Day 355 - Margit (1st person I approached)
December 21, 2014 - A friend asked me today if there was a common thread that I saw in the strangers I’ve spoken with this year. He was looking for a succinct, sound-bite type answer, one that describes the general essence. That’s the sixty-four million dollar question. Easy to ask, a monumental task to answer. After giving a five minute, multifaceted, stream of conscious, meandering, long-winded, not succinct answer, I stopped talking. He waited, knowing I was collecting my thoughts.
‘Human,’ I said.
‘We’re all human beings who need, and crave, connection.’
I met Margit shortly after having this conversation with my friend. She was sitting in a quiet corner of the mall, away from the busy throng of shoppers. She was reading a newspaper, drinking some tea and eating a bagel. When I asked her if she’d chat with me, she told me it was an unusual request. I explained that at least 354 people before her, had likely thought the same thing. There was a slight hesitation, and as I always do, I let Margit know there was no obligation, that it would be fine if she didn't want to chat.
“It’s okay,” she said.
“I’ll talk with you.” She rolled her eyes when I said I’d want a photograph as well, but still agreed.
“I was born in Schöneberg, in west Berlin, Germany. We came to Canada when I was just three years old, so I have no memories of childhood there,” said Margit. Her parents were both German.
“My father’s parents were murdered during the war. When my father was ten years old, he, like many boys and young men, was taken away from the family and made to join the Hitler Youth Army. I don’t know much about this as he never liked to talk about it much. I know that when he was fifteen years old, he was sent to the front, but ran away. He was too frightened. My father drank all his life, I think to hide away the horrors of his youth,” she said. When her parents immigrated to Canada, they ended up in Port Alberni, on Vancouver Island.
“My father was a baker, and he found work there. My mother’s parents came to Canada as well,” she said.
“My parents separated when I was about seven years old. I lived with my mother, and my father remarried. My mother was having some emotional difficulties around the time I was about thirteen. I went to live with my father and his wife, my stepmother. It was tough. I never finished high-school. My stepmother felt that I had done all I was going to do in school, and that I was only suited to be a waitress all my life. I had aspirations to become a nurse. I left school in Grade ten,” Margit told me. She moved out on her own at sixteen.
“It wasn’t a healthy environment. It was toxic.”
Margit got a job working in a fast food restaurant.
“I wanted to join the Army. I heard that you could complete your education while in the military. But, I met a man and got married instead. I was nineteen and married,” she said. The marriage didn’t last long.
“We were too young. I had two wonderful children and was a single parent. It was difficult raising two young children. Fortunately my grandparents where nearby. They had such a calm and balanced relationship. It was so wonderful to be around them. There was such a contrast between their marriage and that of my parents,” she said, speaking with a fondness in her voice. Margit had a friend in high-school that introduced her to the Salvation Army.
“I’ve always had my faith. My belief in God. I carry it with me everywhere and going to church is where I connect with my faith. The Salvation Army helped to anchor me, to keep me stable and manage my way through the difficulties. I am so grateful for the support I received,” she told me.
A few years after getting divorced, Margit was preparing to go back to school.
“I still wanted to become a nurse. And then I met a man. I know, I know, it’s always a man. He was kind and lovely and we got married. He had three children, so I had step-children. Then he and I had our daughter. There were six children in our blended family, but we didn't all live together. We moved to Burlington, Ontario to work with our church. Neither of us were ordained, we were the Minister's support. We helped with the congregation and did what we could to minister our faith. We didn’t give sermon’s though. Becoming ordained would have been the next step,” she said.
wo of her husband’s children had A-T (Ataxia telangiectasia), a rare, neurodegenerative disease, causing severe disability.
“It causes difficulty with coordination. There’s difficulty walking, because they can fall and injure themselves. One of the more common illnesses that develops is cancer. We had been in Ontario for about six months, when my step-son became ill. We came back to BC (British Columbia). He passed away when he was just sixteen years old. He was such a dear, sweet angel. We decided to go back to Ontario after he passed away. We were loving the work we were doing with our church. I’m not a teacher, but I have spent many years teaching in church. Soon after returning to Ontario, my husband made the decision to move back to BC. He wanted to be nearer to his (other) son who had A-T,” said Margit.
“I liked living in Ontario, but it was the right thing to do.” That step-son lived to be forty-four years old.
“He lived longer than anyone else with A-T had, at that time, in North America. He passed away earlier this year.” (*Fact Check - see link below)
They settled in the Fraser Valley, and started a small company, run by the family.
“We work with electrical generators, supplying and offering preventative maintenance. We do oil changes, tune-up, repairs. We’re a small company, but we’ve got some large clients and have been very successful. I was working in the office, and our daughter came on board to help as well,” said Margit.
“I’m waiting for my husband to finish work," she said. Her husband was out on a repair job nearby; that’s what had brought Margit to the mall.
"We went to church this morning, and then had a lovely Christmas luncheon. We have plans for this afternoon as well,” she said.
"We're going to spend the rest of the day at the (German) Christmas Market, downtown." They have fourteen grandchildren and one great granddaughter.
“She’s four years old. It’s so wonderful to have the children around. Our children are all adults now. But it’s nice to still be young enough to see the grandchildren growing up. To be around to see the next generations that will carry on,” she said, smiling with pride.
“I was raised connected to my German roots. When my father passed away, my brother and I took his ashes home to Berlin. That's what he wanted. I got to meet family that I hadn’t met before. To see the similarities and likenesses. To learn a little bit more about my family. I’d like to learn as much as I can,” she told me.
I asked Margit if her children followed in her faith.
“They certainly know about it. I wouldn’t say that they actively practise it. They respect my faith. We talk about it, and when we‘re together, I’ll say prayers with them. It’s a conversation we have from time to time. They’re adults. They have to make their own decisions, while respecting mine,” she said.
We talked about different family members having different views on religion in many families. We discussed how some parents can be more assertive in their beliefs where their children are concerned.
“At the end of the day, I believe we are all from one God. The one we believe in. We are all humans, brothers and sisters.” #notastranger
*Fact Check - http://www.atcp.org/WhatIsAT