The comments expresses the writer’s opinions.
We were friends and neighbors for many years. “Bro” he used to call me, and more than a bourgeois branch on the nose, if they spotted the two of us together outside Zwiebelfisch. “We’re real one percent boys,” Benny joked if he had managed to tease someone into a small mouthful.
Even Benny WAS really a one-percent. He enlisted in the army as a 17-year-old and had three “trips” to Vietnam. His military career ended in West Berlin in the 80’s. Afterwards, Benny married his wise and patient Diana – and stayed.
There were a lot of motorcycle gangs and stuff like that – a lot of “brothers”. Occasionally he found a job where it was possible to work without speaking a word of German. But the funniest thing he knew was the supporting roles in all sorts of feature films. He himself believed that there were a total of 61 such performances.
His wife died six years ago and afterwards Benny (1949 model) became a little quieter.
Two or three years ago, a diabetic toe had to be removed. A hospital infection settled in the wound and during the following months he was operated on a further 12 times. “I am no fucking salami,” he could growl. Eventually, the painful treatment method had cost the entire foot, so there the man suddenly sat helpless in a wheelchair.
The emergency calls came late and early – and each time I had to rush out in a hurry. Either he had gone out with all the nurses and doctors, or there was something wrong with the hospital food. (If a Mac would help? “No fucking McDonalds – only Burger King for me”.)
Back at Savignyplatz, he was stuck for over a year on ten square meters while waiting for a new apartment. Sometimes he was completely furious when I arrived. The only thing that helped was to catch up with the same coin:
«Repeat after me: I will never again say fucking bitch to a German nurse». We had to keep repeating this procedure.
Also read: The children left behind in East Berlin
“You’re going to die”
One day in mid-November when I called, he was hoarse in his voice. “You’re infected,” I said. “Should I call a doctor”?
At least I did not. The next day there was no doubt anymore, but he did not want qualified help at all. The third day I said “you are going to crepe”. But HE was to handle the fires on his own. The following week, I repeated daily that “you are going to die.”
On the ninth day, he barely had enough air for his ritual “hi bro.”
“NOW maybe I should call?”
He agreed, and an hour later the man was in the intensive care unit. It became an artificial coma. For two or three days, it actually looked like he was going to recover from the pneumonia. But then it suddenly turned around and on the sixth day the battle was lost.
Yesterday we were in Neukölln to bury him. 20-30 older motorcyclists with club names on the leather vest, 15-20 well-grown US veterans of those who were left hanging in Germany. As well as five young and tight soldiers who blew salutes and arranged the flag ceremony.
The veterans were people he met in Berlin who had experienced Benny’s efforts to keep American war graves in order throughout Europe.
When he showed up at the honorary cemeteries to give his small talk about those who remained on the battlefield, there were often crooked glances and rude remarks from young lieutenants or majors. THEY, in return, formed the Long Tryner Association, when the general finally arrived – and was on first name terms with the long-haired and bearded veteran representative.
A mutual friend and neighbor from Savignyplatz had undertaken the task of wearing a black cloak and sending a few words of God on the journey. That is, I noticed that the focus was more on Johnny Cash and his “Man in Black” than the message of eternity. Afterwards, the same neighbor was responsible for the grounding. My fear of firing pompous honorary salutes was – thankfully – put to shame when a young GI appeared and blew horns.
An old colleague kept his word, but quickly skipped his entire military career – with a remark that Benny himself did not like to talk about it.
It was another nice way to express that Benny had a strict ban on revealing anything about things he had done in Uncle Sam’s name – and that was the reason why horrible demons haunted him at night. The post-traumatic illnesses were extensive, which was underlined by a huge battery with various pill boxes.
I myself sat on the first bench in the chapel and cut my teeth in rage. How can anyone even imagine that they understand more of covid-19 than all possible professionals?
“Rest in peace”
If any (more) “skeptics” should ask me, the answer is “yes – I actually know someone who died of corona. He wanted neither basic protection nor boosting. You can visit him in a shocking cemetery in Berlin. “
Actually, I should have pushed him harder. But Benny had decided – so neither insults nor / or high noise level could make him take those injections.
I hate the phrase «rest in peace». Rest? He could have waited for that for at least 10 years. Smallest. (And for Benny, it would probably seem like a threat. Peace? Something SO boring).