One of my hobbies is doing family research so when my son recently took a trip to Germany, I could not help but think of my great-grandfather who was born in Cresbach, Germany. Before coming to the United States in 1901, family stories tell of a man who traveled the countryside as an acrobat. I like to think he lived the life many a child dreamed of and ran away to join the circus. I may never know the real story, but my version makes me smile especially considering how I have never been able to even muster a pitiful somersault or cartwheel.
His life in the USA was a bit less adventurous, but he never lost his ability to entertain children. In fact, when I was little, he was my favorite playmate. He would come over to my house and the two of us would disappear into the closet in my bedroom. I would drag a little red stool into our makeshift office; he would reach up and turn on the overhead light. Sitting patiently on the stool while I climbed on his lap, he let me play dentist and check all his teeth – one by one. When I finished with him, he would hold the next patient, my stuffed blue rabbit, so I could work on his two oversized front teeth just as diligently.
“Duck”, as I affectionately called him, was equally delightful when I visited at his house. He never failed to have the most delicious pink candy mints. I don’t remember how we whiled away the time, but I do remember those mints and, to this day, I have an affinity for those tasty confectionary treats.
One day, however, after indulging me with pink mints, he placed a coin – a silver dollar – in my hand. I was never to spend it, but to keep it so I would always remember him. I still have that coin. It’s not very valuable monetarily, but from time to time I take it out, hold it in my hands and remember the man with the broken English, the shaking hands, and the labored walk. He was the best patient I ever had and a wonderful childhood friend. Little did he know I did not need a coin by which to remember him. The memories of our time together have always kept him close to me, tucked in my heart, never forgotten.