My Opa has a way with words.
Not that they come often and in abundance, but when they do, they come as just the right ones for the occasion — bowties to the packaging.
On this occasion, it was his and my Oma’s sixtieth wedding anniversary: sixty years of marriage in a new country, learning a new language, raising two daughters that would lead to three grandchildren. My Oma and Opa came by boat to Canada from Germany, in search of a better life — my Opa first, in 1951; my Oma later, in 1957.
“Our ship was a small 9,000 tonne freighter with bunk beds three high — a little nutshell on the ocean,” he tells us. “We were in the bowel of the ship, probably the worst place to be with the swell of the waves. The ocean was one sea of foam, like boiling water.”
The trip was supposed to last around nine days; instead, it took 16 to reach St. John, New Brunswick. He arrived in St. Catharines by train on Christmas Eve, 24 years old and separated from the rest of his three siblings.
It was on a return trip to Europe in 1956 that my Oma and Opa first met. My Opa had returned to his hometown near Gdańsk (formerly Danzig) and met my Oma while visiting connections in the area.
“It seems we both caught fire immediately,” he says.
With a promise to come to Canada if my Opa would send her a one-way ticket, my Oma arrived by ship to New York City in April of 1957. My Opa drove from St. Catharines to pick her up at the pier and bring her back.
“We missed out on the dating and getting to know each other, but we were in love, and true love can overcome many obstacles,” he says.
By July, they were married — “not just for better or worse,” my Opa says, “but for good.”
Sixty years have passed since then.
Not one day too many, my Opa says.