This is partly inspired by DailyPost’s prompt, so I thank them for the idea.
Now, I am someone who has a background in a bunch of different European countries- I probably couldn’t even name them all. But the ancestry that probably runs deepest in my blood is courtesy of Ferdinand Schaefer, my grandfather. Or, as my family and I call him, Opa, the German word for Grandfather.
Ferdinand Schaefer was born in Tscherwenka, Yugoslavia (which is now called Crvenka, and is part of Serbia). The place, when Opa was born, was inhabited by Serbs, Hungarians and Germans, the latter of which Opa draws his heritage from. When he was about nine years old, he and his family had to flee the country due to the advancement of World War II. Opa ended up growing up in Wels, Austria before coming to Canada.
Once in Canada, he met Joyce Schaefer. They fell in love, and had three children.
But this story is not about my family tree. It’s a tribute to someone who has been a constant part of my life, even if I now only see him a couple of times a year.
Ever since I was born, it’s as though he’s been the kind of father I’ve never had. I’m not saying this to slag off my actual father; I’m only saying that Opa seemed to align closer to what the stereotypical father figure was when I was young. It was Opa that encouraged me to ride a bike, to participate in hockey and soccer (at one point in my life).
It’s corny to say, but Opa is an inspiration. This year, he will be turning 80 years old, and he’s always, always kept active, whether it’s manning a snowblower or building furniture or improving something in his house. He knows more about how to fix things than anyone in my immediately family, both in technical knowhow as well as possession of the right tools.
He’s had his fair share of health problems over the year. His hearing has slowly been going in one ear, and he’s had all kinds of things from infections to kidney stones. But nothing has kept him down for long. He’s always gotten right up and at ’em as soon as he’s healthy enough to do so.
His constant activity makes him look very healthy for his age. Again, he’s going to be 80 in a couple of months, but you wouldn’t know it right away from his vigour. I know I shouldn’t brag, but it seems like my family on my mom’s side has some pretty good genes when it comes to youthfulness.
My grandmother’s stroke a couple of days ago was a bit of a shock to him, no doubt. Oma (as we call her) has always taken care of Opa, and I learned today when I spoke to Opa that he initially blamed himself for her stroke. Opa always is a little hard on himself. That’s not, of course, the greatest trait to have, but I would prefer that than someone who never admits to blame.
Here’s to you, Opa. I don’t know where I would be without you.