Dear Delaina, The Book

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My book has finally been published! The agonies of edits and rewrites, then more edits and rewrites, choosing a cover design, a spine, a back cover, replacing character’s names with pseudonyms, having the inside formatting completed, the logistics taken care of, the marketing plan set up, is now in the past. The entire process took almost three years and yet I still fight the urge to add to it, to tweak it, rework it… or maybe I should just hide it in the closet and forget that I ever wrote it. As Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” So, with that said, I have decided that I’ve bled enough, and it is time to ask you to be the judge and decide if this piece of my biography is worth the paper (and proverbial blood) it  has consumed.

I give you, here, the prologue. I would greatly appreciate any feedback you may wish to offer, be it positive, constructive, or even negative. Kudos can only inspire, but criticism may inspire more.

Prologue How This Story Came About
 This book began as a collection of documents compiled over T his book began as a collection of documents compiled over T the course of ten months. Documents such as e-mails, eulogies the course of ten months. Documents such as e-mails, eulogies, letters, and newspaper articles. Documents of love, despair, grief, joy, hope – of beginnings and endings. Names of people and places were left intact to bring animation to the story in my mind as I relived it. The innocent have now been protected with pseudonyms, but my memories have not been dulled. Only a gentle slip into dementia or death will let me ever forget.

On July 4th, 2013, I watched the United States celebrate their Independence Day on television. Neil Diamond sang his signature song, ‘Sweet Caroline’, and I considered using this popular phrase for my heroine’s identity, to protect her and to convey the overriding emotion that this special lady invoked in me. However, the touch of sadness in those two words would have tainted the story too sweetly. The original ending of this book was meant to be sad, but I see now that there is no end. The story continues to burn like an ember, a glowing heat buried under the ashes of once red-hot flames. Pieces of the story have now been extinguished, but life continues to smolder.

I was born in Austria in 1925. This country became an independent republic again after World War II, but the post-war conditions in both Germany and Austria were such that many left for America for a promising new start in a land of plenty. So, I too, with the urging of friends who had already gained privileged entry into the US as refugees from the Nazis, joined the queue for immigration. Restrictions on the quota of Austrian immigrants permitted into the US would have meant a wait of seven years in that queue, but friends in New York, along with a brother in Montreal, managed to facilitate my crossing into a new northern land within a short period of time. From my tiny home country, I crossed into the vastness of Canada, arriving in Quebec with my wife, Josefine, my two-year-old son, Simon, and ten dollars in my pocket, in April of 1953. I never left.

After having lived here for nearly sixty years, my three children scattered across three different countries, I suffered the loss of my wife in March of 2013. As she lay on her deathbed, I declared I would follow her within ten days. She admonished me vehemently, “Don’t you dare die! You have not yet fulfilled your mission. You have not yet written your message to humanity, for which you were put on Earth.” She also told me that I would meet another woman who would give me the strength and inspiration needed to carry out this mission. Needless to say, at the time I did not heed her predictions. Simon, Virginia and Thomas had gathered in the old house in Quebec to see their mother off on her journey to the other side, but having lives of their own, left shortly after her cremation ceremony. My spirit was devastated. I had been rebuffed by Josefine when I had promised to join her, but I began to drift into a state of self-neglect nonetheless. I stopped taking my medication, eating regularly, or even living in general. I cared for nothing, not my children, nor the house, the garden. I felt useless in this world, lonely and lost.
After a couple of months, I was still hanging on in the present dimension when Virginia returned to continue tidying away the possessions of a soul no longer in need of material things. She packed clothing and shoes, ancient kitchenware, magazines, and selected sentimental articles to be wrapped until such time as she could collect them. Disturbed by the chaos of my living conditions, she suggested that I return with her to Germany where she could take care of me. Bereft and simply floating through the motions of every day, I considered the invitation as a stray leaf might consider allowing itself to be carried by the current of the river.

The day before Virginia was to depart once more, we were invited to a Mother’s Day celebration at the residence of a close friend. A small spark of life enabled me to gather my senses, dress appropriately, and smile. The day was sunny, a glorious May freshness with leaves budding out and flowers peeking from green corners. The table set in the garden sparkled with expensively cut glass and china and silver. I sighed, glad to be out of the house and away from memories of my wife, if only for a little while. I obeyed the call to be seated for the meal and found myself next to a French-Canadian woman, dark hair and dark eyes, and bubbling with vitality. She didn’t seem quite real, a spirit perhaps sent from heaven to make me laugh. We spoke, we shared stories, and eventually, she pulled me from the river.

Available at: Amazon.com  

The Krampus – A True Story

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I was born in Salzburg, Austria, a city populated primarily with Roman Catholics. We began each year’s celebration of the birth of Christ with Advent on the first Sunday in December. As children, nearly a century ago, our traditions were quite different from those I share with my family in North America today. For one thing, we were not permitted see the decorated Christmas tree until Christmas Eve. And for another, we did not have a ‘Santa Claus’, the roly-poly jolly man shouting “Ho-Ho-Ho!” with a toy factory at the North Pole and a sled drawn by magic flying reindeer.
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Saint Nicholas was a Greek Bishop of the 4th century and was canonized as the patron saint of children, sailors, merchants and pawnbrokers, for the miracles that were attributed to him at that time.
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I do not know when it became a custom in Austria for Saint Nicholas to make his rounds to households with children, nor do I know why it became tradition for him to be accompanied by a descendant of Satan as his helper, a creature with black fur, who toted the Bishop’s sack of goodies, but also carried a threatening bundle of brushwood switches. In any case, these were the personalities that symbolized the beginning of our Christmas season – Saint Nicholas and the Krampus.
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I remember only one of these visits from Saint Nicholas and his demonic assistant. I was five years old, the youngest of six children. My parents had had us prepare for this anticipated visit by writing our lists of Christmas wishes which we would have to hand over to the Bishop at nightfall on December 6th only after we had been given his blessing and been forgiven for our sins. I didn’t really know, at that age, what to expect. All I knew was that there were wishes to be fulfilled.

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As promised, the Bishop with his ugly, terrifying furry companion arrived at our door when the sun had gone down. Saint Nicholas proceeded to list the petty crimes I had committed over the course of the last year, then pointed out my bad habits. I started to cry for surely this holy man, looking into the souls of sinners, could see the truth! And whenever he pointed out one of my transgressions or faults, the black horned Krampus, hunchbacked and leering, would raise his bundle of switches to swipe at me. The kind bishop calmly held him off each time, but I shivered, waiting for the sin that would have me whipped.
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Finally, the Bishop ordered the Krampus to lower his weapon and instead to open the sack. Through my tears, I was greatly relieved to see that I was being handed a present. I was forgiven.

I only found out years later that Saint Nicholas was, in fact, an old uncle of mine, and Krampus was played by our cook, a dark shaggy rug thrown over a sack of chicken feed on her back transforming her too convincingly for a small boy of five to see through the charade. My brothers and sisters had merely played along.

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My mother held me on her lap, consoling me after my ordeal, while the Bishop and the Krampus were given drinks to toast a merry Christmas, and everyone was given an edible replica of the devilish helper. I held the six-inch figure made of black dried prunes in my small hands, but looking wide-eyed at the real thing across the table, was a bit nervous to actually bite into my Zwetschgen Krampus.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you.

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Photos sourced through Google Images.

Dear Délaina

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It is time to tell you about a novel that I will be publishing before the holidays arrive. I thought the best way to explain what it’s about, is to simply offer part of the questionnaire that was filled out to the artist who is designing the cover, the final piece of the puzzle. I have created a page in which I will be posting excerpts and updates of the progress to launch date.

Here is the link: https://gvonkapherr.wordpress.com/dear-delaina/

Now I can return to Family Stories, recognizing Formidable Women and my general outrage of the world at large.

A Thought For You America

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The day before the USA independence day, Wordsmith’s Website printed the statement of Thomas Jefferson, 3rd US President (1743-1826):

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“Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deemed them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well; I belonged to it, and labored with it. It deserved well of its country. It was very like the present, but without the experience of the present; and forty years of experience in government is worth a century of book-reading; and this they would say themselves, were they to rise from the dead. I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

Last months the United States has made monumental strides in civilizing humanity, rectifying laws and symbols  of their barbarous ancestors!

 

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            The confederate flag, a symbol of barbarous ancestors, has to come down, be displayed in museums, as reminders of the history of slavery, but also of the valiant and bloody war to defend a shameful exploitation of human beings who deserve equal rights and remembrance of the creation of a prosperous and mighty country and its people.

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The equal right and permission to marry into same sex unions, because, by the nature of things they had been born with a disposition not to participate in the act of recreation, but have the equal right to live, love, and function like heterosexual bonding. To deny homosexuals the rights and happiness of heterosexuals is a regimen of barbarous ancestors.

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The equal rights and social integration of people of different colours in society with dignity and love is still being denied by an obsolete white supremacy tradition, a regimen of a barbarous ancestors.

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The religious institutions, such as the Catholic Church and the Islamic Religion, which denies women equal status in the celebration of their religion, has to be reformed to give women equal rights in the celebration and worship of their faith, which is denied them by the tradition of barbaric ancestors.

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Let the Americans of the USA celebrate their Independence Day in the shadow of threats from Isis and other jihadists. Let them become the Nation that leads us into a new reformation of humanity, whereby they are the first to embrace fully their advancement of humanity to bring peace and harmony to the world – moving forward beyond the tradition of barbaric ancestors still lingering in some minds – at home and certainly abroad.

Let the recent events and sacrifices be the inspiration to move forward! Happy 4th of July.

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