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Das Interview - by Lyle Regenwetter

Die Symphonie kann beginnen

Neu - seit Mai 2005

Es ist recht eigenartigmit einem seiner Enkelkinder über Telefon ein Interview zu machen. Lyle,meinältestes Enkelkind, von meinem Sohn Mike, wird im nächsten Monat 10 undbesucht eine Montessorischule in Illinois. Er sitzt zwar in der vierten Klasse, die Mathematik aber besucht er bereits in der siebten Klasse.
ausserdem besucht er eine Musikschule, wo er bereits virtuos auf einem Flügel spielen gelernt hat. Seine Übungen besorgt er fleissig zuhause. Als Freizeitgestaltung hat er sich fürSchachspielen entschieden und ist deshalb in einem Schachklub eingeschrieben. Er hat schon an verschiedenen Turnieren teilgenommen und auch verschiedene Spiele gegen Gleichaltrige gewonnen. Lesen, Fussballspielen, Wandern und Schwimmen sind dazu eine Selbstverständlichkeit.
Ein Interview machen, mit einer Person aus dem Bekanntenkreis, war seine Hausaufgabe. Natürlich wurde den Schülern vorher beigebracht wie man ein Interview gestaltet und was man da alles fragen soll. Darauf hin hat er mir die Fragen gestellt und sein Vater, der neben ihm am Telefon sass, notierte meine Antworten sofort auf seinen Laptop. Dann gingen beidezum Feinschliff über, wobei natürlich Lyle’s Vater zur verständlichen Formulierung der Sätzebeitragen musste. Dabei hat Lyle ebenfalls gelernt, dass Erwachsene noch besser mit der Sprache umgehen können.

Henri Regenwetter
A Biography by Lyle Regenwetter

This is a biography of Henri Regenwetter. Henri is a 75 year old man from Luxembourg. I visit him in Europe almost every year because he is my grandfather. Henri may not have been the President of a country. He may not have been a movie superstar or have won a Nobel Prize. But in my eyes, he is still a great man. Below, I tell his story.

Chapter 1: Birth and Family

On July 29th, 1932, walkers passing by on the sidewalk saw Sybilla and Albert Regenwetter rushing out of their house. Sybilla was worried and scared. She could not imagine that he would come out by himself. "How are they going to do it?" she thought. Was the doctor going to use an extractor tool? A limping Sybilla and her tall husband Albert were anxious to get to the hospital as fast as they possibly could.
Sybilla Regenwetter was a thirty-eight year old house wife. Household chores, such as yard work, carrying heavy loads, making the beds and hanging laundry, presented her with much hardship because she was physically impaired: As a child, she had broken her hip in a fall. Her family had thought that she was just faking an injury and had not even taken her to see a doctor at all. As a consequence, Sybilla's hip had never fully healed, and she was never again able to walk very well.
Sybilla's thirty-four year old husband, Albert Regenwetter, on the other hand, was an exceptionally strong man. Albert worked for the Luxembourg government as a customs officer, and he was able to afford a big house in Rodange. The city of Rodange is located in the southwestern corner of the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, at the borders to France and Belgium. Sybilla and Albert were parents of a four year old son, François.
On that day, July 29th, 1932, Sybilla gave birth to Henri Regenwetter at the hospital of Pétange, a few miles from Rodange. It turned out that she had been preoccupied with the wrong worries. Actually, Henri was born without any special help. On the other hand, little Henri suffered from pneumonia for the first ten days of his life.
Henri's grandpa Regenwetter was a simple painter who just painted houses in white paint. He was married to a housewife. They were parents of twelve or thirteen children! Henri's grandfather Milius, Sybilla's father, was a shoe maker, who was also married to a house wife. Sybilla had two sisters. Of that huge family, Henri now remembers only two uncles. He knows of about six to eight cousins.

Chapter 2: School Experiences and Childhood

Henri's rocky relationship with his mother and his brother continues to stay fresh on his mind as if it had only happened yesterday. Sybilla frequently disciplined Henri by whipping his bare legs with a leather belt. François only made that matter worse when he helped her hold Henri in order to keep him from running away. Henri's father, however, was so strong that he could simply not afford to lay a hand on his kids. While Henri loathed his mother and brother, he loved his father very much. Albert was always patient enough to answer any question that Henri asked.
Albert was Henri's hero. One day, shortly before Christmas, François lit a sparkler and chased the cat around the kitchen. Their parents were upstairs, in the bathroom, out of sight. The cat ran into the living room and jumped through the drapes onto the window sill. François was still chasing after the cat and accidentally lit the curtains with the hot, burning sparkler. Soon the entire curtain around the window was on fire. Henri shouted "Fire! Fire!" up the stairs. His dad sprinted downstairs, opened the window, grabbed the burning cloth with his bare hands and dumped it out into the yard. Albert had saved his house, but at the cost of severe burns to his hands and arms. It was adventures like this that made Henri think of his father as a superhero.
In Henri's hometown of Rodange, all the boys went to the same primary school. It was simply called "the boys' primary school," and it took Henri five minutes to walk there by himself each day. While most of Henri's grades were average, reading and writing were his passion.
In 1940, when Henri was eight years old, the German Army stormed through Luxembourg on their way to France. Albert had the great honor of escorting the Grand-Duchess across the border on her way to exile in Britain. After serving her a cup of coffee, he closed the border gates and moved an anti-tank obstacle onto the road. During his bike ride home, he crossed a part of town where there were houses only on one side of the road. Albert heard shots and a dog, that had been running in front of his bike, fell down, dead! Albert made it home alive, but white as a ghost.
A few days later, when the Germans geared up to cross into France, Luxembourgish resistance fighters told the French army the location of a huge German cannon parked close to Henri's house. The French artillery located on a hill above Rodange launched a massive assault onto that area of town. Henri and his family were hiding in the basement while the house was hit by seven shells. Their French friends even blasted Henri's bedroom to smithereens. The next day, Henri and his family were evacuated to a different home, and they heard that the German cannon had actually already been moved before the French got around to shooting.
The Nazis arrested Albert (like most Luxembourgish men his age) and sent him off for forced labor far away in Poland. Luckily, he only needed to work in an office, not fight for the German Army. During the war, soldiers, tanks, and cannons were passing through Henri's hometown all the time. Henri even saw, with his own eyes, English Spitfire airplanes dueling with German Messerschmitt in the sky. However, during bombing raids, his family was usually taking shelter in the basement.
One day, after Henri's family had suffered through years of misery and starvation, American troops arrived and sent the Germans running. The street was packed with cars and trucks entering town, as the GIs were setting up camp. When the traffic stalled, Henri approached a car to beg for chewing gum, chocolate, and cigarettes: The Americans had quickly earned the reputation of being loaded with treats! As Henri climbed up the side of a car, he suddenly found himself, for the first time in his life, face to face with a black man! The soldier laughed and generously handed Henri some goodies. The traffic had come to a stop and the soldier started to play some card tricks. After a particularly astonishing trick, Henri wanted to compliment the soldier, but he knew only a few words of English. He wanted to give two thumbs up and say "You are an Ace!" but, instead, he mispronounced and accidentally said "You are an ass!" Luckily, Henri later developed smoother relations with the American liberators.
At the end of the war, Henri's father came back home and they soon moved to a town called Oberkorn, and later to Differdange-Fuesbann. After primary school, Henri attended the Lyçée de Garçons à Esch/Alzette. He never had an opportunity to attend college.

Chapter 3: Job Experiences

Henri's dream had always been to become a park ranger. He loved nature and wanted to spend all day in the woods. He had dreamed of wandering among deer, other animals, and wild flowers. Unfortunately, his dream never came true.
For his entire career, Henri worked at a big steel factory in Differdange. Many skyscrapers in the United States are built with steel beams from that factory. Henri supervised three employees in an accounting office. They managed the inventory and purchases for the production line. To make steel, the melting furnace needed scrap metal, iron ore, magnesium, manganese, copper, coal, and coke. Besides ordering supplies and keeping track of the inventory, Henri's office oversaw quality control of the production line. Henri liked his job and was left alone by his superiors most of the time. However, creating a monthly final report was always a mind-boggling hassle: The very second that Henri entered his office on the first day of a month he would find that the engineers demanded an immediate itemized summary report of the previous month.
One day, Henri and his friend had a great idea. They figured out how to solve a pesky problem at the steel factory. The invention allowed the factory to speed up some work, save a lot of money on replacement parts, and, says Henri, "They avoided having to do repair work every Sunday. This avoided having to pay several workers overtime." The company had a special policy: They asked their employees to identify problems and propose solutions. Everybody was encouraged to contribute, and inventions were going to be rewarded with a large share of the profit they yielded. When Henri and his friend heard that the company would adopt their invention, they had ants in their pants: They had calculated that the factory would save at least $75,000 per year (in present day dollars)! But what a disappointment! All they received as a reward was a meagerly $6,000 (in present day dollars).

Chapter 4: Happiest and Saddest Days in Henri's Life

According to Henri, the happiest day of his life was half a century ago: May 22, 1958, when he and Leonie Reichling were married. Other very happy days were March 4, 1959, when their daughter Monique was born; April 9, 1961, when their daughter Martine joined them; and September 26, 1966, when, somewhat unexpectedly, their son Mike first saw the light of day.
According to Henri's son, Mike, who obviously had missed most of these wonderful events, the happiest day that he remembers in his father's life was Henri's last day at the steel factory. "That day, when he came home, my dad was ready to move mountains," he recalls.
Henri's worst day, other than the days when his parents passed away, was in his teenage years. When Henri decided to become a park ranger, he went to the Forestry Administration in Luxembourg City to inquire about the schooling requirements for such a career. The clerk told him that if he wanted to become a ranger, he would need to finish high school a year early, because there were only two or three spots left. These last spots were going to be filled quickly. Henri immediately changed to a curriculum that would allow him to skip a grade. However, this required covering three years of English in one year. Despite great difficulties, Henri managed to complete this major challenge. He returned to the government administration and proudly told the clerk: "Guess what, I have successfully graduated a year early by changing to a different school curriculum." Alas, the clerk sighed, as he looked at Henri's diploma: "You made a huge mistake! With that curriculum, you can never become a park ranger!" Henri felt terribly cheated, and he never wanted to set foot in a school again. While he contemplated running away to Africa or Canada, he met some nice girls and decided to stay.

Chapter 5: Henri's Favorite Things to Do

Beyond his childhood, Henri continued to love writing all his life. It always was his favorite thing to do.To this day, he likes to write poems and stories, especially about his travels, about nature, and on friendship. He writes in German, French, Luxembourgish, and sometimes, in English. He enjoys illustrating his writings with photos and he is now able to publish them on his webpage. Henri's Letters to the Editor frequently discuss current affairs in the main Luxembourg newspaper. For many years, Henri was the lead editor of, and main contributor to, a national magazine on gardening, hobby botany, wetlands, and nature preservation. Many people have praised Henri for his writings, and, even though they may just have been friendly, he likes to believe them.
Henri is a voracious reader: Every week, he plows through several books about gardening, nature, or other topics. Several German and Swiss book publishers keep sending him big bundles of books. After reading each of them, Henri writes book reviews to tell other readers how well the books are written, and just how much new information they provide.
Henri Regenwetter thinks that he developed his superior writing skills by reading lots and lots of books and by thinking about what made some of them well conceived and others poorly written. "I began to read many books early in life. In school, I read and wrote a lot. I often wrote a book report in just a quarter of an hour and told my friends the gist of what was in the book." Henri's friends were often quite astonished to learn what kinds of amazing books were out there. Starting in his second year of high school, Henri published some of his poetry in the national newspaper! Henri's father had also been a poet, but he never published a single poem. Actually, hardly anybody knows that Albert was a poet. The only exceptions are probably people who have read Henri's biography of his father on the internet.

6: Future Plans

Henri plans to keep working in his beautiful garden as long as possible. He loves planting and growing vegetables, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, celery and potatoes. In his big botanical garden, he also grows more than 400 different kinds of plants! As a hobby botanist, he orders seeds in the winter, receives them in the spring, and then plants the little seedlings. Soon they grow into big, healthy plants that he can enjoy all summer long. He also hopes to enjoy his three water ponds and "talk" with the noisy frogs for many more years. Henri likes to converse with the frogs lying down on his belly and calling something like, "Grrruack! Grrruack!"
Henri is looking forward to seeing Jake Regenwetter, Xinyuan Dai, Mike Regenwetter and me in the summer. He has invited us for his 50th wedding anniversary party.
For the next year or so, Henri plans to organize his photo collection. Over the years he has accumulated 35,000 (old-fashioned) slides and photo prints. He plans to digitize all of these pictures. Henri has purchased new equipment that will allow him to digitize slides and prints, and then burn them to a DVD. Maybe he can send copies of the whole collection to family members for Christmas.
Henri is turning seventy-six years old, and he guesses that he will be alive to one hundred years total. He realizes that, in this case, he only has twenty-four years left to live until he dies. So, he needs to plan his time carefully. Of topmost importance is to support his wife Leonie and help her manage the many signs of old age. Her knees are weak, and her hips and back ache. To make life easier, she uses a walker, or Henri pushes her in a wheelchair. Of second most importance for Henri is to take care of his own health. He thinks that an elderly person like him "can only do in one day what a child can do in a single hour!" He wants to keep driving his car as long as possible. He also hopes to keep going on outings with Leonie and with Leonie's sister, Vicky, especially on weekends, as is their family tradition.


Henri has endured many hardships over the course of his life: During his childhood, his mother and brother beat him, and the Nazis deported his father. In adulthood, he lost three fingers in an accident, and later needed triple heart bypass surgery. But Henri never lost his sense of humor: He told the nurse in the Emergency Room: "The good thing is that those fingers will no longer get in my way when I pick my nose."
These hardships become microscopic once you consider the good things in Henri's life.Henri's passions are his family and friends, reading and writing, gardening, photography and traveling. Even though he could not become a forestry ranger, Henri managed to pursue all of these passions extensively. Ever since his retirement, and hopefully all the way to his target age of a hundred years, he can enjoy almost all of these wonderful devotions all day long.

Eine weitere großartige Leistung

eines 10 Jahre alten Jungen, der seit seiner frühesten Jugend zu lesen begann und aus seiner Lektüre jetzt bereits die Früchte seiner Beschäftigung erntet.

Das obige Interview hatte mich kaum erreicht, da wurde schon von einer weiteren Arbeit gemunkelt. Lyle hatte als Hausaufgabe eine erfundene und friedliche (das bedeutet absolut gewaltlose) Geschichte zu schreiben. Natürlich hat sein Vater Mike wieder mit ihm über den Inhalt gesprochen, den sein Sohn aus seinem imaginären Potential schöpfen sollte. Die meisten Ideen stammen also vom Sohn, doch der Vater versuchte gemeinsam mit dem Sohn diese Ideen so zu einer Geschichte zusammen zu fügen, wie man es anschließend lesen kann. Auch beim Schliff der ausgewählten Sprache war der Vater behilflich, doch dies geschah keinesfalls nach Diktat, sondern nach Übereinkunft. Der Sohn musste sich mit den Vorschlägen des Vaters auseinander, setzen bevor er die definitive Fassung niederschrieb.

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