Childhood Memories

‘Your father has always been a selfish person. He doesn’t send any money for you but I bet he sits down for breakfast with a soft boiled egg in front of him. He knows how to look after himself and doesn’t care whether his children have anything to eat.’

The voice of my mother still rings in my ears. When years later I talked to my father about his so called selfishness, he justified himself with a lot of words and by producing the Post Office receipts which proved that he had constantly sent money for us children. True, he never could send much, however Mum’s claim that he didn’t send any money at all was totally wrong, according to Dad. He made sure that I looked at all the relevant slips. It seemed very important to him that I should believe him.

I felt sorry for Dad and I felt sorry for Mum. I used to feel that I could not take sides for either of them: I was totally torn between them. My loyalty belonged to both in equal proportions, that means, I could never decide on who’s side I should be. Mum of course accused me constantly of siding with my father and rejecting her. She probably did not feel supported by me. She just could not stand it when I tried to defend Dad.

Dad was the opposite. No matter how much he complained about Mum and let it be known how frustated he was about Mum’s behaviour, he was never angry with me when I tried to defend Mum. He always listened patiently to what I had to say. On the contrary, he liked it when I pointed out how much Mum meant to me and the boys.

‘You are right, Uta,’ he would say, ‘it is very important for you and the boys that you have a good relationship with your Mum. After all she is your Mum. I certainly would not like you rejecting her. In her own way she loves all three of you. You should never forget this.’ Then he would continue to complain about it that Mum was not willing to leave Berlin and live with him and us children as one family. He also had some gripes about Tante Ilse. According to him it was she who had wrecked their marriage.

I loved this aunt. For me it was very hard to listen to Dad’s accusations about her. Dad claimed in a very angry voice that Ilse had lived a ‘Lotter-Leben’ (bad life) when she was younger. He said that she had now a very good marriage. He was of the opinion that marrying HL was the best thing that could have happened to her. Dad regarded HL as being of very good character. I could only agree. In my experience, this Uncle spoke of Dad always in a respectful way, that is, I never heard him say anything bad about Dad. Come to think of it, neither did Tante Ilse. The way I saw it, only Mum would talk about Dad in a very nasty kind of way. It shows that to her mind he must have been a great disappointment to her. Even as a child I tried to see both sides. This was mind boggling for me. A lot of the issues were about what normally only grown-ups would be concerned about. On the other hand – even though I had no way of being able to tell what for instance the sexual difficulties may have been – I none the less felt those vibes which told me, my parents had those very strong love/hate feelings towards each other. I also sensed Mum’s absolute disgust about the way Dad’s life had turned out to be. Yes, I can imagine what immense disappointment this was for her!

Some time after Dad had managed to set himself up in a secure position again he talked to me about how it would be best for all of us if he remarried Mum. I told him that I could not imagine this happening. And sure enough, when he asked Mum to live with him again, she refused.

In 1959 Peter and I migrated to Australia with our two baby-girls. The following year Dad married Gertrud. Peter and I were under the impression that the new wife was right for Dad in every way, I am sure, Dad had a very good marriage with G. They had only a short time to

gether: At age sixty-two Dad died of prostate cancer. After having stayed in hospital for a while Dad pleaded with G to take him home. She did this and nursed him for the last six months of his life. It so happened, that G received Dad’s pension after he died. This upset my Mum and my brothers immensely! They thought, G had no right to receive all the benefits. They told me that the first wife should get more consideration for having had a much longer marriage as well as children. I felt awful when my family talked badly about G. I know that she had always been very welcoming, kind and supportive towards my brothers.

G is ninety-two now. Over the distance I still have some occasional contact with her. I am never going to forget, how, during the last years of his life, she gave Dad so much of herself. When I received her letter six months before he died, telling me about the seriousness of Dad’s illness, I cried and cried.

PS on the 14th of October 2017:

My step-mother, Gertrud Spickermann, died recently aged 98. Her 99th birthday would have been on the 23rd of November 2017. Not so long ago she skyped with Peter and me. She was always keen to keep in touch with family.

18 thoughts on “Childhood Memories

  1. Whoa…it must have been difficult to write down these memories Aunty Uta. I can imagine how torn you must have felt between your mother and father. I don’t think parents register the extent of the effect on their children of the bitternesses and resentments that they harbour against each other, especially a sensitive child, like I’m pretty sure you must have been.
    I can relate to this post, though my parents didn’t break their marriage….mainly due to the fact that they had four daughters to raise. My mother blamed my father for the choices he made in his business, and they have struggled through hard times together, though I can imagine he must have been difficult to live with. I often think they were never really meant for each other…
    When I watch them together, even now, when they are both in their 70’s, they seem to now care for each other more than they used too, I do think they would have been happier if there had been no financial stresses, but their sometimes completely unreasonable arguments make me realise how very different they are in the way they think.
    Your story is so heart-breaking, but I’m glad you wrote it, and that I came over to your blog and read it.

  2. Thank you so much for your response, dear Munira. Your response reminds me of my own marriage, which lasted already for 55 years, even though we seem to misunderstand each other quite often and then argue a lot about nothing. However one subject we never argue about is money since we both have the same attitude about money and how to spend it.I mean we really agree on a lot of things. It is more the little day to day things how everything should be done where our ideas often clash! But I think as I get so much older now, I’ve probably become a bit more tolerant. When he shouts at me because he’s upset about something I try not to be too sensitive about it. I tell myself he doesn’t really want to be mean to me. He’s just letting off steam. It never takes him very long to be his old loving self again!

  3. Aunty Uta, that was a cracker of an account of the relationship of your parents. One can even feel the vitriol that was pouring out of them. For a child to stand between the clashing forces of the two parents is pure torture. It is like standing on a battlefield with bullets flying around ones head.

    I always wished I had known you earlier and could have taken you by your hand and lead you to a safer place. In fact we did this by going to Australia, far away from the real battlefields of Europe and the battlefields of our families. Sometimes a clean break is necessary. Love you so much.

    1. I reckon Munira guessed it right, I must have been a sensitive child. It is interesting to observe how marriage break-ups effect children in different ways. I always say I had three mothers: My birth-mother, my aunt, who was my mother’s sister and throughout her life treated me very much as though I was her own daughter (maybe because she never had a child of her own), and the third mother was my father’s second wife, whom I knew only through correspondence and photos. Later on, many years after my father’s death, I did get to know her personally on a few visits to Germany. It was so good to be able to talk to her about my father!
      Some children grow up not knowing anything about their father. I for one feel blessed that I knew my parents, who both loved me, each in their own way. And I was also very much loved by many people in the large extended family. It is of course very sad, that my parents could not live a happy life together. Yes, it saddened me, but I think it also matured me in my early teenage years. I always had a feeling wanting to understand the different characters. Maybe this brought on a longing in me to write about my feelings and the way I saw different people.

  4. Sometimes, two people can love each other but they are so different, or they have evolved into such different people from their original selves, that they are no longer compatible. It appears that your parents’ parting was not amicable. You mother probably equates the amount of money your father sends to support you to how much he cares for all your welfare. Your father believes that what he sent was all he could scrape up. It sounds like your mother was bitter over the separation but your father was able to move forward with his life.

    Events like these can be very de-stabilizing for children, who are so vulnerable. It’s always a blessing that children have support systems around them to keep them grounded and reassure them that they are loved, no matter what, and that they are in no way responsible for what has happened.

    You seem to have come out if it quite well. There must be a lot of strength inside you and good sense to see beyond your mother’s bitterness or the failure of their marriage as not your doing nor your responsibility to fix.

    I can only hope your children have inherited some of your strength.

  5. The way I see it, it was really my father who was bitter about the separation. My mother did not want to move to where my father was. My father was quite bitter about this. He was fighting sickness and not being able to get a proper job in the postwar years.

    I reckon my teenage years weren’t as good as they could have been, but I’m not bitter about this Everything turned out all right for me in the end. I was the first born one and used to be a good student. Everyone always thought I’d make it to university. However this did not eventuate. To be honest, I really was not unhappy about this, not at all. I was overjoyed when among dozens of applicants I landed a job in an office at the age of 18. I did office work for five years. In the meantime I had married an started a family. When I was approaching 25 we moved to Australia under a migration program. We had two children under two and soon followed a third one! We did not have much money, but we were doing all right. I just turned 77 and celebrate this year 55 years of marriage!

    Thank you very much for your very thoughtful comments. I appreciate your visit. It means a lot to me. Thank you!

  6. Dear Mol, I was just thinking one of my next blogs should be about our first born daughter who became a quadriplegic because of polio, when she was only four years old. She’s 52 now and going strong. Her strength is really to be admired.
    And our last born one I had at the age of 44, so she’s soon going to be 33 and doing very well. We are proud of all our children. But all their lifes are very different from ours. We love them all and I am sure they all love us each in their own way.

    1. That would be wonderful. You can immortalize their lives and your thoughts on them through the years in your blog. It would be a wonderful gift. I would love to “meet them and get acquainted” through your blog.

  7. Thank you for your reply, dear Mol. It makes me want to keep on blogging.I just have to work out, what can be made public and what should remain private. It starts with their names. Should I use their proper names?

    I also have a problem with media connections. My husband is used to handling mobiles (cell phones), facebook friends etc. I refuse to acquire a mobile phone for myself because I have a problem with eyesight and coordination. Besides I feel I just don’t want to keep in touch per mobile. Often it seems to be used a bit too much. However I must admit a few times strangers helped me out with their mobile when I needed to make a call!

    I rely on my husband to keep me up to date about information about our children and grandchilden, which he gets from facebook.

    Myself, I’m used to keep in touch with people via Email. Blogging is fairly new to me and often I still can’t find my way around all the different venues.

    I would like to have M-A O-L as a friend but I’m confused about how to do it. Can’t I just email her without anybody else participating? It was very kind of you to help her out with your mobile. I hope I’m not imposing on you too much.

  8. Hi auntyuta just dropping by for a quick thank you for visiting my sites. I appreciate it. I will get back to read this story later. Have a great day! 🙂

  9. I couldn’t stop reading till I reached the last word. You have presented your experiences in a very composed way.
    What I realize is husband-wife relationships are ubiquitous and do not change much from generation to generation. And I too could relate to your experiences. Parents often forget children are watching them and are affected by what is going on in between them. Another point is that children are just, and not all biased – they should not be forced to take sides, because both the parents are equally important for them.
    Captivating post, Aunty Uta! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Bindu, I thank you for your comments. You’re right, similar problems in husband-wife relationships you can probably find throughout the ages. It is interesting to hear that you could relate to it.

  10. This brought tears to my eyes, Uta.
    It’s so difficult to be the child and be caught in the middle. 😦 Too many children have experienced such things. I’m so sorry you had to go through all of this, Uta.
    I’m so happy Peter came into your life!

    1. Well, the good thing about it is, Carolyn, that I never felt unloved. When Peter came into my life, I felt straight away that he was right for me. But later on sometimes a few doubts came up whether we were really right for each other. But we must have been right for each other for we are still together and – amazingly – we still love each other!!
      Uta 🙂

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