My Mum

Posted: May 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

My mum was born in Germany in 1924. She grew up in a small farming community, and although it was the height of the post war depression, growing up on a farm spared her the worst of its effects. It was a tough life growing up in her era, but it shaped her deep sense of commitment to her family and a deep empathy for those less fortunate than herself. She had a deeply religious Catholic upbringing and two of her sisters even joined the convent and became nuns. Sadly by the time she reached her early twenties, her mother, after a long battle, had succumbed to Tuberculosis. It was only a handful of years later that her father passed away as well. Although she spoke little of it, I think it was very difficult for her to lose two people she loved and respected so much, so early in life.

In 1955 she decided to follow her second oldest brother and emigrated to Canada. It was only recently that she’d told me that she felt she was being a burden to her oldest brother and his wife who had taken over the family farm. She found work as a maid for a young wealthy family and worked hard to earn a living for herself. It was a few years later that she would meet my father, an Austrian immigrant who had come to Canada the same year she had. They married, and within a span of seven years, they had five children already. My father, who was a machinist by trade, earned his living as a miner. After injuring his back, and realizing he could no longer handle such a physically demanding job, he went to college in a nearby city to learn the tool and die trade.

In winter of 1966 my mum gave birth to her sixth and last child, me. (yeah, I guess I’m old). Ten days later, my father who was returning back to my home town for a weekend visit, was killed in an automobile accident. Six months previously, he had foolishly decided that his life insurance premiums were too expensive, and he cancelled the policy. My mum was now left with raising six young children with very little money. She did receive a small insurance settlement, as the accident was not my father’s fault, and used most of it to purchase our home. For the rest, she made do with the small welfare payments the government was willing to give, and with donations of old clothing that were handed down to us. It was a tough life growing up so poor, in what was actually a very affluent town, but for the sacrifices my mum made to make sure we were given a decent life, I shall forever remain deeply grateful.

Although I don’t share my mum’s deep religious convictions, and in fact have become deeply resentful of the church, I fully understand it was something she needed in her life. Sadly, my mum always had a feeling of inferiority. Although she only had a grade eight education, she was actually highly intelligent and had a deep understanding of the world around her, which she nurtured through prolific reading. For some reason she was always a little embarrassed to talk to people because she felt her English was poor, and socialized little. Nothing was further from the truth, she was highly fluent in both languages and completely literate as well. I guess I’ve inherited a little of that low self-esteem as well.

I hope I haven’t confused anyone to this point, my mum is still around. About six years ago now, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She’s in a home now, and although she still knows who I am, my conversations with her are becoming much more difficult. She speaks mostly German now, and I’ll be honest and say that mine is just not all that good. I sent her a big bouquet of flowers today, and gave her a call to tell her how much I love her. I end all of my conversations with her that way now, but I think she’s always known. Hopefully, if I can be half the person she was, I’ll know that I couldn’t be all that bad.

Although you’ll never get to read this mum, Happy Mother’s Day. I love you

Your Fool

  1. barnabyd says:

    Makes me realize how lucky I’ve been and what a spoiled little brat I am. Amazing story!