My trip to Europe this year was well-planned, but my getting sick during the flight to Berlin muddled my schedule. Five days in a Berlin hospital with a contagious intestinal viral infection forced me to cancel an outing to the Rhineland area of Germany, and the planned stops on the way in Düsseldorf and Stuttgart. I regretted missing visits with certain elderly relatives and friends, but I could not risk infecting them.
The day I was to be released from hospital, I had my son Christopher, my travel escort, book a direct flight to Vienna to make up for lost time. I wished to visit my late brother’s first daughter Charlotte and her daughter Alexandra, whom I had never met, but was eager to see for the first time. She’d struck me as being a very perceptive person for I had been deeply moved by the lovely condolence letter she had sent me upon the death of my Geraldine, the grandmother she would never meet, at least, not in this lifetime.
Vienna was the place of my birth, and after World War II I studied there, graduating with my first Ph.D. I was also married there; the Catholic ceremony was performed shortly after my graduation in December 1949. Vienna was, at that time, an old and tired, foreign-occupied city with a war-weary population, but it has changed greatly and has regained its splendour from imperial times.
Vienna is intricately woven in my personal history with Salzburg, where my parents established their residence after World War I. My mother had inherited, or to be more specific, became the custodian of two villas which her mother had owned and had bequeathed to her grandchildren. My grandmother’s three sons had not sired any children, so her only daughter’s, my mother’s, children would inherit the properties.
My future mother-in-law also lived in Salzburg, where she became a close friend and confidante of my mother’s. At that time, she was married to a dentist, Vokalek, with whom she shared a villa with extensive grounds in the neighbouring suburb of Parsch. As a clairvoyant, she was a much sought-after socialite, and was visited by many admirers, included among them such as Dr. Albert Schweitzer and other members of the theosophical society.
She was instrumental as an advisor to my mother, who considered aborting her sixth pregnancy as she was then in a troubled marriage. Also pregnant then, her friend counselled her against undergoing such a risky procedure at her age. They were both in their early thirties and could still look forward to leading productive lives. Were it not for this advice, I would not be writing this today.
To be con’t.