Ode to an old man

Babes in Deutschland, house hunting in Germany

While I was hoping to share the details of the house we are leaning towards, I cannot until the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed… So, my articulate husband wrote a piece personal to him about our house hunting experience. Hopefully within a week or so we will have a move in date and I can share all of my stories and pictures! Without further adieu, here’s a sweet vignette by Jonathan.

I rarely have words I feel the world needs to read- but for the man we met house hunting, pictured above; I do.  Even though all but the most quaint details of his house have faded from my mind- I will never be able to forget my 30 minutes with him.

He greeted us into his house with the energy and warmth that I have come to expect from a German.  He sincerely apologized for his almost nonexistent English speaking skills and began to direct us through his house.  It was relatively routine with other showings until I began to share with him the dozen relevant German words I’ve learned as a level 9 Duolingo master.  After a few- he began to get excited.  I explained to him I only knew “eine Klein,” but after I butchered a handful of German “sentences” only a toddler could be proud of, he never spoke his broken English to me again- except when I admitted “nein” to “verstehen?”

By the second floor of his house, a trigger was switched.  He began to share less about his house and more about himself.  He demonstrated the beautiful view from the balcony, but specifically where his house was- where an open space lay nearby in which my family was always invited to join him, his wife, and his mother for “Barr-bee-queh.”  He opened up about his life story, constantly moving his hands.  He would expressively gesture when speaking about himself and then heartily jab my collar bone when referring me or my family.  His giant fingers caused me literal and physical culture shock.  I imagined he was surrounded by friends who stood up straight and strong, and that everyone else fell over.  When leaving a room he would pause and look us in the eye “Gross, ja!” (Big, yes!)  He would then stand expectantly, still as a statue until one of us responded “ja!”  A big smile would explode on his face and from the very depths of his soul would erupt a single, satisfied “ha!” Before turning and continuing the tour.

My heart began to sink as we neared the end of the tour.  Brigette and I had both been sharing our super secret “this isn’t the place” signals throughout, so I knew this was the last time the kind old man and I would meet.  He made escape almost impossible- in the kindest way.  The picture of him was taken at the very end as we were preparing to drive away.  We didn’t drive an inch before he explained to me- slowly in German, where he worked, how old his kids were, their ages, all of his grandchildren.  We probably spent a good 15 minutes straining our infant German minds to comprehend his life story.  Of course, I could dismiss it all as the ramblings of a man who will talk to anyone who will listen- but I don’t think that’s what it was.  From the little I’ve learned of German culture, it’s that the details of your life are your own business.  Trivialities are to be shared only with intimate friends.  Perhaps I’m flattering myself- but that’s why I think he held us up in the car and spilled his life story.  I think he saw that as neighbors- we could be great friends.
Of that, I have no doubt.  Sadly, I’ll never know.  I pray his house is already rented to someone with even more kids and better German.
Of course, as I close this ramble…  It occurs to me I still have his address, I still have his number.  Perhaps we will meet again.
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