch after we moved to Munich, getting together for Easters and Christmases where he always went to great lengths to prepare a special feast for all of us. However over the years the sickness that he had took its toll. Thirteen years ago today, he passed away after a long and prolonged stay in the hospital. We all knew that the end was nearing and had time to say goodbye to him. And yet when the day came, it did not prepare us for the loss of losing him, especially since he was taken from us way too early (he was only sixty three years old then).
Eighteen years ago yesterday, I had a terrible car crash and I had written about it in one of my previous posts. That first night in hospital was a very tough one, I was struggling with my life since it wasn’t quite clear how much internal damage I had, my blood pressure was dropping dangerously and nurses were in and out all night. And every year during the night of 16th-17th February, I am reminded of this date that we share. It is a “weird coincidence” that exactly five years after the night I was struggling with my life, God called my foster dad to his eternal home.
Thank you Odilo for believing in me, for loving me and being proud of me for who I was. Thank you for being my foster dad and for filling that empty space in my life with your presence. Thank you for healing the pain and wounds in my life with your generous love.
I cannot say that you left a gap in our lives because you still fill it with your presence, light and your love. I am so blessed and grateful to have known you!