Monday, July 15, 2013
My gathering of relatives went fairly well at my Uncle's memorial. My sister's husband broke the ice quickly with Tanya, my Uncle's illegitimate daughter, asking pointed questions about when she knew she was our Uncle's daughter, etc. Interesting responses, but from facts my brother found out, quite different. Anyway, my sister, gregarious and outdoing quickly warmed Tanya up and chatted with her. To our surprise, there were photo albums laid out for us to look out. My Dad had hastily put them together for us to view. To my even bigger surprise, when he saw me looking through them, he actually came and sat down beside me, saying who was who and facts about their lives after coming over from Germany -their boat ride took one year!! Tanya's husband breezed in late, carrying their 18 month old son, nearly knocking my Mom off her feet and not giving her a good first impression. He shook hands and was introduced to the rest of us, but not her. My Mom made herself scarce, not wanting to hang around her ex.
My Uncle Fred's friends were warm and friendly and a pleasure to meet. In a small world, it turned out my sister had played volleyball with the daughter of one of them -he immediately called her and Sandy and her chatted briefly.
There were no awkward moments. My sister read out the memories I had of Fred, and added her own and then quoted two bible verses and asked everyone to pray. She was sniffing throughout. Fred had no religion he practised and had not wanted anything done after he died other than to cremate him. When there was a discussion of what to do with his ashes, all of us children agreed they should go back to the family plot in Germany. My Dad was against this, telling my brother just go scatter them up at the farm. It got a bit ugly after that with my Dad complaining my Uncle hadn't visited him in the last eight years, why should he hang onto the ashes until they could get them back there. Well the whole time my Dad was here while my uncle was dying all he could talk about was getting back to his precious home in BC and would have gone the night he was dying if my brother hadn't put his foot down. My Dad never showed any emotion or shed so much as a single tear during this whole affair. He is a true psychopath. Had fooled my Mom entirely as he was a charming rakish sort when she married him. From the old photos he looked like a rogue James Dean, complete with a lock of hair out of place down his forehead. I am guessing this will be the last time I ever see my Dad alive and that is okay with me. He has no reason to come this way again. At 82 the long trip of 1100 miles is simply too much for him to drive and he is too cheap to fly.
To point up my brother-in-law's embellishments, Tanya had NOT cleaned out the place. My Uncle was a pack rat and electronics junkie. He always had to have the latest gadget. His basement was full of outdated unusable old junk and this was what she had cleared out, probably taking most of it to recycling as it wasn't worth anything. She wants the house and will buy out my Dad's half. She will have a lot of work cleaning it out of unneeded things. My Dad was saying take what ever we wanted from the cupboards, so my sister got some glasses and dishes, and my brother took some souvenir stuff. I took a little shot glass that said Austria on it and an embroidered napkin-nothing really personal. Fred didn't put much value on things, he just accumulated them and put in his basement when he wasn't using them anymore or couldn't fit it upstairs. He had a lot of doubles of things. Like bandaids, he would need one, buy a box and then put it away and buy another box when he needed them again. So like there were his favorite German box of chocolates he bought every year to give away -so many of them my brother put into the freezer ones that were not out of date. Like 10 pancake mix boxes and so on, some things past their due dates, some not. Closets full of clothing he never wore -he always used the same few outfits. My dad said he found a ton of laundry just thrown downstairs unwashed. I don't envy Tanya having to clean all this up although my brother and Dad had made some good headway on it.
It looks like my sister may keep in touch with Tanya, as they exchanged phone and e-mails. So maybe we will have a living memory of my Uncle. As one life is lost, a new one is born and his memory will live on in his daughter.
This is what I wrote about my Uncle:
Fred sailed over from Germany at age 22 and took up a trade as bricklayer, working for Hagblom Construction for 20 years before a fall from scaffolding left him on permanent disability with a badly smashed up ankle. When ever we drove around town, he would point out buildings he worked on. A lasting legacy!
He developed a strong interest in model airplane flying and devoted many hours to building and flying them. I enjoyed it when he took me out to the field to watch, even got to try one once. He enjoyed playing snooker on his table in his basement especially with Darrel and we enjoyed playing table tennis down there as well. He loved tennis as well, playing frequently until in his later years when his ankle began to bother him too much.
He loved buying the latest electronic gadgets, and I remember the thrill when he showed me his first reel to reel player and how a recording of his voice sounded.
He never lost his love or enthusiasm for his beloved Germany. He constantly played German folkmusic, watched Deutcha Villa and looked forward to recordings sent from his brother to listen to or watch. Thanks to the computer age and internet, he could now enjoy German music and news 24/7 and also talk with his brothers visually on Skype.
He enjoyed playing hours of rummy with us and had amazing luck, winning most of the games, you could always count on him to pick jokers from the stack, or have hands he could lay out right away.
Fred had a bit of a lead foot, enjoying driving above the speed limit. When we were on the highway, 70 mph was the norm, and no vehicle was allowed to be in front of him! Luck was with him as he never got a single speeding ticket! Astonishing when in the mountains once he couldn't figure out why oncoming cars were flashing their lights. I said that was to warn there was a radar trap ahead -amazing he did not know that! His speedy driving skills and quick reflexes came in handy once as a car sped through a stop sign and he had to swerve and drive fast around a corner to avoid being hit. Very close call!
Fred had an open invitation to all our family's special occasions. He would come with his chocolates and cookies and pass out money to the grandchildren. Our holidays will never been quite the same again without him. May he rest in Peace.
Live and let live works for me.
Thanks, as ever, for your warm words and support..