36 Years, 13 Days

Martin and the girls after their scavenger hunt

[dropcap style=”color: #9b9b9b;”]M[/dropcap]artin’s father Klaus died from cancer in 1985 at the exact age of 36 years, 13 days. I discovered that last week during one of my family research frenzies. I am most certain that in the 15 years I’ve known Martin, I’ve done the math before: probably whenever I filled out my childrens’ baby books, writing in their grandparents’ names and dates on the family tree pages.

For whatever reason, though, my father-in-law’s age — those numbers — never stuck with me, so there I was, sitting on my bed last week, my laptop balanced on my knees, my face aglow with the blue light of my screen, plugging away those dates, and learning that Martin’s late father passed away nearly two weeks after his 36th birthday.

I did a double-take when I read that. And then I looked over at my sleeping husband, and mentally calculated that he, too, just celebrated his 36th birthday. In fact, I determined that Martin himself would be 36 years, 13 days just a few days later, on Halloween.

That certainly gave me pause.

One of the biggest reasons I began to research our family history is to learn more about Martin’s father. Martin was exactly 6 years, 8 months, 18 days old when his father passed away, so he doesn’t remember much of the man. In stereotypical German fashion, Martin’s older relatives tend to be very private and quiet about family history, even amongst themselves, so he knew very, very little. All he had were photos, some of his father’s items, and his own hazy memories.

It wasn’t until Martin fell under the influence of a certain American busybody (**ahem**) that he started to ask questions. Those conversations with his family were so interesting and helpful in our quest to learn more about Klaus, yet we were approaching those discussions as young adult 20-somethings. We were new to adulthood, new to marriage, and certainly not yet parents ourselves. At the time, in our minds, Klaus was still an older man, a father figure. There was a distance of age and eras, from where he was in life when he died, and where we were then learning about him.

And that distance remained until last week, when I was shocked to learn Martin was the exact age of his father. Despite it’s morbidness, it was the first thing I told Martin the next morning. He listened to me as I relayed the numbers, explaining that after Halloween, he would forever be older. Wasn’t that strange? And fascinating? I couldn’t get over the fact that of all the weeks for me to feel a push to do this research … to add those numbers up … it was just days before that milestone passed.

I don’t think these things happen randomly.

We spent Halloween with family: my mother, my sisters, our children in costumes and hyped up on candy. The next day was a lot more low key. We visited some sites in Cincinnati, a conservatory and art museum with my sister Jinger and the girls. As we drove around, we talked briefly about Klaus, about those numbers, and Martin’s age. Of course, Klaus will never age, will never change, but, God willing, we will, and while yes, it’s always been that way, it’s so obvious now. It all adds such a bittersweet perspective, especially now that we’re in a position to learn more about Klaus and how he lived those years.

As older adults, as a married couple, as parents now, we can appreciate the fact that yes, he really was young when he passed away. And there is a muted sense of grief for all the things he missed now that we really understand them.

So as I watched Martin assist our daughters on their scavenger hunt in the art museum, I felt such gratefulness for the fact he’s here, he’s healthy, and that our children have him in their lives.

May there be many more years, months, weeks, and days ahead for all of us.