As my father and I surveyed the things in his current apartment wondering what he might keep as he prepares to move to a smaller living space he asked me to take a photo of one of his treasured possessions this gorgeous fern that was a favorite of my mother’s. He is not sure it will fit into his new quarters.
Close-up of the tiny flowers on the fern.
Very occasionally this fern blooms with lovely little white flowers. The most recent time it bloomed was after my first granddaughter was born at the beginning of April. Dad said just after I called him to tell him about his great granddaughter’s birth, and the fact that she would share her second name Marie with my mother, he noticed that the fern was in bloom. He thought of it as a sign from my mother who died in 2013 that somehow she knew about the arrival of her new great-granddaughter and was delighted that they shared a name.
Hopefully, we will be able to find room in Dad’s new living space for this verdant plant that he feels provides a living kind of connection with my Mom.
Dad’s Treasures- Part 1- The Cowbell
Dad’s Treasures- Part 2- The Doctor’s Bag
Dad’s Treasures -Part 3- The Hymnal
One of the things my Dad and I found on his bookshelf during our downsizing efforts in his apartment was this old Mennonite Hymnal that belonged to my mother. My mother was a talented pianist and I don’t think I am exaggerating to say that in her lifetime she played for literally hundreds of funerals, weddings, church services and music performances starting when she was a young girl and she would accompany her parents when they sang duets in church. The cover and spine of my Mom’s hymnal were tattered and threadbare, a testament to its frequent use. On the flyleafs of the hymnal were long lists of hymns. Mom referred to these lists while playing a succession of pieces during preludes and postludes before and after weddings, funerals and church services and during the serving of communion. Mom had an amazing musical ear and will have played most of these from memory. One of the hymns she has listed is In the Bulb There is A Flower. It was one of Mom’s very favorite hymns and we sang it at her funeral. It talks about how nature teaches us there is new life just waiting to burst forth from seeds, cocoons, and bulbs and how in our own lives there is always the opportunity to explore, to hope, to believe in new and better things to come. I used Mom’s hymnal this week as I was picking the songs for the worship service I will lead this coming Sunday morning and at the page, for In the Bulb There is a Flower I found a leaf with a beautiful pattern of veins, that Mom must have placed there to press at some point. It was a lovely reminder of my mother’s appreciation for the lessons nature has to teach us.
In the bulb, there is a flower, in the seed an apple tree
In cocoons a hidden promise, butterflies will soon be free
In the cold and snow of winter, there’s a spring that waits to be
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see. – by Natalie Sleeth
Dad’s Treasures- Part 1
Dad’s Treasures- Part 2
God of Eve and God of Mary
Last Saturday I visited the new Russlander exhibit at the Mennonite Heritage Village Museum. It tells the story of the Mennonites who immigrated to Canada from Ukraine in the 1920s. I noticed so many artifacts that brought back memories of our own family’s experiences. One display case was filled with travel documents that people needed to leave Ukraine in the 1920s and travel to Canada. Each immigrant had to receive approval from a Canadian Pacific medical officer. We are fortunate to have the same kinds of documents for both of my husband’s parents who immigrated to Canada as small children. The document above is the medical certificate for my husbands’ father Cornelius Driedger’s family. Dave’s dad is the small boy on the right. Also pictured are Cornelius’ father Abram N. Driedger, his mother Margaretha Friesen Driedger and his sister Agatha. They immigrated to Canada on June 23, 1924.
My mother-in-law, Anne Enns although only two years old had her own identification card and medical certificate.Her medical certificate has two dates August 10th 1925 and October 8th 1925. In a memoir written by Mom’s uncle I read that her family’s first attempt to migrate was delayed because of the health problems of a family member. Perhaps this is why Mom’s medical certificate was stamped twice on two different dates. I know Mom’s family arrived in Quebec City on October 17th 1925 and that the ocean voyage took approximately nine days so the second stamp will have been put on the certificate just before her family got on board the ship the S.S. Minnedosa for their journey to Canada. According to Mom’s family memoir, Dr. Drury, the name of the medical officer on the earlier stamp on Mom’s certificate, was from Canada and made the rounds of various Mennonite villages in Ukraine to examine potential immigrants and stamp their certificates. I noticed that both Mom’s certificate and one I saw at the Mennonite Heritage Village were stamped by Dr. Drury. I think Mom’s photo on her medical certificate was taken from this family photo. Mom is with her parents Gertrude and Heinrich Enns, her older sister Gertrude and her brothers Peter, Johann, Diedrich and Heinrich.
The immigration documents I saw at the museum and the ones belonging to our families were a ticket to a more hopeful future for people who had lost everything during the Russian Revolution.
There were many other artifacts in the Russlander exhibit that connected with our family’s experience. I will feature them in future blog posts.
A Luxury Car- A Family Story
What’s a Break Event?
Anne Enns Driedger
Filed under Family, History
As I was helping my Dad do some down-sizing his old doctor’s bag was one of the treasures we found. Just looking at the bag it is clear it was put to very good use!
My Dad’s medical school graduation photo
My father told me he got the bag shortly after he graduated from medical school at the University of Manitoba. I was only five years old at the time but can still remember the beautiful dress my mother wore to Dad’s graduation celebrations.
Dad and his fellow interns at St. Boniface Hospital in the late 1950s- Dad is third from the right in the back row
After interning at St. Boniface Hospital and doing a year of surgical practice with Dr. Isaac in Winnipeg he joined a clinic in Steinbach.
Dad with the doctors he worked with at Bethesda Hospital in Steinbach.
Dad practiced medicine in Steinbach for 38 years.
Dad shows me some of the equipment he kept in his bag
I remember his bag as a fixture in our home because Dad could be called away any time night or day to make housecalls for his patients and he usually took the bag stocked with basic medical supplies and equipment along with him. I remember the bag coming along with us to our cabin at Moose Lake as well, because many people with cottages around the lake knowing my Dad was a doctor would come to our yard to have cuts and scrapes attended to, to have fish hooks removed from various body parts or to have a quick consultation to determine whether an injury was serious enough to warrant a drive to the nearest hospital. In the article written about my Dad when he became an honorary lifetime member of the Canadian Medical Association, they talked about the many medical students he mentored, the volunteer work he did as a doctor in different countries, and the various professional boards and committees he served on.
Dad’s work-worn doctor’s bag is a symbol of his dedicated service to thousands of people during his long and respected career as a physician.
Dad’s Treasures- Part 1
Filed under Family, Health
My aunt called me yesterday. She knew it was the sixth anniversary of my mother’s death and she wanted to know how I was doing. I told her that while I still think of my mother every day, my grief over her death is gradually being replaced with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for her presence and influence in my life.
My aunt told me she was looking forward to attending her granddaughter’s university graduation this coming week. That reminded me of my own university graduation. After high school, I attended college for two years and then completed another year of studies to receive an education certificate so I could start teaching in 1974. But I still needed seven more courses to get my Bachelor of Arts degree.
I took all those classes by correspondence, or during summer school sessions or by enrolling in evening courses. While I did that I was teaching full time and also parenting my young son. I finally finished my last course in 1980 and was eligible to take part in commencement exercises at the University of Manitoba to receive my degree. I decided it would be too much trouble to attend.
But my mother insisted I go. “You’ve worked so hard for that degree MaryLou. You need to celebrate it. I’m going with you and you are going to walk across that stage and get your diploma.” And so that’s exactly what I did. I’ve kept this photo my Mom took of me that day. She was so proud of me. My Mom was my number one cheerleader. I am so grateful for her endless support, her pride in my accomplishments and her constant affirmation.
Crokinole and Ping Pong
International Day of the Girl
I was enthusiastically telling my sister about attending David Robertson’s workshop on the graphic novel. Turns out my sister had just been at a lecture on memoir writing given by Kathleen Venema. Kathleen had suggested they read a memoir in the graphic novel form called Tangles. So I bought it. What a powerful story! Sarah Leavitt uses simple pictures and words to describe her family’s journey after her mother is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers. Some of it isn’t easy to read or view. Sarah’s family was close but now she and her sister and her Dad are forced into an intimate closeness and care for their wife and mother that crosses boundaries they never wanted to cross. Sarah tells us a great deal about growing up in a vibrant, protective, loving home filled with books. Her Mom was endlessly supportive of her and now she has to support her Mom. It’s tough.
Of course, there is conflict and drama and guilt but also beauty in Sarah’s story. There’s a marvelous page in Tangles where Sarah and her Mom Midge and her sister Hannah get caught in a thunderstorm and for just for a moment Alzheimer’s is a gift because their mother’s lack of inhibition and worry provides a freeing and joyful experience for the three of them.
Sarah’s book takes us all the way to her mother’s death. There are these incredibly moving scenes where Sarah wraps herself in a special shawl she gave her Mom. It is dark blue like the night sky and dotted with stars. With the shawl over her head, Sarah says the Kaddish for her mother every day. It is a special Jewish prayer that acknowledges a person had good parents who instilled in them a faith so strong they will be able to overcome their grief.
If you haven’t tried reading a graphic novel before I hope you won’t let that stop you from reading Tangles because Sarah uses the graphic novel form to good effect to tell a story that will resonate with many families.
The Things We Keep
Feeding My Mother
A Listening Love
I’ve been helping my Dad sort and downsize. We tackled his study first. As he and I went through books and photographs and cleaned out cupboards and drawers we came upon lots of treasures. It was interesting to hear Dad’s stories about them.
This cowbell is probably even older than my father. When he was a young boy it was his job to take the cows to the pasture in summer. About a dozen families in the village of Gnadenthal in southern Manitoba jointly owned a large tract of fenced-in pasture land at the west end of the village. Each family took turns in the mornings and evenings herding the cows to and from the pasture. My Dad did the job when it was his family’s turn.
A photocopied photo of Dad’s trusty horse General
After their own cows were milked Dad would get on his horse General, ride to the pasture and open the gate. Then he’d go to the east end of the village and start ringing his cowbell. This was a signal for the farmers along the village street to bring their cows out. At each house, that family’s cattle would join the caravan.
This photocopied picture of Rover was in a scrapbook my Aunt Mary made for my Dad.
Although the cows all knew their way to the pasture instinctively and usually walked in docile fashion down the length of the village and through the pasture gate, Dad had his dog Rover along to help round up any stray cows that might think it was a good idea to graze in the ditch a bit on the way. Once all the cows were through the pasture gate Dad closed it.
In the evening around four o’clock, he repeated the whole process in reverse, opening the pasture gate and riding behind the cows as they plodded home to their respective farmyards.
My dad has kept his family’s cowbell all these years. I didn’t even know he had it. I am looking forward to telling the story of the cowbell to my grandchildren.
Why Was This Special?
Grandpa and Me
A Photo That Brings Back Memories
Filed under Family, History