It was twenty-four years ago today I worked my last day as an employee of the US Air Force (civilian type) in Europe. I tell myself I still haven't decided if I'm angry or sad about how the end happened and why. I didn't lose my job, it sort of lost me. Historically, in less time than it takes to explain the appeal of totalitarianism to Eastern Europeans, that appeal evaporated into thin air and where there had been two Germanys for four and a half decades, there was suddenly only one.
As a card carrying grey eminence of the NATO occupation forces, and with Exchange and Commissary privileges to prove it (not forgetting my Mainz-Kastel Audio -Video Club Frequent Shopper Membership), I was part of the 'everything must go!' overhead the United States Armed Forces parted with in their Getting Out of Europe sale. In dribs and drabs for the course of a couple of years, many of those with whom I had worked, in and out of uniform, found themselves in the same place and space-where the road and the sky collide with very little time to think once much less twice.
I was considering all of that (and the role a pair of talentless right bastard career Air Force officers both of them, Captain Mary and Colonel Tom, played in engineering my exit) while watching the images of the now united Germany opening its arms to embrace the poor and terrorized peoples from all corners of the Middle East and while I realize there's mumbling and grumbling about how much help and who should receive it I can recall similar murmurings at the time of reunification, and this time around it seems to be more muted and measured.
Gone, though not forgotten (at least by me and I know I'm not alone) are the tee shirts that were everywhere when the blush of reunification had faded that read on the front "Bring Back the Wall" while auf den ruckseite, it said "And Make It Three Meters Taller." This time, all Germans, ehemaliger wessies und ossies are all standing tall, rolling up sleeves and helping those in dire need of any and all forms of assistance and writing a new chapter of the world's history.
It amazes and heartens me to watch from a distance. If I'd known then what would happen to my life now and that of my family, I don't think I'd have changed a thing for my family or the world in whcih we lived, despite or because of that knowledge. We are the sum of everyone we've ever known and the journey so far has been as educational as it has been inspirational and entertaining.
Sometimes this story each of us is writing can be a bit tricky as farewell often becomes goodbye and at other times, it's yet another hello.