Sunday, July 29, 2018


I pushed the button to ring her doorbell. A few seconds later, I heard her voice through the speaker: “Hello?”

“It’s Kirstin Meyer,” I responded, and this time she answered immediately. The door swung open, and I walked through to the elevators. When I got to her floor, the apartment door was already open, waiting for me. She greeted me with a smile, an urge to come in, and a big hug.

I call Petra “my adopted German grandmother.” We met through my church in Bremerhaven when I lived here and bonded over music, travel, and faith. We’ve written letters back and forth for 6 years, and I stop by to see her whenever I’m in town. Petra is a retired opera singer and an absolutely fascinating woman. She has a huge, generous heart, a lifetime full of stories to share, and even at 78, she is incredibly active.

Petra in Jerusalem
I spent most of an evening listening about Petra’s recent trip to Israel. She showed me pictures of Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, and the church group she was traveling with. Just when I thought we had reached the end of her giant stack of photos, she pulled out another full box and continued her tale. No digitalization, and yet everything was documented on film. I listened in awe of her strenuous trip and positively dropped my jaw when she said she had done the whole thing with a fractured ankle.

The next night, she invited me to watch a production of Richard Wagner's Lohengrin on TV with her. I was eager to see the opera, especially with Petra, who had performed it years ago. She let me leaf through her copy of the opera's score as we watched, and at times, I could hear her singing along. She pointed out faces she recognized in the chorus - younger colleagues who were still performing. When a small group of women from the chorus came to the front of the stage for a solo part, she told that was her role back in the day.

Every time I see Petra, I learn something new - often multiple new things. I admire her tenacity and her artistry and her self-assured character. Guys, I want to be Petra when I grow up.

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