Roland Dürre
Monday January 14th, 2019

It is Nice to be Sick!

Once in a while, I re-read my own IF Blog stories. After all, one of the reasons why I write IF Blog is because I write for myself. So I read the story of my childhood a short time ago:

How I lost my tonsils (Wie ich meine Mandeln verloren habe).

And then I noticed that, basically, I had related everything just as I remembered it. But there is one important point where I fell a little short of the truth by not telling the entire truth. Today, you will read the entire truth.


 

The beginning of four sad years in primary school (“Volksschule”).

My parents had decided that, with my start at grammar school, a medical treatment – the removal of my tonsils – was to improve my poor health. After all, during primary school, I really was very often sick.

And I liked being sick. In fact, I literally sought sickness, i.e. common colds and chills. The reasons for this are easy to understand.

I hated the school at the Wittelsbacher Park.

There were several reasons for this hatred.

In the normal subjects, such as German and Mathematics, I was bored. Boredom is quite a cruel thing.

Also, our teacher liked to beat his pupils (also as a prophylactic method). Once in a while, everyone was given beatings onto their fingers with the black square timber. For no reason. He simply wanted to get the message across what we had expect if we misbehaved. At least that was his explanation – in a way, this was even more cruel than the boredom.

Today, I would say that our teacher was simply a sick sadist. In musical education, he made me very much aware of my incompetence and in physical education, he ordered me around like a dog. It was total oppression – just like in the army.

The way there was a real torture.

The worst was religious instructions. The priest presented a God whom I experienced as an evil creature who tormented his own son in the most unimaginable way.

In summer, I enjoyed the way to school through the Augsburg Wittelsbacher Park. In winter, not even this was any fun.

Even halfway to school, the shoes were wet from all the snow and ice and the feet – as well as the hands – were icy cold.

And when I went home at noon, the shoes were still wet – which was mostly also true for the next morning. Since, however, they were the only winter boots I had, I had to wear them every morning on my way to school.

In winter, there was no motivation for me to remain healthy. After all, the soccer ground where, in summer, we met every day to play soccer, was snowy and slushy – and always empty. Nor did anyone play dodgeball on the court. Some way or other, there were not many reasons to leave the house.

On the other hand, the hill near the Rosenaustadion was much loved. However, to me, tobogganing and skiing looked quite irrational. You went down the hill just to pull the thing up again. Sisyphos work has never been my preference.

So I had no reason to remain healthy. On the other hand, it was nice to be sick.

After all, whenever I was sick, I did not have to go to school. I was allowed to stay in bed and read my books. My mother mollycoddled me. She always asked me what I wanted for lunch. And I often got delicacies such as Wiener Würste, which otherwise were a rarity in our household.

And in the afternoon, I was given a marzipan potatoe from the Dichtl bakery. At the time, that was still a very small bakery in the Rosenaustrasse. Today, the Dichtl is some sort of bakery concern with numerous outlets in Augsburg. The marzipan potatoe still tastes unique.

There were other reasons that made sickness a nice thing. Even my sister, who was five years younger, treated my nicely because she felt pity for her sick big brother.

My small sister and yours truly eating sandwiches in front of the laundry door of our house in the Rosenaustrasse 18 in summer. In summer, I was hardly ever sick.

My small sister and yours truly eating sandwiches in front of the laundry door of our house in the Rosenaustrasse 18 in summer. In summer, I was hardly ever sick.

Even my father was very nice and friendly when he visited me at my sickbed in the evenings after his railway day. And he asked how I was doing and comforted me.

So as you see, it was nice to be sick because everybody treated me so well – so I enjoyed and promoted it during the bleak winter days. It worked quite well.

Early in the summer of 1960, the day of my operation neared. I was wondering if I should maybe tell the truth about how my poor health had been very much promoted and even faked by myself. Just to avoid the operation.

But then I did not tell. Above all, I saw that telling the truth would not have helped. Because even then, plans that had been made were executed in all their brutality. Even if they were very stupid plans. Just like today …


The consequences of the operation were the opposite of nice. Ever since 1960, I have a throat-ache every winter. Regardless, I was seldom sick after that year. There were no longer any advantages to being sick. Grammar school was not quite as cruel as primary school had been.

And by the time I worked, I went to the office in winter regardless of the “then normal“ throat aches and terrible colds. After all, there were always people and tasks waiting for me. At least, that is how I perceived it.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Thursday October 18th, 2018

Childhood Memories – Waste, Potable Water

Perhaps, as you grow older, you start thinking a little more about how life was when you were small?

Eating a snack with my sister in the backyard of our flat at Rosenaustrasse 18 in Augsburg (behind the central station).

I was one of two children of a middle-class family. My father was a tenured officer at the German Railway and my mother was a teacher who, due to having children, no longer worked in her job. To this day, I still enjoy meeting my sister who is five years younger than I.

I forgot most of the things that happened during my childhood, but a few memories remained with me through my entire life. And they are still quite vivid.

One of these memories is about washing your hands. And about our relationship with water.

Our parents took cleanliness very seriously. Which meant that we had to wash our hands as often as possible. Here is how we did it: turn on the tub, wet your hands, use some soap, rub vigorously, use more soap, rub vigorously… as long as necessary, and then, finally, turn off the tub.

On weekends, we often went to Thannhausen (in Swabia) and met our grandparents on mother’s side, as well as the families of my mother’s sisters. We spent much time in the open. And I often returned to the grandparents‘ flat looking quite dirty. So, again, I had to wash my hands.

Which I did. Once, my grandfather saw me wash my hands. He scolded me because – as was normal for me from at home – I never turned the tub off during the entire procedure. He explained to me that water is a valuable commodity in our lives and that you should never waste it.

I immediately agreed with him and I believe that this short episode had a huge impact on my life. And if I see today how, in the public swimming pool, some grown-up men activate the shower and then chat with someone in the ante-room, I do not find this so great.

Thinking of Thannhausen, Augsburg and those times, I remember many other things that were not so great.

RMD
(Translated by EG)