I had given my large German flag to my father some time ago, a gift for him to, with a Canadian flag, run up the flagpole that for many years stood by a tree I would climb as a boy at our home in Niagara.
But it never made from Dad’s home-office to that pole, and, until Saturday evening, I had forgotten I had even given it away and how desperately flagless we now were.
So my 8-year-old came up with the idea, and did a fine job making our own new flags with some black and red and yellow paint and simple 8×10 paper for The Big Game.
And this is what we flew out the van window after yesterday’s German World Cup win, where even in quiet Ancaster, within five minutes we saw at least that many vehicles with their own flags, all of us screaming and honking and acting foolish enough because this, in a way, is what nationalism is all about.
As did my British brother-in-law, who gave me a bear hug as big as any when young Götze finally got the game-winner. And his two boys watched too. Plus their sister and Jon’s two sisters, all of us together for The Big Goal, our noses against the screen of the old thousand-pound tube TV that we really must replace sometime.
Which is to say yesterday will be a day to remember.
All the more a day to remember because July 13 is also the day that my father and I first met. It’s a remarkable story as stories go and I have shared some of it in 99 Windows, which I’ve excerpted below.
Which means that today is not only the day Germany is still celebrating, and Bastille Day also, but also, apparently, my birthday.
I couldn’t imagine a better-timed gift than yesterday’s Big Win.
Here’s a bit more on that first father-son meeting, excerpted from the former Toronto Telegram, which chronicled some of the Froese Family drama of that time.
[July 3, 1968 – Page 1]: “This is a report about Gunther Froese, a St. Catharines licensed masseur now wandering somewhere in West Berlin on the verge of a nervous breakdown because the Canadian government never could seem to find the time to take a long look at the very justified complaint he had.
For the last three years Mr. Froese has been buffeted from department to department, politician to politician . . . [This week] Mr. Froese went to pick up Heidi and a son he had never seen . . . Mrs. [Hannelore] Froese was under psychiatric care . . . Armed with a custody order, Mr. Froese went to visit his daughter. [Heidi] was in a children’s home . . . But the superintendent of the home called police. They set up a roadblock and arrested Mr. Froese . . . Mr. Froese was beaten up . . .
He has been promised help in the last 11 months from this list of prominent Canadians: Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Progressive Conservative leader Robert Stanfield, NDP leader Tommy Douglas, acting Justice Minister Donald S. Macdonald, James McNulty, his area MP and at least a score of others. But there wasn’t any help in Berlin this week . . .
The Canadian Military Mission in West Berlin is keeping its hands off . . .
Today, Mr. Froese is alone in West Berlin . . .
[July 4, 1968] “Yesterday we told of the ordeal of Gunther Froese. The [Canadian] government didn’t even try to take action after our report yesterday. Today, Mr. Froese vanished. We have engaged a private detective to try to find Mr. Froese since the public authorities in Berlin have as little interest in him as Ottawa . . .
[July 12, 1968] “Today, Mr. Froese is in Copenhagen and as soon as he can get on a plane he will return to St. Catharines – victorious. He has his two children with him and that was the only victory he wanted . . . In a statement by , of all people, the lawyer for his wife, the court was urged to give Mr. Froese police protection . . .
Two German police cars and a Canadian military vehicle escorted Mr. Froese and his daughter to the plane. After arriving in Copenhagen, Mr. Froese left his daughter with friends and flew to Munich to pick up the son he has never seen.”
[Toronto Telgram excerpt ends.]
And this – with another German detective or two, plus international law professors, thrown in – was what led to July 13, the day before my third birthday, the day my father and I met for the first time in a small town near Munich, Germany.
And with the blessing of the courts in Canada and Berlin, Dad Froese took me aboard a plane also. With Child 1, we flew from Copenhagen to New York, and then back to Canada, eventually arriving in Niagara where the three of started our lives anew…
Mom Froese, meanwhile, remained in Berlin, never to return.