Sunday obit looks inviting


I didn't pay much attention before, but today, following the habit of reading obituaries in the daily paper it suddenly occurred to me…

Maybe because its Sunday and more announcements are published on weekends, more photographs are available for comparism.

Browsing the list of names, followed by age of demise, I then take a closer look mostly at those who have passed still younger than I'm, unless I notice an exceptional long tribute arousing my curiosity as to the great deeds or contributions that individual has made in life .

I must emphasize, being a German immigrant some 40 years in America, I now have more doubts than ever as to where I'm going, just who I am and what I have achieved, or able to achieve in time that remains.

Can I hold my own?

More so, reaching a certain age also means questioning what the future still has in store, yet it surely is also a time to take stock of what it is I leave behind and how it compares to those living around me.

With each announcement I study, I seem to be in competition with native-born Americans, in spite of having served in the U.S. military, am a veteran of the Viet Nam war, and have been a naturalized U.S. citizen for decades.

Patriotic to the point of being unpatriotic because I don't take my flag in at night, I still harbor thought patterns reverting to my childhood, speak and/or write too wordy at times, make grammatical errors, even though the thought process happens to be English. Not to be construed by this reader, but there are times I feel like I'm neither from here nor there, unable to cast off patterns ingrained as part of my heritage, all in exchange for being one of the boys on the block.

I'm an American, but how true an American am I?
I like to believe that, an American by choice, this makes me a better American, though I'm aware inbred European traits and heritage will never be completely disguised by hoisting the American flag.

What does it take to leave a passing imprint, to be accepted as only an American?

Corresponding with local officials in Germany concerning a home I still have there, I'm more comfortable communicating in a language they well understand -English, for decades in America have made me doubt to 'effectively' get a specific point across in my native tongue, even though I understand German fluently.

The reply to my e-mail then suggested that I continue all future correspondence in German, critically reminding me that one never forgets ones mother tongue. Indeed!

Yes, self-doubt does show at the most inopportune moments.

Learning the language was one of my first priorities coming to this country. To this very day I employ a dictionary for every new word I come across, even subscribe to: 'Word of the day', learn its correct spelling, but just when I proudly am able to use it in conversation, I'm asked:

Pardon me, where are you from?

By no means demeaning, deep down I'm an eternal foreigner in what I consider to be my country, and my home.

To my reply, that I hail from Fitchburg and did not get here on a banana boat or via coyote from South of the border, fluster is a most common reaction while pointing out my accent, which to some ears is noticeable as not having been entirely cultivated in Wisconsin.

A well rehearsed retort is:

"Oh, don't worry, I only put it on, because that way get more attention".
Funny to be sure, but especially in Madison, WI not thought of as politically correct, yet no one ever questioned me about my religion.

When I arrived on these shores, I had no doubts about myself, because it was understood that in America everything is possible and I'm just the man to make it to the top, I have what it takes. Sure!

These days I cannot be that certain any more.

After nearly 40 years taking care of myself without ever asking -nor receiving- governmental or public assistance and keeping in mind President John F. Kennedy's suggestion: (quote) "Don't ask what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country"
I finally realize the days of absolute certainty are gone for good.

Those were what I now believe to be "the good ol' days", never to return.

America has lost its innocence, anyone even remotely able to send a ticker to their brain cells must be aware that 9/11 has changed the lay of this land. Along with it comes a change to all our lives and the ever so popular 'can do' and 'nothing is impossible' attitude, that makes us so uniquely American.

On a personal level, this America instilled the will to be free, unrestricted in thought and deed, respect all, with no affiliation, but judge matters on merit alone.

Yet today as a nation we doubt everything, especially our government, where cynicism is often the rule of the day and uncertainty rules our senses, subjected to pass inspections when entering public buildings while security cameras have become part of our daily lives everywhere.

Along with excessive government spending, terrorist threads, job insecurity, rising health costs and unemployment, especially the aged -already forced to cope with age discrimination- have something truly to worry about.

Trust no one and readily accepted fear of religious fanatics, a once self assured, laid- back, always positive American outlook on life has driven us as a people close to the point of psychosis.

Is it understandable then, that I question my own achievement and belonging, which is neither here nor there?

I'm prepared for when the time comes. My own announcement shall read: Those who knew him don't need an explanation, and those who don't, they'll never understand anyway!

Yes, the photographs accompanying today's obits really made me think, because individuals in those pictures are actually…smiling.
What is it they knew that I don't ?


Like to read more? (click below

Paradise 2002