Saturday, September 5, 2009
The Danish Side
My mother is not much of a story-teller. Dad has that propensity. Mom was always the good listener, sitting often at the kitchen table, hearing out the teen-age boy with his many challenges. I always treasured her support. Words, though few, were appropriate and loving. She was extremely artistic. Oil paintings of scenes and still life. Tasteful backyard gardens. The finest of popular music on the high fidelity record player - Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Keelie Smith, Julie Andrews, Percy Faith, Mantovani and Henry Mancini.
There were times when she had to be both mother and father, Jack taking to the road in his Regional Manager's position with Dominion Rubber. On one such occasion she suffered the undeserved guilt of being on the watch when her son was on a construction site and throwing stones with another boy. An errant stone took out about sixty percent of the vision in my right eye.
Mom had not had an easy upbringing. At age fourteen she lost her mother, Hertha (nee Jaeger) to a heart attack. Her father Ken Roberts, English-born, tried valiantly to hold things together. He was a commercial painter and a crack local athlete - softball, lane bowling, lawn bowling. Daughter Beverley held in some secret pain, began to gain weight, felt out of place.
But then Danish aunts came to the rescue. Mary and Lillian, sisters to the deceased Hertha. These were robust, jovial Danske folk. Mary had married a local musician, Stuart McKenna. Lillian's husband was Pete Belcher, a cab driver.
The female comfort and counsel took hold and Beverley began to blossom in high school - glee club, basketball. Then off to nurse's training at Victoria Hospital.
Aunt Mary suffered the early loss of Stuart. Her beloved son Dalton joined the American Navy for the war and became an American citizen with Hollywood friends. Dalton was the practical joker, hockey enthusiast, construction engineer, traveling to distant places with exotic projects. He would always, and I mean ALWAYS make his mother laugh. He was the closest thing to a brother for Bev. My parents happily visited him in California. His third and final wife, Laurie was an airline executive.
Lillian and Pete lost in a couple of attempts to have children. This would draw Lil even closer to Bev and her two sons. I always remember Aunt Lil for her considerate gifts and cards, which seemed all the more precious because she did not have much money. She worked as a switchboard operator at Hotel London. Her voice was perfect, "I'll connect you." Surprisingly she also suffered threatening bouts of emphysema. Mary was married again to a local optometrist, Perce Dawkins, and the two lived comfortably. They got my parents involved in the Gyro Service Club with many memorable meetings, projects and parties.
These women remain all that I really know about my Danish side. Of course I have the stereotypical images of pastries, dairy cattle, blue cheese, seas in every direction, herring, Hans Christian Anderson, Jenny Lind, Victor Borge and the history of Vikings in longboats.
Perhaps only the people really matter anyway. I can still see the fair-skinned, rosy-cheeked, costumed sisters smiling, hugging and singing Christmas carols at their beloved Beverley's holiday dinner.