When I was a college student in the early 1970s, I was a member of an organization called, ?Citizens for Political Involvement.?
Being young and wanting to see the world, I embraced one of the group?s main goals: to raise enough money to travel across Europe. It was to be the trip of a lifetime, or so it seemed at the time.
About three years later, though, I actually lived in Berlin, Germany, and worked in the U.S. Army Brigade?s public affairs office. I thought that would be the trip and experience of a lifetime.
Now, 40 years later, I am saying it again, because in early August, husband Randy, son Joey, his girlfriend, Christina, and I recently returned from a trip to Berlin.
We were there to witness our daughter?s marriage, meet our new grandchild, spend time with the in-laws and, of course, tour the sites of Berlin and Altenburg, the husband?s hometown.
Of all the three trips abroad, though, the latter was definitely the best ever.
Not having a crystal ball, it?s hard to imagine where life will take us or how the future unfolds. Yet even with all the ups and downs in life, I wouldn?t change anything about the past.
All those experiences have shaped me into the person I am today, and I hope for the most part, I am a better person because of them.
It?s also hard to imagine when I lived in Berlin that the wall would ever come down, but in 1989 it did, which brought an end to a divided Germany. This should have been a happy time for both the East and West German people, but sadly unification had its problems.
It was the first time in history capitalism and socialism became one, with the most severe issue problem being East Germany?s poor economy.
So why the history lesson?
The reason is because prior to our trip, Randy and I were unexpectedly surprised to learn our daughter?s husband, Stephan, was born and raised in Altenburg, which was East Germany until reunification.
Not long after that, Stephan moved to Berlin and took a job with the third-largest newspaper in the world, the Bild.
During one of our excursions in the city, he told us the newspaper?s owner, Axel Springer, built a 20-story publishing house yards away from the Berlin Wall (around 1961). Springer, he said, also put up a huge reader-board facing East Berlin that flashed news of the free world to enslaved Germans on the other side.
Stephan told us Springer wanted Germans in the east to continue having hope that someday things would change. For those supporting the socialist system, the reader-board was a constant reminder of the capitalist system?s superiority.
Obviously, Stephan is proud of the company for which he works. He also told us he loved our daughter, capitalism and the United States.
When we arrived in Altenburg to meet his parents, Gaby and Dietmar, we were greeted on their veranda to enjoy coffee and many different types of cakes.
Communication was difficult because Randy and I didn?t speak German and Gaby and Dietmar didn?t speak English, but fortunately we did have Tracy and Stephan as translators.
As we ate our afternoon treat, Dietmar said he never thought he would have Americans at his home, and definitely never imagined having an American daughter-in-law.
If I were asked what the highlight of our trip was, I think it was that specific conversation.
That?s not to take anything away from their wedding, which was at the Castle of Altenburg. The wedding reception was about 30 miles away on a working farm.
The food was incredible and, like most weddings, there was a lot of dancing and fellowship.
Regardless of where we ate, the food was awesome and our sightseeing trips were interesting. Accommodations were reasonable and we had all the comforts of home.
Like most vacations, not everything went smoothly.
What bothered me most was the heat. It was extremely hot and most places didn?t have air conditioning. There was no escaping the 95-plus degree temperatures.
We also traveled by car most of the time, but we still did a lot of walking.
For those of us out of shape, the combination of heat and walking, and no air-conditioning relief once we arrived at our destination was extremely demanding on these old bones.
Even with a few obstacles, nothing was going to stop me from enjoying the trip or my sweet little granddaughter, Livi. She is so precious and I can hardly wait to see her next time.
Randy and I were happy and grateful to have had our health and the resources to make this trip possible. We are anxious to watch and hear how the future of our little German family continues to unfold and how their hopes and dreams are realized.
While they may have been raised under different circumstances, they have proven that love truly knows no bounds.
The next generation is certainly on its way to success.
God bless all of you.