Tag Archives: mary ann loewen

Finding Father

Reading the personal essays in  Finding Father edited by Mary Ann Loewen was a bit like paging through a photograph album filled with intimate snapshots. Each of the thirteen Mennonite women who have written reflective memoirs for the book includes vivid and moving descriptions of small scenes from their relationship with their fathers that have left deep impressions.

Elsie Neufeld standing behind her father’s chair at dinner and playing with his hair, sliding the gray strands through her fingers and measuring their length.

Maggie Dyck’s father carefully going through each new issue of National Geographic and meticulously covering up any bare breasts in the photos with Band-Aids before his impressionable daughter looks at the magazine. 

Carrie Snyder watching the juice drip down her Dad’s arms while he eats peaches at the border because he is too stubborn to turn them over to the customs agent who won’t allow him to take Canadian fruit into the United States.

The moment Rebecca Plett finally pushes the words, “I’m gay” out of her mouth and her father who has always been reticent about physical contact rises from his chair and puts his arms around her.

Cari Penner watching her Dad get ready for work in the morning, patting his face with a bristle brush full of white shaving cream and then carefully scraping it clean with his razor.

Lynda Loewen crying as her often emotionally unavailable father lies on an ambulance stretcher after a fainting episode and then reaches up a thumb to gently wipe away her tears.

Magdelene Redekopp refers to these memorable scenes from her life with her Dad as beads on a string, each a different color.  I found myself creating a necklace of sorts as well while I read the book recalling scenes from my own life with my now 90-year-old Dad. 

I savored each story in Finding Father, especially since I know about half the women in the book in a variety of ways, and most of the writers are around my age.  It was fascinating to learn more about their childhoods and family life. Finding Father made me think about how interesting it would be to read the stories of Mennonite women my children’s age or even younger, raised in urban settings. How would their reflections on their fathers’ lives be different? 

I can highly recommend Finding Father. It affirmed something I’ve come to realize lately. The journey towards finding out who your father really is, or was, never ends.

Other posts…………. 

Sons and Mothers

Good-Bye Dad

90 Years

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Sons and Mothers

” And make sure my chin isn’t so tilted up like on some bodies. I hate that.”  As she neared death Byron Rempel’s mother Evangeline issued instructions about how she wanted to look in her coffin.  

Howard Dyck’s first memory of his mother is her screaming at him in German to “Run,run, run fast” as he was being chased by an angry cow. He is certain he would have died or been badly mauled had it not been for his mother’s vehement instructions. 

“Maybe the world doesn’t need God so much as everyone needs my mom.” says Lukas Thiessen. “One who loves you even when you are an aggravating, drugged-up, sex fiend, vagabond atheist………..” 

sons and mother mary ann loewenTo say that I found Mary Ann Loewen’s recently released book Sons and Mothers- Stories from Mennonite Men interesting would be to understate my total engagement with almost every story between its covers.  Mary Ann has assembled, edited and introduces memoirs from a dozen men raised by Mennonite mothers. 

The men are different ages and look back at different times in their mothers’ lives.  Most contributors are experienced writers with a well established publishing history and that is evident in their evocative prose.  Mary Ann has collected much more than just factual histories. These are beautifully written tributes that examine in a very honest way, both the difficulties and blessings of the men’s relationships with their mothers. 

I was acquainted with a number of the women profiled or had heard of their sons, and that familiarity added an element of added interest to my reading of the narratives.  It was also interesting to see that almost all the mothers were very religious and while the men loved their mothers, they did not for the most part, share their mothers’ passionate faith or deeply held beliefs.  

The book ends with Canadian poet and author Patrick Friesen’s story of having to tell his mother she is going to be sent to a nursing home. She is angry but later she reaches out “to gently ruffle what was left of my hair.” Patrick describes this scene in such a moving way I was in tears. 

Perhaps one of the reasons I was so taken with the stories in Mary Ann’s book is because I too am the parent of sons and the book has made me wonder what my two boys would say about me, were they to write a memoir about their Mennonite mother. 

Mary Ann’s book is available at McNally Robinson. I have already purchased a copy for our church library.  I can highly recommend Sons and Mothers

Other posts……..

The Constructed Mennonite

Mennonite Maids

Mennonite Nuns

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Filed under Books, Religion