She is my Friend

I am referring here to my ex-sister-in-law. I say “ex” since her marriage to one of my brothers ended in divorce. The word ‘divorce’ did come up a lot in my last two blogs already as you may have noticed.

I am happy to state that Klaudia, my ex-sister-in-law, is my friend. Never mind that she is not married to my brother any more. Klaudia is a beautiful, outgoing, fun loving person with a soft heart in a brusque exterior. My brother Peter Uwe always respected her, I think. Not so my mother. It seemed to me, there was a bit of friction between my mother and Klaudia.

When Peter Uwe met ‘the other woman’, he had been married to Klaudia for a number of years and their daughter was already an adult. The other woman was Astrid. Astrid left her husband to be with Peter. Her two well brought up sons were totally accepted by Peter Uwe. Astrid and her ex shared the boys. As far as I can tell, there was no friction. Astrid’s ex seemed to totally accept Astrid’s new relationship. And the boys were quite happy with all the arrangements.

With Klaudia, this was a different matter. Klaudia kept contact with the family. When Peter and I, as well as our daughter Caroline, were visiting in 1994. She often came over to see us. It was all right if Peter Uwe was there, especially when their grown up daughter Corinna was present too. In the beginning my dementia suffering mother was mostly part of our family group too. Klaudia did not like Astrid being around. It so happened that on weekdays Astrid was not always present. Her employment kept her away. But even when Astrid was around, Klaudia would try to make “eine gute Miene zum bösen Spiel”, meaning she tried to hide her resentment.

I want to get to it now how our own children fared. Daughter Monika separated from her husband when the twins were still quite young. A few years later she got a divorce from Ron, her husband. Many years later it turned out that Ron’s second wife did not like it, that Monika, still carried her ex-husband’s name. In the end Monika gave in and thought it was better for her to go back to her maiden name. She did not mind to become a Hannemann again. Daughter Gaby never married. Daughter Caroline has had a partner for a number of years who happens to be divorced with two children. Having never married Caroline still is a Hannemann. And son Martin is another Hannemann. Two of Martin’s children carry also the Hannemann name.

Monika’s twin sons carry the name of their father and Monika’s three girls carry also their father’s name which is Adami. The girls grandmother, Frieda Adami, died last week. We all went to her funeral yesterday. Friedel has had a very tough life. We used to know her well. She was always a very friendly woman. She had three sons. Only two were at the funeral yesterday. Her husband had been severely injured as a passenger in a horrific car accident. He lived for 25 years as an invalid at home with Frieda looking after him. The sons were still kids when the accident happened.

Martin married Elizabeth. They have had a difficult separation for many years. During the time of separation Martin had a lovely daughter with a single woman. Lauren, the daughter, is sixteen now. Martin always stayed friends with Lauren’s mother and cared for Lauren in any way he could.

Monika is a devoted mother and now grandmother. She has no more contact with the girls’ father. Monika, her daughters, as well as Mark and his daughter all live together in Mark’s house. We like Mark very much.

The heading of this post is that Klaudia is my friend. I am very happy to call her my friend. And she is a very good friend of Peter’s too.

By the way, my other brother, Bodo, never married. Once he nearly married a woman who had already two children. I think my mother had objections to him marrying this woman. Bodo ended up with huge problems. Alcohol became his downfall. Both my brothers had been teachers. Peter Uwe is in his seventies now and long retired. He and Astrid own a bit of property north of Berlin renting out four very nice units in a secluded little village. Bodo had to retire quite early, but still gets a good pension. His life as an alcoholic took many bad turns. He is well into his seventies now. Some time ago he had the good fortune to be accepted in a home where he is well looked after. He is not allowed to look after his own money any more and gets only a small amount of pocket money each day which he spends on liquor and cigarettes.

Children of divorced Marriages

If the parents separate amiably the children usually learn to cope with the separation. Some children may on the outside cope all right, even if there is constant struggle between the parents. Children can probably cope all right if they happen to be totally in agreement with the parent they live with.

I do not want to make this too theoretical. So I just start with a bit of my own experience. I fall into the category of the child who is constantly torn between the parents. To my mind this is a pretty bad state to be in. I think I can say that my parents’ relationship was very much a love/hate relationship. The way I see it, it was not the right kind of love that led my parents to each other. Their outlooks and aspirations in life were extremely different. There were separations due to conditions under the Hitler regime and to the disaster of World War Two. After the war they just could not live together any more, that is my mother refused to live with my father. I constantly heard her saying bad things about him. Her hate was unrelenting. She showed not one iota of compassion towards him. My two younger brothers and I lived with my mother. There was no question that we could have lived with my father at the time.

My parents got divorced when I was sixteen on the request of my mother for she wanted to marry someone else. It turned out, the man, who wanted to marry Mum, was not the right man for her. She decided she would rather not marry him. Instead she made an enormous effort to get some secure employment and become independent.

When I was in my twenties, Dad married a second time. This time a widow who luckily was just the right person for him. Sadly they had only a short life together. Dad died of cancer aged 62.

My parents had been in enormously strenuous circumstances after the end of WW II. Till the end of the 1950s they both struggled enormously to make ends meet. Dad died in 1966, Mum died in 1994 aged 83.

Mum had two sisters and a brother. One of the sisters, who never had any children, divorced her first husband and had a very good marriage with her second husband. This was ‘meine’ Tante Ilse. She played a big part in my life. She was a very motherly woman.

Dad was one of six in the family. All his siblings married and had children. None ever got divorced. One of Dad’s nephews lost his wife after she had given birth to a little girl who was then raised by the second wife as though it was her own. The nephew also had a son with the second wife.

Mum’s other sister had only one child. This was my cousin Sigrid. Sigrid was four years my senior. She was a great person: Outgoing, fun loving, very musical. I adored her. She was such good company. She married a dentist. The dentist divorced Sigrid in a very amiable way. I think their two children were grown up already at the time. Walter, the dentist, then married his receptionist and had a child with her. Sigrid remained good friends with Walter and his new wife.

When I met Peter, my future husband, it turned out, his parents were divorced too. Maybe this is another story along with the divorce of one of our daughters.

My Thoughts on Divorce

Helen Mirren played Elizabeth II in the movie THE QUEEN. We watched this movie last night on TV. This movie made me think about the issue of divorce in our society. I contemplated what leads to divorce, and how it effects our lives, for example in my own family but also in families like the British Royal family. Often one can see the signs that lead to divorce, but sometimes a divorce can come more or less totally unexpected.

First I want to say how well I think Helen Mirren portrayed the queen. We already saw several movies with Helen Mirren as British queens.

Wikipedia says apart from Elizabeth II Helen Mirren portrayed these queens:
“The first was a queen consort, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in The Madness of King George (1994), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress; the second was a queen regnant, Elizabeth I, in the 2005 miniseries Elizabeth I. She also played a policewoman, under cover as the Queen, in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu.”

THE QUEEN is a 2006 British drama film that depicts the aftermath of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, who died on 31 August 1997. I remember, how shocked we all were about her death. After her divorce from Prince Charles the media had kept haunting her unceasingly. I ask myself, did the public expect her to live like a nun after her divorce? Probably not. However the interest in Diana’s private life was kept alive by a very intrusive media. She was an extremely good looking, very kind woman. The public just loved her. The excessive media attention led to disaster. In the end not only Britain but the whole world was grieving her death.

I recall an interview with Diana as she opened up about her marriage. She said it was like there were three people in the marriage. She came across as being very honest and heartbroken about it. I think she felt as though she did not have a husband any more. She had fulfilled her duty to give the throne two heirs. Now Prince Charles felt free to follow his muse. Diana was too young and fun loving for him. She played no big part in his life. He probably had married her more or less only because she was young and good looking and likely to give him some children. But it turned out he had no real connection to her. She wanted some affection in her marriage. She did not get it the way she felt she needed it. How very tragic! Divorce followed after a long struggle. The rest is history, as the saying goes.

There were quite a few divorces in my immediate family:
First my favourite aunt was divorced, then my parents were divorced, my husband’s parents were also divorced, my favourite cousin was divorced, also one of my daughters did get a divorce (in her twenties!), one of my brothers got a divorce. And so it goes. It seems there were plenty of divorces within my immediate family. Have divorces increased during the past fifty or a hundred years? Probably. Is divorce always a disaster? And who benefits from a divorce?

These are very general questions. I would say more often than not one partner wants a divorce to be able to marry someone else. The partner who is left behind may initially feel quite deserted but in time adjust to the new conditions and possibly be able to find solace in being free again. Sometimes divorce may be due to difficult economic circumstances . . . .

Does a deteriorating love life necessarily lead to divorce? Yes and no. After a man has been married for a number of years, he may wonder what it might be like with somebody else. He may feel that some new exciting love affair would be quite a challenge. What man can resist if an attractive woman indicates to him that she could be willing? The man tumbles into a new relationship. The new woman is hopeful the man is going to leave his wife and marry her. So he needs to get a divorce. Then he can marry the new woman. As simple as this.

In the ‘old’ days some women would refuse to grant the husband a divorce. Then maybe the husband would just live apart from his wife with the other woman. Sooner or later the other woman might find another man who could marry her. Then perhaps the first wife would end up with her husband living at home again. Or not, if she found it impossible to forgive him. Or found someone else herself in the meantime!

If a woman falls in love with a man who is married already, is it morally right if this woman accepts the advances of a married man. They both might feel they are made for each other. It may turn out then that the first woman is left behind. The new woman might be married herself and end up asking for a divorce if she wants to stay with the new man.

So far I have never mentioned children of divorced marriages. If there are any young children involved this can complicate matters quite a lot. I’ll write about my thoughts on this some other time.

What I wrote two Years ago

Two years ago when I had not been blogging for very long yet, I wrote the following about my parents:

‘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 together with him and us children as one family. He also had some gripes about Aunty Ilse. According to him it was she who had wrecked their marriage.

I loved Aunty Ilse. 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 too, that is, I never heard him say anything bad about him. Come to think of it, neither did Aunty 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 these 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 G. 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 together: 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.

This was the end of my post.  What follows are some replies I wrote to  comments from some bloggers.

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 four  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), then the third very much loved mother was my mother-in-law and finally 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.

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 were not 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 and started a family. When I was approaching 25 we moved to Australia under a migration program. We had two children under two and soon there followed a third one! We did not have much money, but we thought we were doing all right.

Uta with her children at Fairy Meadow Beach, NSW, Australia, June 1960
Uta with her children at Fairy Meadow Beach, NSW, Australia, June 1960

A Catholic Marriage?

This post I published already in March 2012 I copied it here because I think it shows a bit more what my parents were like.

Max Tomscik had changed his name to Max Burghoff, I think you call it by deeds. Herr Burghoff had been Mum’s friend for several years when the following conversation between Dad and myself took place. For some reason Dad insisted on using the original name. We children always called him “Herr Burghoff”. We thought it was right and proper to do this. We had absolutely no problem with it.

‘The boys told me that Tomscik never shared his supper with you children,’ said Dad. It was June 1953. I was on a one week leave from FLEUROP and had used this, my very first vacation, to visit Dad in Düsseldorf.
‘Don’t worry, Dad,’ was my response. ‘We never wanted Herr Burghoff to act as our Dad. I thought it was perfectly all right that he bought “Abendbrot” only for himself and Mum. At the time he was still studying and didn’t have much money. Maybe it would have been different had he already been employed in the Public Service.’
‘And what is this, that he wants to marry Mum?’ asked Dad. – ‘Well, it’s true, he wanted to marry her. You know, that as a Catholic he was not allowed to marry a divorced woman. That’s why they asked the Pope for special permission. It took a while, but they did get it in the end.’
‘Yea, by declaring the marriage invalid and my children bastards,’ screamed Dad.
‘I know, they established that she married under pressure of her mother and sister Ilse. They claim, she didn’t really know what she was getting into when she married you.’
Dad looked extremely upset. ‘That’s absolute nonsense!’ he shouted.
I felt very sorry for Dad. ‘Anyway, Dad, it seems Mum’s not going to marry him after all. Tante Ilse says so.’
‘And why would that be? What could possibly be a reason for not marrying him now?’
‘The reason? According to Tante Ilse there are several reasons. You know Herr Burghoff is now employed here in a town in the Rheinland. That is Mum would have to move away from Berlin, if she wanted to live with him. And you know what Mum’s like: She just does not want to leave Berlin!’ Dad nodded. He knew all about this: Mum had always refused to leave Berlin to live with him.
‘ And Tante Ilse told me something else. She said when Mum went to his new place for a visit, she noticed him praying a lot. At least twice a day he would fall on his knees praying in front of a statue. It was kind of acceptable for Mum to go with him to Sunday Mass in Berlin. But apparently she can’t stand all this praying at home. Tante Ilse thinks it was just too much for her to see him do this. Indeed, it must have been the straw that broke the camel’s back!’

Tags: Dad, divorce, family, Mum

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Childhood Memories

6 Responses to “Childhood Memories”

ElizOF
March 17, 2012 at 7:46 pm Edit #
I had a good laugh about: But apparently she can’t stand all this praying at home. Tante Ilse thinks it was just too much for her to see him do this…. Your mom must have been quite fascinating!

REPLY

auntyuta
March 18, 2012 at 7:15 am Edit #
http://berlioz1935.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/the-woman-who-jumped-up-for-jesse-owens/

We think that Charlotte, my mother, was ‘the woman who jumped up for Jesse Owens’.

She was quite fascinating indeed. Unfortunately my father wasn’t the right man for either.

REPLY

likeitiz
March 18, 2012 at 2:15 am Edit #
It’s quite apparent they had very different values and beliefs. It would have been a disastrous marriage if it did go through. At least it was avoided in time.

REPLY

auntyuta
March 18, 2012 at 7:30 am Edit #
Mary-Ann, please see what I replied to the comment of Eliz.

You may be interested to read the story about ‘the woman who jumped up for Jesse Owens’. Peter, my husband, wrote this story. I think it’s very believable and shows what Charlotte was like. After she decided not to marry her ‘Bambi’ (Tomscik alias Burghoff), she established herself in a council job and through very hard work till she turned 65 made the best out of her life and her retirement.

I agree with you that people with very different values and beliefs should not marry.

REPLY

Munira
March 20, 2012 at 7:47 am Edit #
Thank God your mum caught him praying at home in time!

REPLY

auntyuta
March 20, 2012 at 9:41 am Edit #
Your comment, Munira, makes me think. Maybe there was some truth in their claim that they had only a ‘Tischgemeinschaft’, which means they had meals together but weren’t sleeping together!

REPLY

Childhood Memories

The boys told me that Tomscik never shared his supper with you children,’ said Dad. It was June 1953. I was on a one week leave from FLEUROP and had used this, my very first vacation, to visit Dad in Düsseldorf.
‘Don’t worry, Dad,’ was my response. ‘We never wanted Herr Burghoff to act as our Dad. I thought it was perfectly all right that he bought ‘Abendbrot’ only for himself and Mum. At the time he was still studying and didn’t have much money. Maybe it would have been different had he already been employed in the Public Service.’
‘And what is this, that he wants to marry Mum?’ asked Dad. – ‘Well, it’s true, he wanted to marry her. You know, that as a Catholic he was not allowed to marry a divorced woman. That’s why they asked the Pope for special permission. It took a while, but they did get it in the end.’
‘Yea, by declaring the marriage invalid and my children bastards,’ screamed Dad.
‘I know, they established that she married under pressure of her mother and sister Ilse. They claim, she didn’t really know what she was getting into when she married you.’
Dad looked extremely upset. ‘That’s absolute nonsense!’ he shouted.
I felt very sorry for Dad. ‘Anyway, Dad, it seems Mum’s not going to marry him after all. Tante Ilse says so.’
‘And why would that be? What could possibly be a reason for not marrying him now?’
‘The reason? According to Tante Ilse there are several reasons. You know Herr Burghoff is now employed here in a town in the Rheinland. That is Mum would have to move away from Berlin, if she wanted to live with him. And you know what Mum’s like: She just does not want to leave Berlin!’ Dad nodded. He knew all about this: Mum had always refused to leave Berlin to live with him.
‘ And Tante Ilse told me something else. She said when Mum went to his new place for a visit, she noticed him praying a lot. At least twice a day he would fall on his knees praying in front of a statue. It was kind of acceptable for Mum to go with him to Sunday Mass in Berlin. But apparently she can’t stand all this praying at home. Tante Ilse thinks it was just too much for her to see him do this. Indeed, it must have been the straw that broke the camel’s back!’