Janine was 15 when she went looking for her dad. Where did he live? Would he even want to see her again? Wilfried was her papa’s name. “My name is Löde, but I’m far from stupid” was his saying. Her mother didn’t want to talk about him, nor did she want Janine to look for him. Should pay his child support before he sees his daughter.

He used to be a radiant man, always in a good mood, always dressed to the nines, always with a joke on his lips. One that people liked at first. He also brought money home. Once they had even flown to Bulgaria. Mum, dad and Janine. First you had to be able to afford it.

Wilfried worked in a vegetable shop in Prenzlauer Berg and had the gift of being able to talk the saddest apples to people’s cheeks. He knew Hinz and Kunz and exactly the right people in the right places. He and his boss bribed the truck driver so that he would come to them first when they delivered and they could choose the best goods. Once they arranged for peaches to fall from a truck bound for West Berlin. They then sold them on Friedrichstrasse. People almost went crazy. Then a grandmother accidentally paid 100 Westmark in the shop. The banknote was similarly blue to the East Hundred. Willfried gave it to her in Ostmark and drove to the Intershop with the ticket. Then again, they gave out free vegetable soup to get people to come to the store. Wilfried poured a bottle of castor oil into the soup: “That causes diarrhea!”

It was as if Wilfried had missed growing up. When his neighbors, his mother and he were close together, which happened quite often, he loaded his mother into the wheelbarrow, drove her to the garden estate three blocks away, dumped her in front of a garden gate and left her there.

Janine knew from her mother that she had fallen in love with the beaming man and nonsense who loved to dance and party, and that she, Janine, was his dream child. She hardly knew anything about the rest. For example, that the radiant man drank so much that he sometimes fell over on the street. That his mood could change from one moment to the next and he suddenly snapped at his mother why the drying rack was standing around. Of course, he wanted the family to be well: he paid for his mother’s driver’s license and bribed the driving instructor to teach her how to drive a good Lada. Bribed the examiner to pass it the first time. On the other hand, he used her driving lessons to meet other ladies. When they wanted to separate, he kicked in doors and slammed. When she broke up, he cried like a dog, she was his great love. She cried too, he too was her great love. But it didn’t work anymore. Janine didn’t know any of that. She wanted to meet her father.

She secretly searched her mother’s files. A different folder every day until she found the first clue in a letter from a lawyer. Wilfried lived in Hellersdorf with another woman, with a second daughter. But there was no exact address. Janine went to the post office, wrote down all phone numbers under this name and got started. One call, five calls, ten calls. “No, no Wilfried here.” Until a voice asked back: “Who is it?” She hung up quickly. And then called again: “It’s me, your daughter…”

First they wrote letters, then they met. There he was again the jolly beam man, handsome, in a shirt and jacket, he wanted to make a good impression. It was shortly after reunification, the greengrocer’s had closed, and Wilfried worked his way from retraining to retraining. He couldn’t really gain a foothold. And again there was this on the one hand and on the other hand, which Janine only found out about later. Because the second daughter had leukemia, Wilfried and his second wife got together again. Wilfried took care of it, the main thing was that the child got through. But when his mood turned bad, he hurt both of them with words and hands.

For two years, Wilfried was Janine’s radiant dad. Then he was gone, didn’t answer. To eventually appear and disappear again. Janine later understood that this had nothing to do with her. Separation, withdrawal, unemployment, alcohol again, one-euro jobs, Hartz 4. If he had the strength, he made contact. And she learned something else: she wouldn’t change him. She could only make her peace if she accepted him as he was.

Wilfried moved back to French Buchholz, to his parents’ garden house. If a wooden slat thundered over the head of a neighbor during a drinking bout, he went to prison for a few weeks. Perhaps all of this, this anger, this intensity, had something to do with the fact that Wilfried had blown half his left hand off as a teenager, Janine suspects. A homemade bomb.

When Janine visited him, he was very happy. The mood cannon in him woke up, then the two of them talked as much as they could. When Janine got married, he said to her husband: “That’s good, now you take care of my daughter.”

She, in turn, was impressed by how tidy things were with him. Nothing was lying around, all the papers were neatly sorted away, everything was shiny, and even the sink in the kitchen was polished. The bottle of brandy for 4.99 was not in the living room, but in the kitchen, so that he had to get out of the deep recess of the sofa. Since he didn’t really like the stuff, he always drank a cup of peppermint tea with fruit afterwards.

Once he visited Janine in West Germany. For three days he pulled himself together. For three days she showed him her life. Good three days. Somehow they got down to God. He prays every day, he said. “What are you praying for?” she asked. “I pray for you and my other daughter.”

Four people came to his funeral. They were standing at his grave, the urn was already in the ground, when one of his last friends said: “He always talked so much. Was always energized. Now it’s quiet.”