Sundays in Berlin are meant to be spent with family. This was clear as I went for a run along the lakeside nature path near Ella’s house in the Tegel section of the city. I waved to other joggers, admired the elderly couples who were watching the sailboats together from park benches, and dodged toddlers who scampered in front of their parents.
The sun was shining and the air was fresh. Hard to believe, then, that the Berlin Wall once dissected this picturesque neighborhood. On Saturday, Jo, Andreas, Ella, and I took a walk along the nature trail to the former site of the wall. If you wanted to travel from East Berlin to West Berlin, then you had to stand by one of the wall’s doors, ring a doorbell, and wait for a soldier to permit your passage. Try sneaking past the wall and you would be shot in the no-man’s-land between East and West. As Jo told this story a family was hanging out in the former no-man’s-land, laughing and making a bonfire together.
Jo is an excellent cook, by the way. He had a hearty meal of meal of meat, vegetables, and potatoes, accompanied by a delicious sauce, waiting for me when I arrived at their house for lunch. (I think I’ve already gained five pounds while on this trip!) We wanted to eat on the terrace, but it was too cold for Ella, so Jo wheeled her back inside while I admired the house’s garden. It must be said that Jo is the greatest grandson that I have ever seen. If it weren’t for Jo, then Ella would not enjoy the quality of life that she does. Jo plans and executes their worldwide trips, ensures that his oma eats enough, dresses her in stylish clothes, is her “private chauffeur” (as Ella
says), etc… I have the utmost respect for him. When his mother died, Ella took him in. She always accepted the fact that he was gay and she has loved every child that he and Andreas have adopted throughout the years. Ella has inspired him, but he needs to know that he is an inspiration himself.
After lunch we piled into the car and set out for the four hour drive to Nuremberg. Jo hit speeds of 220 km on the famous Autobahn. Ella and I slept for much of the trip, so the high speeds didn’t scare us. Once in Nuremberg we met more friends for dinner at an authentic Bavarian restaurant. Ella was on fire, telling jokes and laughing throughout the dinner. “Schnapps makes you clever,” she said before downing a snifter of Bailey’s faster than I could. “What food do you eat in America?” she asked me. I told her that I like lots of different kinds of foods, from pasta to salads to Greek souvlaki. Truly a German, she made a grossed-out face at the mention of salads. Once dinner was over, we toured around Nuremberg. It is a charming small city with the cobblestone streets and architecture that I remember from time spent in Prague.
“Ella has the beginning stages of dementia,” Jo told me at 1 a.m. in the hotel’s bar after helping Ella to bed. “I know that she doesn’t always remember things, but I want to make sure she enjoys the moment. That’s why we are always out-and-about and traveling. If she smiles and laughs in the moment, that’s what matters.” Live in the moment. A great philosophy for any age.