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You Only Live Once, But Die Twice

There is a saying that you only live once, but die twice. We all know that when your heart stops, you die physically. But when you have stopped being remembered by anybody then you have died again and for good. It's with this in mind that I'd like to stop and reflect upon my parents. Since I was the youngest child, I may end up being the last to remember them and I'm sure that my son was too young to recall the stories I had told him before I moved.

My father Diettrich was born in 1920, ironically on the same exact date as Mandy's grandmother who just recently passed away. Despite his German name, he was born in Kiev, Ukraine back when it was still part of the USSR. My understanding is that because of the Bolshevik revolution (watch the movie Dr Zhivago to see what times then were like), the family left Russia via France then on to Mexico where they waited for immigration papers for either Canada or USA to accept them as citizens. It was the US who offered them first; had it been Canada, I suspect my life would have been much different, but that's beside the point. The family cleared land and built many homes in the Clarkston, Michigan area, many still standing today.

Now I guess my father had been married before he had met and married my mother Brenda and this little story I hadn't been told as a child. In fact it wasn't until rather recently had I learned about this. I guess he caught his then wife cheating on him and said, “That’s it! We're done,” and with that enlisted to go fight in WWII. It was while he was in England that he met and courted Brenda. This almost didn't work out for them for a couple of reasons. First, when she first saw him, he was drunk and being loud and she didn't think kindly of him. But I guess the next night, she found the sober him to be rather more charming. Then was the next great obstacle when his friend (if you can call him that) tried to - as we call it now - ‘cock block’ him by saying “What do you want with this guy? He's married.” Brenda was furious, but luckily decided to confront Diettrich who explained how he was in fact going through a divorce. Luckily, she understood and accepted it.

How they made it to the States, I don't know, other than the fact that it was by ship. This I know because it was on this ship that they made friends with who I always thought was family since I called them ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’ in my childhood but no, turns out they were just really good friends with shared experiences.

I recall some stories of my parents living at an estate where my father worked as a gardener but that was also long before I was born and I don't know when they bought the house that I was later to be brought up in. By the time I came along, two of their three daughters were already grown and had moved out, leaving just me and my sister who was 10 years older than me at home with my mom.

In my memory, my father worked a lot. In fact he was always gone before I got up and returned home long after I'd have gone to bed. I guess it was 16-hour days a lot of the time and quite often six days a week. He tended to take Sundays off, but that usually meant us going to church, not really the quality bonding time a kid might want with his dad. Of course I used to hope to stay home on Sundays, although not for time with my dad, but because it was another cartoon day (long before Cartoon Network came along) and I liked to watch Kimba and Speed Racer.

Vacations were the one time I did get to spend quality time with my father. Since he worked outdoors on big equipment like bulldozers and earthmovers, he would take his vacation in the winter time. We would head off to Florida, mostly staying in the Clearwater area so we could hit most of the major attractions. That's where I remember him having a sense of humor: one time we had just got to our hotel and my mom insisted that he tried on his new swimsuit and he came out of the bathroom with them on over his thermal long johns. We all had a laugh. Of course he did say some funny things that I only got once I was quite a bit older, like “It's so cold out there I'll need a winkle pin just so I can pee!”

My father passed away from a heart attack in 1975 when I was only eight years old. So I didn't have nearly the chance to get to know him as I wanted. From that point it was my mother whom I relied on and spent most if not all my time with.

My mom had been a seamstress and used to mend clothes for some pretty wealthy people, so as to have a bit more money for the family while I was growing up. It was her influence that led me to believe that I could take on crafts without hesitation. If I wanted to try something like needlepoint, she would get me started and help me if I got hung up with a question. Plus there were always supplies for all kinds of crafts in the house.

Writing all this I find myself becoming rather emotional and am going to take a break from it for now. I will update this page later on.

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