|Birth: ||Mar. 3, 1904|
|Death: ||Oct. 31, 1981|
My grandmother was born in Herne, a city in the Ruhr area, into a large family including two older sisters and three older brothers.
She left her home town at the age of 17 to work in a family near Brugge, Westphalia. At that time she joined a group of mostly young people, the so-called 'Nature Lovers'. This group mostly took long walks, there was always someone with a guitar, they spontaneously joined to sing folk songs literally anywhere, preferredly during their walks, which gave them the feeling of being closer to nature.
Thanks to that group, my grandmother met Paul Schmitz, a young man from Gummersbach, the two fell in love and got married on September 10, 1927. Three kids completed the family.
Since Europe, however, suffered from this terrible World War II, all healthy men were recruited and sent to the front, and in the last weeks of that war, on March 9, 1945, my grandfather was killed near Mönchengladbach.
After that, granny had no more interest in letting any other man into her life, her love having been so deep and strong that nobody could have taken my grandfather's place, so she concentrated on their children instead, working exceptionally hard to make sure they would all have their own houses.
Given her talent in music, there was a regular income, while small, thanks to piano lessons my grandmother gave to many young people, and she saved that money, put it aside and was eventually able to buy a house for her eldest son and his wife, her daughter was planned in for the house built by my grandfather, and when my youngest uncle married, grandmother gave him the money to buy himself a new house, more or less next to that one his father had built and completed in 1936.
Thinking back to how my grandmother was ... I must admit that I am a little ambivalent. She was both exceptionally soft, and would forgive me anything; if my parents would not allow me to watch TV when they felt it was bedtime, all I needed to do was drop a line or two, and grandmother would then come to my room and whisper 'now, now, come into my room, let's watch TV'. Which I gladly did, cuddling in bed next to her, which was especially comfortable since she had a lovely belly which I was allowed to use as my cushion.
That was the soft side.
But then again, as my piano teacher, she was very strict. She started teaching me to play that instrument when I was 6 years old, and there were times when the fact that I had to practice 2 hours a day made me suffer, especially in summer when all my friends were playing outside, sometimes calling my name to join them, and I had to practice. Then, she could be more than just strict, and for a long time, 6 years in total, I did not dare any objection to this rule.
When I was 12, though, I finally had enough, and I remember that day when I slammed down that cover of grandmother's piano, telling her that I did not intend to continue all this and that I wished to have a guitar and guitar lessons instead. At first, my grandmother would not say a word, and all of a sudden, the tears came flooding from her eyes. That was very touching, so I hugged her, joined her in crying and tried to comfort her.
Luckily, she gave in and I was offered a guitar and my first lessons there (which she could not teach, after all, but she followed my development with utmost interest).
Most of her friends were ladies who had all lost their husbands in that war, so there was a group of about 10 elderly women who made regular journeys all around Germany, to Spain, to the UK, and this group of ladies got the nickname 'The Merry Wifes of Gummersbach'. They had a lot of fun where grandmother could mostly show her soft side.
Since she had stayed with her daughter when her 3 children were married, though, this often caused minor discussions as to who was responsible for my education. While my Mum came up with clever points and good arguments, grandmother would simply disagree, underlining her status of being the elder person and that she was thus entitled to speak the last word. Even if she stood there with her back literally against the wall, she would never give in. On the contrary, then she could change and be more than just strict, stubborn even, so my cousin and I secretly referred to her as Genny ... which was our abbreviation for general.
To match that attitude of a general, grandmother would protect me from just anybody. After all, her other grandchildren did not live in the same household, thus escaping grandmother's total control, with me, however, things were different.
When I was 18 and had my first boyfriend, I was allowed to bring him home, but he had to answer an amount of questions which reminded me of an inquisition rather than just a first introduction into our family. He did well, though, as he was allowed to come and see me regularly. Mind, every time we were in my room (grandmother was wise enough to take the key away so I could not lock the door), at 9 p.m. sharp she would dash into my room, asking us with a stern voice 'don't you think that it is about time that the young man leaves now' (sometimes I even expected her to hide a rifle behind her back). It was more an order than a question, she never expected any answer, and so we ALWAYS followed her order.
It was only in the last 2 years before her death that grandmother more or less forgot about that stubborn side, due to dementia which softened her a lot.
In autumn 1981, one day, grandmother asked my cousin and myself to come to her room, and when we obeyed, she asked us to sit down, and then broke the news - she simply told us that she had had enough and wanted no more but to join her beloved husband. It was that very evening that she fell into a deep sleep, sort of a coma, and in the following 2 weeks my cousin and myself made voluntary night shifts, sitting at her bed, sometimes this kept us awake for well over 24 hours. We meant to be there, just in case she would wake up, but on October 31, 1981, God kindly fulfilled her innermost wish and let her join her husband in eternity.
Thinking back now, I am still glad that I had this grandmother of mine. She had managed to keep the family together, and had given us, especially me, lots of rules to cling to, and now, I know that those rules, though I was of a different opinion when I was younger, had offered me a sufficient amount of safety, their effects reaching until this very day.
Which makes it easy to make one statement - that I sure love and miss my grandmother and could often do with her firm attitudes, good advises and sometimes unbreakable will.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for remembering my grandmother.
Heinrich August Friedrich Lange
Elise Gleim Lange
Paul Franz Schmitz (1906 - 1945)
Manfred Paul Schmitz (1929 - 2006)*
Ingrid Elisabeth Schmitz Meinikat (1934 - 1987)*
Created by: Edda Meinikat
Record added: Jul 13, 2008
Find A Grave Memorial# 28241509