© 2017 by Jerry L. Croasmun
We walked down the long hospital corridor in near silence looking for Granny Grumbles' room. Ben spotted room #108 first, as he was a few feet in front of Herr Specht and me. He motioned for us to catch up.
"Here it is. Hurry up," he whispered.
I knocked on the door. "Granny are you awake?"
"Yes dear. Come in."
Granny had a private room with a small sofa couch and two chairs. I leaned over to give her a hug best as I could, for she had wires and tubes everywhere.
"Hi Granny," Ben said as he sat on the sofa by the window.
I pulled up a chair and sat next to her bed. Herr Specht stood near the door. One of the monitors kept beeping every few seconds and Granny reached out for my hand. Her hand was cold to the touch and had an IV taped to it.
"Ouch. I hate it when they put these things in my hands. I swear they put salt water or acid in that little bag. You move your hand just a tad and ouch, you know you did."
"What's that red light on your finger?" Ben asked.
"Honey, that is to check my temperature and to monitor my oxygen levels. It says my temperature is 97.8° and I'm at 95% on oxygen."
"That's degrees in Fahrenheit, I'd bet," Ben said. "Herr Specht was just teaching Shoshana and me about Mr. Fahrenheit and his thermometer. Are your numbers good?"
"My temperature is a little low, but my blood oxygen level is right where it should be. The doc says we need to be concerned if it gets down to 90%."
"Did you know Mr. Fahrenheit and Herr Specht were both born in Germany?" I asked.
"No. I didn't," answered Granny. "And you sir, must be Herr Specht. Why don't you pull up a chair and sit a spell?"
Granny didn't seem to realize Herr Specht was the one who had bandaged her head after she hit Lou Ella, the cow, with her car. He did, but not wanting to draw attention to the accident or himself he sat in a chair at the foot of Granny's bed. She loved to talk and they immediately engaged in a conversation as if they had known each other their whole lives. She once told me there were no strangers just friends she hadn't met. That certainly was true with Herr Specht.
"Nice to meet you. So, you're from Germany?" she asked.
"Yes, I'm German-American. I was born in the city of Potsdam, but my family moved to West Germany in June of 1955, when I was ten years old. I don't recall much before then. We had to leave most of our earthly possessions behind in search of a new life and better opportunities. I remember my mother crying as we left our house in Potsdam. My father told us we had to remain strong much like the biblical man Lot and not look back. It was hard, but we certainly were among the lucky ones."
Interupting the conversation, a loud alarm started going off and wouldn't quit. Ben covered his ears and I wanted to find the source and unplug it.
"Granny, what is that obnoxious noise and how do you make it stop?" Ben asked.
"We have to wait until a nurse or aid comes and turns it off. It is my IV drip saying the bag needs changed. They say I'm dehydrated. This is the worst place to get any sleep. Something is always beeping or causing an alarm to go off and when it isn't they come in and start poking you with needles or checking vitals or something."
"I'm glad they're monitoring you and making sure everything is okay. Granny, do you think I should study nursing?" I asked.
"I don't know dear, but I think you'd be a good nurse if that's what you want. You know Grandpa Parley and I will be here no matter what you decide."
A nurse finally came in and turned off the alarm. She said, "Mrs. Price, here's another hydration bag. This should be the last one we'll have to give you tonight. Is there anything else I can get you? Are you doing alright?"
"I'm fine. We're reminiscing and talking about World War II and what a fascinating world we live in. Want to join in on the fun?" Granny asked.
The nurse declined, but I was mesmerized by the discussion between Herr Specht and Granny. To think they had experienced and lived through so much history was unbelievable. My knowledge of the world's political affairs both past and present was limited to what I'd learned in school and an occasional blurb on the radio or nightly TV news. Herr Woodrow Gershom Specht was the first and only German I'd ever met. I began to think about majoring in history major and in a semi-trance recalled what I could from my high school history class.
I remembered Adolf Hitler was a dictator and leader of Nazi Germany from 1933 until his death. Most people believe he committed suicide and died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. There are also many conspiracy theories including those who think Hitler used someone who looked like him to fake his death.
Snapping me back to reality, I overheard Granny say, "That Hitler, he was a very bad guy. He was the reason World War II started. Him and the Japs who bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. I was only 15, but I remember that awful December day in 1941. I think it was the 7th or the 8th of December. I was so proud of FDR."
"When did Hitler die and who was FDR?" I asked.
"I'm not sure when Hitler died, but President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was FDR. He was the man that stood up to the Germans and Japanese and declared war on our enemies. I'm still proud to be an American, but back then we were definitely united having a common enemy," Granny said.
Herr Specht added, "Most believe Fuhrer Hitler died on April 30, 1945, along with Eva Braun his newly married wife of less than two days."
"Where did they die?" Ben asked.
"In the Fuhrerbunker, which was the Fuhrer's heavily fortified, underground bomb shelter in Berlin. Fraulien Braun first met him when she was only 17."
"Wow, I'm 17," I said. "I can't imagine getting married so young."
"No dear. She was much older; I was 18 when we heard the fantastic news of Hitler's death. I think she was in her early 30's. Most historians say she committed suicide by taking a pill filled with cyanide poison, but I wouldn't be surprised if Hitler didn't orchestrate the whole thing," Granny said.
"Either way, that's a messed up way to prove you love someone," Ben said.
"What an awful honeymoon," I added. "Gives new meaning until death do us part."
"Love is a strange thing. Afterwards, didn't Hitler's men pour gasoline on the bodies and set them on fire?" Granny asked, looking at Herr Specht.
"Yes, and it took eleven more years before a German court officially declared Hitler and Eva dead. She was 33 and he had just celebrated his 56th birthday ten days before. A lot happened back in 1945. A month after Hitler's death, the Berlin Declaration was drawn up making the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union politically, militarily, and financially responsible for Germany. The division was to be temporary as the Allied Forces sought to oversee the formation of a new German government after World War II. What sounds and looks good on paper; however, isn't always plausible in reality."
"Please don't take offense, Herr Specht. But back then the Germans were not our friends and we certainly didn't trust the Japanese," Granny said. "Wasn't that when the Allied Forces divided Germany and Berlin into four parts?"
"Yes and I understand completely what you are saying. I was born on November 29, 1944, much of what I know I learned in school and from my parents. It wasn't until in 1949, when the French, British, and American zones merged and formed the Bundesrepublik Deutschland or Federal Republic of Germany. The Soviet zone became the Deutsche Demokratische Republik or the German Democratic Republic. The once powerful country suffered division and separation geographically, yet a greater division existed within the irreconcilable differences of ideas, values, and lifestyles."
Herr Specht was proud of his birthplace; however, some of the world’s policies and decisions originated out of Potsdam and that still troubled him. President Harry Truman, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill along with his replacement Prime Minister Clement Attlee had all met in Potsdam, Germany to iron out and negotiate the terms of ending World War II.
He said, "Potsdam was the place where President Truman and his Secretary of War Henry Stimson met and gave the okay for the United States to drop the world's first atomic nuclear bombs on Japan? The first bomb, 'Little Boy' fell upon Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The second was named, 'Fat Man' and was dropped on the city of Nagasaki and its people three days later on August 9, 1945."
"I'll admit those were some dark days in America's history, but something had to be done," Granny said.
"You have more excuses than Hitler had Germans," Ben said.
"Benjamin, that is no way to talk to Granny!" I scolded.
"What? I wasn't meaning it towards you, Granny. I thought you guys were talking about Hitler and Germany and stuff like that. I remember Daddy always said that. That's all."
"A couple months ago, I remember riding home from school with my parents and I heard President Ronald Reagan say over the radio, 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.' Ben, do you remember that?"
"Yeah Shoshanna, I do. Who is Mr. Gorbachev?" Ben asked.
"Mikhail Gorbachev is a Russian politician who has held several high-ranking positions which include General Secretary of the Communist Party and President of the Soviet Union; USSR. Three weeks ago on March 14th, he was named as president of the Soviet Congress. He is a very powerful man and I admire him from afar," Herr Specht said. "I can hardly believe it has already been four months since he and President George H. W. Bush declared the Cold War to be over. Where has the time gone? And President Reagan spoke those now famous words nearly three years ago back in 1987 while visiting West Berlin."
"Herr Specht, how big is the Berlin Wall?" Ben asked.
"The Berline Mauer or wall around the city of East Berlin is approximately 27 miles in length and another 69 miles separate the East German countryside from West Berlin. There are over 300 watchtowers with armed guards, dogs trained to attack, and soldiers securing the gates and patrolling the wall around the clock."
"I always thought it was about a 100 miles long and soldiers had a standing order to, 'Shoot to kill' for anyone attempting to escape. Isn't that correct, Herr Specht?" Granny asked.
"Yes, to both. Anyone caught trying to breach through the nearly 100 mile Antifaschistischer Schutzwall, or in English the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart, was to be shot with no questions asked. East German officials said the rampart was designed as a way to protect the people of East Berlin from others who had fascist ideas and sought to conspire to prevent a socialist state from being built. Many believed there were spies from the West who wished to infiltrate and recreate a Nazi-like Germany. The Soviet regime described the wall as an 'Iron Ring' of protection."
"Knock, knock. Mrs. Price, I'm here to draw some blood," a tall, dark, and handsome man said as he entered Granny's room.
His nametag revealed he was Walter Michaels, lab technician and phlebotomist. I had never seen such a fine looking, blood-sucking vampire in my entire life. Thoughts of becoming his female counterpart filled my mind. He quickly filled three small vials of blood and my eyes followed his every move. I remained silent until he left the room.
"Granny move over, I think I need him to come back and suck my blood," I said.
"Oh Shoshana, you're a silly girl and I love you," Granny said.
"I love you too, Granny."
"Me too," Ben said from across the room. "Hey Granny, where do vampires keep their money?"
"I give up. I don't know," Granny said.
"At the blood bank."
"That's a good one, Ben. Where were we? My memory isn't what it used to be, but I think the Berlin Wall began to crumble and tumble back in November of last year. I can hardly believe it has stood as a political symbol of the Cold War for nearly 30 years. The people of Berlin have been divided and separated for close to half my life. If memory serves me right, it was the day after we celebrated my sister Deborah's birthday, when we heard the news that East Berliners had crossed freely into West Berlin," Granny said.
"I'm happy they're going to finally tear down that wall of shame and hope the German people can be re-united again as families and a nation one day soon. Wasn't the Berlin Wall practically built overnight?" I asked.
"Yes, the wall of barbed wire and soldiers appeared overnight and the people of Berlin both East and West found themselves literally divided on the morning of August 13, 1961 until last November 9, 1989. East Germany has been a communist controlled state all of these years. The Soviets sealed the border and erected the barbed wire and concrete wall to halt the massive exodus. Over 2 1/2 million East Germans are estimated to have fled their homeland from 1949 to 1961. The Soviet Union and East German government officials felt they needed to do something and do it fast," Herr Specht said.
"Wow, I'm not good at math, but isn't that like over a 1,000 people who ran away every day?" Ben asked.
"I'm not sure of the exact numbers, but some believe East Germany lost 30,000 people during the month of July back in 1961. From a political leader's point of view, it would have been political suicide to let that continue. Herr Walter Ulbricht was among the founding fathers of the GDR, the German Democratic Republic, and was instrumental in the creation of the Berlin Wall. He was a strong supporter of Soviet leader Josef Stalin and envisioned East Germany as the model state for Socialism."
"But how could one man do all of that?" I asked.
"Don't get me wrong. He was no one-man show. In 1961, Herr Ulbricht and others had the backing of the USSR President Nikita Khrushchev, and in hindsight, the plan was near genius. Life for many in East Berlin actually improved after the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart was built. Mark my words, we live in exciting times and we have only begun to see the changes, which will happen in the near future."
"But, why didn't someone try and stop them from building the Wall?" I asked.
"None of us trusted the Russians back then," Granny said, "but you can bet your last dollar no one was in favor of another war. Especially one involving nuclear weapons of mass destruction. I remember President Kennedy supposedly told some of his close aides, 'A wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.' I agree with JFK wholeheartedly."
"Granny how many Presidents have you lived through and who was JFK?" Ben asked.
"Oh, I forget you kids are so young. JFK was President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. I'm not sure how many Presidents, but I've had a bunch since 1926, that's for sure. President Kennedy and the other Allied nations chose not to interfere with the building of the Berlin Wall."
"Didn't President Kennedy say he was a jelly-filled doughnut or something like that?" I asked.
Herr Specht answered, "That is part of an urban legend. Most modern linguists feel he correctly used the article, 'ein' since he was figuratively associating himself as being from Berlin. In a solidarity speech, he gave while visiting the Brandenburg Gate of West Berlin on June 26, 1963, President Kennedy said, 'Ich bin ein Berline,' which translates into English, 'I'm a Berliner.'"
"Ich bin ein Berline," I said. "I like that. It has a ring to it."
Herr Specht continued, "All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words 'Ich bin ein Berliner!'"
"He truly was a President who was cut down in his prime," Granny said, referring to the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963.
"Attention guests, visiting hours are now over. Thank you for choosing Allen Memorial for your health care and emergency needs. Please join us tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Good night," said the voice over the hospital intercom.
"Granny, we better head home. It is getting late and Momma is probably worried about us. I promise we will continue our history lesson another day. Maybe even at your house over a nice cold glass of sweet tea or homemade lemonade," I said.
"That's a deal. Shoshana, we've got ourselves a date. Goodnight. Luv Yuns."
Read Chapter 1--Fraction Bar
Read Chapter 2--Pizza Pi
Read Chapter 3--Helen Marie
Read Chapter 5--Calendar Magic
"Choose a leader who will invest in building bridges, not walls. Books, not weapons. Morality, not corruption. Intellectualism and wisdom, not ignorance."
― Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW
Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society.
Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.