The main focus of this letter is Opa's love for Anni, and what sounds like his struggle to live on the other side of the planet while holding this love in his heart. I'm wondering if he and Anni are writing to each other in all this. Anni did not keep her letters from Opa (we asked her!). So we have to guess at what level of relationship this was. Did he have this unrequited love, or was Anni engaged with him? We know that Opa wrote to Anni and Gisela jointly for a bit, but then the letters are separate. The obvious reason for this is that they no longer lived in the same place, but I wonder if the tone of the letters also changed so that Anni's letter became more personal, love-filled.
The story we were told by Anni and Gisela was that Gisela loved Tom, Tom loved Anni, and Anni loved Werner (who died in the war). I wonder if Anni strung Opa along a little bit? He seems so committed to her. And yet- this is the ultimate long-distance relationship with little to no hope of quick reunion. That can't be fun. You can tell by Ella's response to Opa's letters that he is struggling. It seems also that he has some guilt over something because both August and Ella have reassured Opa that he isn't doing anything ugly to her. My guess is that Opa is flirting/dating with girls in the United States (we just met someone that he dated during this time period!). Or he maybe still feels guilty about that kiss with Gisela- which could be the case because Ella talks about her surprise that he had kissed a girl.
I thought that Ella's surprise was kind of funny. The boy is 20 years old. Of course he's kissed someone! I know the opportunities were less in Germany when he went to an all-boys school, but still. Come on Ella. I love how Ella sort of talks through her shock of her children growing up in this letter. She tells herself it is normal and good and that all is well- but you can tell it was definitely an adjustment for her and she really had to process it. Her babies are all grown up! One is in America pining after some girl back home, and the other is engaged to be married in France. That's pretty grown up.
When I talked to Helene (Patti's daughter) about Ella, one of the things she said was that Ella impressed many people with her ability to be so non-judgmental. I think I can see that in this letter. She is able to name her instincts, her knee-jerk reactions- and then with that self-awareness- move to a place of understanding and acceptance. That's noble.
The line where Ella talks about her fear of never seeing her children again just breaks me. On the surface, this letter is a response, a commentary, and informational. Below that- you witness a mother watching her children grow up and she realizes that she has lost her children. She will never see them as children again- and she has a real fear that she won't even get to see them as the adults they are growing into. She's losing her past and her future. The war sped things up and she is standing still, stuck in fear in Berlin.
Her only link to her children are these letters- and the letters are arriving late, never, or rifled through by Nazi censors. This is why she cares so much that Opa's letters go straight to her and not through August (as August keeps suggesting)- because she can't handle one more damn censor.
In the end, Ella echoes the familiar phrase we know from the diary of Anne Frank when she says "As long as you yourself are decent, interested in the humanities, comradely, you need not doubt anybody." Be good. It doesn't always mean that people will be good to you- but it certainly gives them a better chance.