Aunt Martha was an incredible lady. We were blessed to have her in our lives.
Although for me, it was a relatively short time that I knew her, only 23 years, and on intermittent visits, Aunt Martha always made her presence known sweetly and quietly. I “met” Aunt Martha upon my engagement to her nephew John. When I said “met”, it was somewhat virtual, not in the way we know today, but in her own way…..she was the first person to send us a wedding gift. Two beautiful crystal vases, from that storied department store, Eaton’s, now long gone. Those two vases have had a place of honour in our living room for the past 23 years. That was my first introduction to Aunt Martha…..the second, was at our wedding, and I remember her very distinctly informing me that that John was her favorite nephew, because he was the most mischievous – a character trait, that I think she appreciated, because I believe she was most likely much the same.
Due to the distances that separated us because of where we lived, we didn’t often get to see Aunt Martha, but when we did it was fun and meaningful. We’d often be able to visit when she decided to brave a plane ride to Toronto (air turbulence made her so uncomfortable), to visit her beloved brother Frank, usually in the late summer, to celebrate one of his mile-marker birthdays, and when the whole family would gather. I often got a kick out of how she would refer to Frank in conversation…..Aunt Martha was two years older, and would often say, “well young-man…..”, or “you see young-man…..”. It was wonderful to hear them chatting away, a beautiful sibling relationship, that was all the stronger despite their many hardships when they were younger. Sometimes Aunt Martha would show-up as a “surprise” guest at Franks’ birthdays – the look on his face when he saw his sister was absolutely priceless.
Through the years, I was able to have many very interesting conversations with Aunt Martha, about her and her family; what they went through in everyday life on their farm and during the war. She shared so much of it, and it was fascinating. Probably the most memorable story was about the “Bald Geese”. In short, and I cannot tell the story like her, somehow, some of their geese got into a batch of fermented cherries. When Aunt Martha’s mother and grandmother looked out the window – they saw most of the geese lying on the ground. They thought they were dead and decided they had better get to plucking them for the goose down for pillows, to start. I guess the geese that went down on the fermented cherries, were left in the enclosure once plucked. Her mother and grandmother went back into the house, with their goose down….and can you just imagine the looks on their faces when they had “bald” geese running around, moments later? It seems the geese were drunk on fermented cherries, passed out, and obviously woke up bald, cold and most likely with a hangover!!! We all had a great laugh – Aunt Martha in particular, she loved to tell stories.
Throughout the years, I sent Aunt Martha postcards from the cities and countries I was able to visit, it touched me to no end to find out that she kept all of them and showed them to her friends. For whatever reason, I wanted her to understand that I was thinking of her, no matter where I was. I admired her a great deal, especially for finding her mother and brother, after the war, through the Red Cross, and ensuring they got to Canada. What determination and love.
The last time I saw Aunt Martha was at her 90th birthday, 2012, in Winnipeg. I was racking my brain, trying to figure out an appropriate birthday gift – what do you get a lady who is 90? Well, we settled on a picture, in their youth, of Martha and Frank – with absolutely huge smiles on their faces. And, a Sacher Torte, the original, all the way from the Sacher Hotel in Vienna. At this time, Alzheimer’s was starting to effect Aunt Martha and at first, she wasn’t so sure it was her and Frank and the picture but came to decide it was. As for the Sacher Torte from the Sacher Hotel – well, she knew exactly what that was, and said “I never thought I would have such a fancy cake from a fancy hotel”.
It was the least you deserved Aunt Martha.
You were an incredible lady and we loved you.
Kimm and John Krueger