This month’s Insight Story is an excerpt from my memoir “Stories of My Life: The Search for True Love.”
During our married life I often asked my husband “what would you like to eat tonight,” and his answer was always the same: “Leftovers.”
Not very creative, but somehow he was always very hungry. I learned quickly that I must always have a huge quantity of food. It was not necessary for him for the meal to be delicious or exotic; as long as it was a very big portion, he was satisfied.
He talked often about how his mom would make sugar noodles after the war, when food was still scarce in Vienna.
During World War II, when he was still an infant and the sirens were signaling the population that bomber planes were approaching and everyone had to take refuge, his family would run and hide in a basement hoping they would survive. Oma, his mother, told me that Dietrich had pneumonia, but still they had to stay there for long periods of time and shiver with cold. She was afraid her child would not survive.
Finally, they could catch the last boat leaving Vienna on the Danube, and escape to the countryside where Oma could work in a farm and there was more to eat. Life is often dramatic like a novel till the last minute when God intervenes.
Dietrich’s grandmother, Leopoldine, had to stay behind. She could hardly feed herself. For a long time, she had only sugar in the home, so she took half a teaspoon in the morning and half a teaspoon in the evening. When they came back after the war her family hardly recognized her. She was so skinny and looking sick, she had to stay in bed most of the time to save her energy.
So perhaps this is one reason why my husband was always so hungry.
One time one of my friends asked me with an accusing tone, why was I feeding my husband leftovers? The point was he never wanted to throw away anything.
In that sense he was always very thrifty. What did he want for his birthday? Nothing at all. Even though we always surprised him with something, he said he does not need anything. I was pleased my daughter and I made sure we had decent and clean clothing for him. His motto was, “One way to save money is not to spend it.”
He was generous with others. During our very short engagement, he gave me all the money he had in his pocket. I was so moved by this gesture. I remember wanting to go to a coffee shop one day as we were taking a walk, but he never offered it to me. I wondered why. That was his style.
As for me, I always had a special love for rings, for exotic and beautiful things, that I could never have. My favorite would have been an emerald with the deep green similar to the one I saw in a Vienna museum of jewelry belonging to kings and queens.
But his generosity of heart and care were the deepest; something credit cards can never buy.
He could have been a priest with all the restrictions and vows of poverty. Instead, he chose to have a family, and there kept his eternal vows of fidelity, faithfulness and loving his neighbors more than himself.
This has been more valuable than anything. This is our treasure for all eternity.