Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Remembering "Opa"

My memories of Dr. Bill Fuchs are vague and fading fast. My father's father was a dapper man in the old style. When I remember him, he's nearly always wearing a suit. Sometimes, he's relaxing at home in a cardigan sweater over a button down shirt, slacks and loafers.

I do recall that he smoked cigars and to this day, as objectionable as I find them, there's a comforting aspect to their odor, as well, thanks to Opa. That's what my siblings, cousins and I called him. German for "Grandpa." Our grandmother, his wife Maryanne, was Oma.

Opa played tennis, and there are good stories from his playing days, like the one my father wrote up and had published in "Tennis" Magazine, called "Portugal Against the World." The story is both comical and sad, and tells of my grandfather's entry into a European tennis tournament during World War II. He was a resident of Lisbon at the time, and wished to play representing Portugal, instead of Germany, where he was born, raised, and from which he ultimately fled. As the tale goes, the only flag they could find at the request of the aging tennis player was enormous, two times the size of any of the other flags of the other countries being represented during the tournament. Thus the title.

I found the above photo of Opa quite by accident. I actually did a Google Images search of my father's name, and this popped up. It's from a genealogy site. ("The Family History of the Calzaretta, Krieger, Michaels and Rafael Families") I love it, and am considering using it as my profile picture for a while, just to get him back into the world, even briefly.

There may be a few of you out there who will remember this: (I sort of downplayed it at the time) but I did get to honor Dr. Fuchs in a rather striking way, when I wore his formal tuxedo to my senior prom, in May of 1981. (You get a glimpse of it above -- note the felt top hat I'm holding against my left leg. It had his name, "Dr. B. Fuchs," embroidered inside.) Unfortunately, I was hot and uncomfortable in the wool tails, and a little stressed about having to drive my girlfriend's father's Buick Electra, 225 -- a BOAT of an automobile that I almost wrecked on our first turn out of her neighborhood -- but I did look good. And it was an honor to have my grandfather "with me." (He had died less than two years before this picture was taken, so that loss was still fresh for me.)

Our culture doesn't honor our ancestors the way others do. I've always been the keeper of memories in my family, like my uncle Geoffrey Fuchs before me, and I'll admit to slipping a bit as of late. My hope is that these blogs will re-kindle that flame for me.

I'd say they already have.


  1. I always appreciate your reminiscences, Dan

  2. This one was written at the end of a mercilessly long work day that started at 4:30 am, in order to catch a 6:30 flight. I don't think I gave the topic the energy it merits, so I may continue this in a later post.