Greta and Berta

Greta and Berta were twins. Although they were twins, they were quite different from one another. Sometimes I thought that it is almost impossible that the two are even related.


Greta’s husband was a bus driver. He died of a heart attack at the bus terminus during his break, when he was not even 60. From that day on Greta wore only black clothes and every time she said that she was not long for this earth. What no-one could know was that after her husband’s death she was to enjoy another 42 years in very good health. Such is fate!

Her sister, Berta, was a trained nurse and as she herself said had no time to get married. She lived for her profession and she could alleviate the suffering of others with a laugh and understanding. Her left leg was shorter than the right and her life-long she had to wear special shoes. She limped a little, which certainly didn’t make her life any easier, but she could joke about her minor physical defects, as if it were the funniest thing on earth.

When Berta retired, the twin sisters again moved in together. I visited them occasionally. They always had something tasty, freshly baked – Greta’s work and on top there were numerous funny stories from Berta’s past daily work. I could listen to Berta for hours, because she enjoyed life, had understanding for the weaknesses of other people and because she was also a wonderful listener. Spending time with her was a gift. You couldn’t say that about Greta. As soon as Greta opened her mouth, first she informed everybody that she is not much longer for this earth and then she started to complain. There was always something that she could complain about. The bus arrived too late, the neighbour’s son had not greeted her, her legs hurt and so on without end.

As positively and sprightly as Berta was in life, negative thinking and moaning was a part of Greta. I never understood how Berta could put up with Greta’s complaints from morning to evening. Every time after at most 10 minutes it got on my nerves. But somehow Berta could shut it all out. But because of Berta, despite Greta, I enjoyed visiting them and I also put up with the moaning Greta. However, Berta died much, much earlier than Greta. When I visited her for the last time in hospital, the doctor had told me earlier that she receives a strong dose of morphium to manage the pain. But even in hospital, emaciated and marked by her cancer, Berta was still funny. How she could find the strength for this, I don’t know. She will remain in my memory, lying in bed in a white hospital nightdress and laughing.

But the great surprise is that, after Berta’s death, Greta changed. She still intoned her obligatory „I’m not much longer for this earth“ – which the longer she did so, the more realistic it was – but there were no more complaints. It was as if a piece of Berta lived on in Greta. Greta became more positive and funnier. So it is clear that any age one can still develop. Provided the will is there!!

Image source: Dr. Stephan Barth  /

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