And one reason my life is never dull is because I not only married well, my wife c’est quelqu’une qui fonce dans la vie. Voila un extracte caché dans un CTV Montreal News clip:
And one reason my life is never dull is because I not only married well, my wife c’est quelqu’une qui fonce dans la vie. Voila un extracte caché dans un CTV Montreal News clip:
Recently I was thinking about how I felt somewhat fearful, intimidated by the otherwise friendly and warm sea surrounding me the first time I headed out on my own in a Hobie catamaran onto the Atlantic ocean. Granted I was fully intending to stay in the narrow band of water between the marked out swimming area and the reefs indicated by crashing waves, but I felt fear, notwithstanding more than 40 years sailing experience on similar small craft. For this was the proverbial bigger pond, the Atlantic. Was I up to it?
My brother Mark is enjoying sailing today also on a similar craft in the same Atlantic ocean but off the coast of Jamaica. So I wonder if he feels the same thing I did when I ventured out for the first time. I think of the bigger pond he is taking on in his career which, when I think of the scope of this job, is like an Atlantic ocean to me. I can’t think but he feels a similar-to-sailing-in-the-ocean fear as he soon will assume supervising a larger staff and larger responsibilities than he previously had in a similar position in a smaller pond.
But just as I was confident, in spite of the feeling of fear, that I would come back to the beach safely and live to taste another buffet supper on that first Atlantic sail, we all fully expect that Mark will be fully capable of the challenge he will begin facing in the next month and will soon be going to his Toronto job with the same expectation that he will not be overcome but will return to eat another meal at the close of the day at home in Kitchener. Because we all feel that Mark is competent in this big task, and we are so very proud of him that he hasn’t buried his biblical “talent” but has improved upon it and is now worthy of the trust of others that he can take on more.
When I think of the experiences that I have ventured into in my adult years, not without fear, but with an excitement and sense that I had enough background to succeed, or failing that, the sense of when I needed to signal a rescue and bail out, I feel accomplished. Marriage is one of those ventures that you can never be sure of when you embark, but now after more than 20 years I have developed some competency in living with another person who is not the same as me. And since my wife, Carol, reaches high, I’ve developed some competency in music performance that no one could have dreamed of, let alone me. And we can increase our abilities this way and succeed and develop competency. And then… come home to supper! What a wonderful world!
I have a memory from my youth where my dad took a paper bag of black walnuts and we went down to the workbench in the basement and left the bag there for them to dry out. Later on (months?) we might have used the bench vise, though I’m not sure we had one of those in my childhood years, so, more likely we used a hammer, and cracked those hard nuts open to get at the nut meats. That was my first taste of a nut that my dad knew from his childhood. The Isaiah Dettweiler house had a large, impressive specimen of a black walnut tree between the house and the road.
In the nut world, the walnut that most of us have tasted is known more specifically as a Persian walnut. An ordinary nutcracker like the ones we used in our house to crack open walnuts, brazil nuts and hazel nuts around Christmas time is an adequate tool with which to get at the nutmeats in these nuts. But don’t think for a moment of using that nutcracker on a black walnut (“you daresn’t do that” as Dad might say). This is a nut that is so solidly encased in its shell that you will break your nutcracker very quickly rather than break into the nut.
And yet my dad must have liked black walnuts for he knew the work involved to get at that nutmeats and he showed me how it was done. Later on, when I must have been a teenager, he planted at least two black walnut trees on his own property even though I have doubts that he ever came to enjoy the fruits of this labour.
To me now, in the 21st century, I pull out the hammer and crack into this hard-won treat every once-in-a-while as a remembrance of my dad. Unlike my dad, I can enjoy the unique taste that the black walnut holds without doing all the work involved. (This is a nut with an outer husk as well, and truth be told, I know nothing about how to get past this level except I think I remember dad (or mom) saying how these husks can stain your hands in the process of removing them). I have a sausage customer in Niagara-on-the-Lake that has a nut nursery and in the garage on their property they sell nuts that they grow, including the black walnut. I remember that when I broke into the plastic bag of pre-shelled black walnuts which I had just purchased ($14 per lb.) on the first delivery of sausage that I made to Ernie Grimo, the taste took me immediately back to my childhood when my dad had me share in this favourite nut of his.
If I come at this memory on a Sunday, it is not to say the obvious truth that everything is easier “nowadays”. There are some things that I think must be harder to accomplish today, like having families that give the children the sense of security in the world that my parents produced in their children. My grandfather, Isaiah, who I never really knew very much as he died when I was only a boy, was known, I’ve heard say, for his work ethic. Hardly a theoretical thing, to him, the farm demanded work. I’ve heard one of my aunts or uncles relating that when he sat at the table for lunch his one leg wasn’t with the other, in front of his chair or bench. He kept that one leg ready to pull off for a quick exit from the table as soon as he was done eating. Dad knew a somewhat easier life than this constant work and Dad’s favourite thing was to sit around the table with his family (after a hard day’s work) and to enjoy Mom’s cooking all together with his family.
Dad liked black walnut trees and planted some on his own property because they were a symbol to him of something he wanted to pass on to his children. That was the tree that held prominence at the house where Dad grew up and I can only believe that Dad valued his upbringing and would want to remember it. The work involved to get at the nutmeats said that there is something very good at the end of working hard especially if it is something that you can share with the others in your family. Dad knew what he was doing when he put away that bag of walnuts for a future time and he wanted his children to know this valuable truth too.
There I went today after my sausage mission to St. Catharines, arriving at the market at the height of noontime traffic. One 0f the possibilities was to find a table at one of the market restaurants and to pull out my old-fashioned phone list of my Saint Catharines market customers that do not use email and to contact this extremely loyal group of 77 and take their market orders for the March 17 Saint Catharines market. Entering, past the jam-packed Fish and Chips restaurant | realized that happily this would not be a work environment but that I was free to pursue my own market purchases ignoring those soon in need of sausage.
I have made regular pilgrimages over the years to the Saint Lawrence market (downtown Toronto).
Today, I have until 3:15 when my train leaves from Union Station, so why not shop the Saint Lawrence market?
On occasion of my youngest brother, Greg, turning 52 I am posting this picture which is taken on the ice at Dickie Lake probably in 1970. That would make me almost 8 years old and Greg almost 4 years old as we are both February birthdays.
If you look at our fishing rods, mine is straight and Greg’s is crooked like a stick, because, well… it is a stick. Did someone tie some mono-filament or maybe the older black nylon fishing line on the end? Maybe… but twouldn’t really be necessary as we weren’t going to be catching any fish that winter’s day. I’m guessing that the bait was a small chunk of bacon as worms would have been scarce that time of year and we just always had dad’s bacon available.
Without any doubt we had a childhood that would be hard to duplicate in these days. The monastic solitude of a winter day at the cottage would not be destroyed by access to the internet, by television or even a fish-finder that might tell us to save our bacon the fish were nowhere to be found. These were the days that if you had a dad to chop a hole in the ice and some good wet packing snow to make snowmen with then you had everything you needed to keep you occupied, well at least until mom called us for lunch.
Greg, you’ve had the privilege and responsibility to be that dad to your four girls. I’m quite sure you’ve done a good job in spite of all the distractions that the 21st century muddled our minds with. We can’t go back to that simpler time, but if there was a time machine and we just had a day, I’d love to go back to the cottage in 1970 and go ice fishing with Greg.
On Wednesday morning, the day of Dad’s funeral service, I woke early and went downstairs with my iPad to write out my eulogy in full. A search for the words of the verse I had gone to bed meditating on turned it up in Psalm 116:15. I have a developed preference for quoting complete passages of scripture, whenever possible, and I saw that this Psalm had both several All-Star verses (the type we might highlight) and had an overall theme which is more than compatible with describing the life experience of one who “calls on the Lord”. I decided early to read the Psalm in Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” version, not because it is any stronger or says more what I’d like to say in that version but because I know my weakness and how I can become incapable of continuing to speak when Scripture slays me with its “sharper than a two-edged sword” nature. Eugene Peterson uses different words and perhaps I thought that these words would be somewhat duller to my emotions. So there I was, in a different way than usual, using the words of Scripture for my purposes.
I am a fan of historical fiction, especially when the writer has done his or her research. Much of the time that I spent sitting in Dad’s room at A.R. Goudie I needed no more occupation than to think about dad’s life. In my eulogy, I tie the dated photo [January 1948] of dad with 120 other students at Kitchener Bible School with a note that dad wrote about his “first job” which included milking Uncle Norman’s cows besides their own. When he wrote that he would hitch up the horse to the sled in the winter and head across the fields in the morning I had a romantic image that I just couldn’t resist. It is quite probable, now that I’ve done a quick Google of Howard Dettweiler’s birth year, that Dad was referring to his chores circa 1936, when he, as a 14 year-old, would be more capable of hand-milking cows than 7 year-old Howie, Uncle Norman’s only son. But a little compression of a lot of chore-doing between 1936 and 1948 is only taking a tiny bit of poetic license.
Among the witty one-liners that Dad so often used in Karen’s biographical exercise book to avoid the hard work of filling out the facts, there are, in fact, a few interesting facts. It is recorded that Dad made Mom’s acquaintance (for the first time?) when he was invited to Cecil Mader’s Sunday dinner (dad’s employer from 1943 through to 1946) along with the [all-girl] Arthur Hachborn family who went to the same Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church in Breslau as the Maders. Mom verified [in a phone call today] that this would have been when she was 15 or 16 years old. I said in the eulogy that Hitler delayed dads life, but that God uses for good what was intended for evil. I’ve no doubt that Harold took note of the young woman, Margaret, on that Sunday dinner in 1943. I can imagine him contemplating if God was beginning to call him to the church that in 1947, after the war, changed its name to the “United Missionary Church”. A girl hardly 16 is much too young to be a wife, however, and Mom was busy boarding in Kitchener to continue her education at K.C.I. The next we hear of Dad and Mom is Christmas of 1948 when the youth groups join to go carolling. Margaret is now 20 years old and Harold is not going to miss his opportunity to drive Margaret home and begin a 4 year courtship.
When I read the eulogy based on Psalm 116, I finished with an uninterrupted reading of verses 16 through 19. Bear in mind I was expecting to have difficulty delivering this eulogy without choking up and being unable to speak. Carol and I had prayed that I would be able, contrary to many previous experiences, to overcome my emotions, so often brought on by the word of God, and deliver this to the end. By the grace of God I had reached this point without any tears or debilitating emotion and, I must say, I was rather elated. It could be that I stretched my hands in the air as I read with the psalmist “Oh God, here I am, your servant”. Afterwards at least one person described my delivery as being “like a Pentecostal preacher”. I must say that careful listeners might have noted that I did ask that they consider these last words of Psalm 116 as the “theme song of Dad’s life”. As I entered into the character of my father addressing these words to the Lord, I just don’t see him doing it with nonchalance or with his hands in his pockets. This is not a kid struggling through a scripture passage and missing the meaning of the words. I know I get a lot of practice, singing in a gospel choir, but Dad will seize the moment when he stands before his creator and he will break forth with all the emotion that God gives him and give praise, give blessing to God.
My life goes on in endless song
above earth’s lamentations.
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear it’s music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?
I had a good talk with mom this morning. I was able to test out some of the theories that I have about how the Dettweilers came about having a cottage in Muskoka. I was 5 years old when the transaction to buy the cottage took place. I remember some things very clearly – I cut my finger on a blade of glass during the visit with the real estate agent – we went on a tour of the lake conducted by a teenage Ken Dorsch – and I could tell you where I was in the backyard in Breslau when Dad brought home the boat from Maryhill marina; that’s when I knew for sure that we had a cottage. Mom provided some details this morning that allow me to flesh my theories out into a fairly well substantiated story.
It goes like this:
We know from the honeymoon pictures that Mom & Dad went up the highway Muskoka way as there are pictures of them in a tiny rental cabin, at a motel (between Orillia and Gravenhurst) and in a boat on a small lake. The tiny rental cabin and the boat was likely the destination as Mom says it was near Parry Sound and that they stayed there several days and the motel, would have been a stop en route to that. I think there may even be pictures of the honeymooners at High Falls (on the Muskoka River right at the intersection of highway 11 and 117). Dad liked to stop there with his family. If he was like me it would have been drilled into our heads, “your mother and I stopped here on our honeymoon”. But dad’s not like me that way and I had to figure that out on my own.
The other connection that dad had with Canadian Shield geography is in 1943 when dad spent about 6 months at the Montreal River camp, north of Lake Superior, as the lesser part of his alternative service assignment of 43 months that lasted until the extreme end of WWII. The greater part of his service was in Breslau working at Cecil Mader’s dairy which continued until all the army service were home, the war well over in 1946. Dad didn’t get to go to camp during his childhood and teenage years, but his young adult experience at 20 years old was like a lifetime of summer camp rolled into one experience (except that it was much chillier than Mishewah ever was on the coldest August morning as his service there began in November). The autograph book of dad’s that the men at Montreal River Camp signed shows that some close camp connections were made through the experience there.
But if it wasn’t for another connection from closer to home, with Walter Keffer of New Dundee (his first wife was the sister of Harold Hallman), the Dettweilers might just as well have stayed home summers. In 1966 and again in 1967, Dad packed the family in the car for a trip to Keffer’s Muskoka River cottage, near Baysville. This might have become a yearly tradition for the Dettweilers to rent that cottage, but on the second visit, Dad went and took a look a cottage nearby Keffer’s, just on a whim, says Mom. The real estate agent happened to be there and though this larger ($12,000) cottage on the river didn’t suit, he convinced dad to come and look at some other cottages on nearby Dickie Lake.
Mom says that the property line between our future cottage and Williamson’s next door had to be established by a surveyor and so, while she wasn’t sure at all about this venture of Harold’s – we didn’t know anyone from back home that had a cottage – she felt that if it was of God, the complications would be worked out. Her sympathies might have been more towards it not being God’s will, she realizes now. I’m sure I can hear Dad’s rationale borne of Dad’s own personal hankerings for the north. It did make sense for a family that now boasted 6 children to be able to vacation economical-like.
Whenever I pick up a copy of the Muskoka Sun or alternatively, similar publications put out vaunting the real estate of the Laurentians, near Montreal, I start dreaming, having dad’s same thirst to own a piece of the rock known as Canadian Shield. I have Thoreau drilled into me, however, informing my spirit that I don’t need to own it to enjoy it and that the danger of real estate is that it might own me, but I still like to entertain for brief periods the notion that there is a cottage built on a rock next to a lake that was meant for me.
I’m so glad that Dad hadn’t read Thoreau. That cottage on Dickie Lake has shaped our lives and will continue to do so. We just can’t help it – we have Dad’s genes.
The impulse to collect stamps is labelled “philately”. Between the ages of ~9 years old and 15, I possessed that rather solitary passion and it might be a major contributing factor in the development of my adventurous nature. That need to explore goes hand in hand with a lack of fear of the unknown, in my case, and it brought me to Montreal, ideal home for adventurers…, and stamp collectors as I discovered today.
A small ad in a paper that I read rather assiduously led me to exup 42, which I suppose can only be the 42nd Exposition of the Union des philatélistes. The ad promised both free entry and free parking, but I took the scenic route by bus along Jean Talon this morning and walked up to the second floor of the Maison du Citoyen in Villeray – St. Michel – Parc Extension fashionably just after the 10am opening.
After a few words of counsel from the Union people, I was directed away from the merchants and into the Bourse des timbres à 10c de l’UPM. Taking my seat with the other early birds, I introduced myself, “Mon nom est Ted et je suis une philatéliste”. I blague (I’m joking). It was more of a square than a circle, due to the tables in front of us. In the middle of the room were other tables piled with hundreds of albums holding what the UPM volunteer described as “surplus stamps that their members were willing to sell at 10 cents each”. I had the full extent of my circa 1975 stamp collection along with me, and since there were some stamps that I lacked in a “World of Sports”” stamp album from the USPS. I started by looking at “thematique” albums which contained various – boats, bridges, flowers, animals and, not least, sports”. Soon I was lost in the beauty of stamps, filling out a dim sum-like summary of my purchases. After a slow browse through 4 or 5 thematic albums, I was getting the hang of the system and decided that I would follow up on a recent read of a sort of autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. starting with stamps from Africa honouring him. The albums of African countries, from North to South, Angola to Zanzibar piled before me failed to yield up a single Martin Luther King stamp, though I remember reading that he did travel there. Finally in the Togo Republic, I found the civil rights hero’s image on a stamp. I know the obvious is to look for MLK in USA, but since presidents and prime ministers like John F. Kennedy and Winston Churchill can be found everywhere in the stamps of the world, I expected the same for this martyred civil rights hero. Not the case.
The take home for me, besides a selection of stamps that I can use to illustrate future blogs on a variety of topics touching history or geography, is that there are people like me whose interest in stamps is not about rarity or even the collecting impulse but who see stamps as a “trampoline au monde entier”…, and a good conversation starter. J’ai côtoyé du monde fort engageant aujourd’hui et c’est pas le monde des timbres, mais le monde des philatélistes.
My last blog spoke of a busy birthday weekend for me with both a Jireh concert and a Montreal Gospel Choir performance as part of an event marking black history in Burlington, Vermont. In this blog I want to highlight an unexpected pleasure for me on my birthday – something that happened quite by surprise and was the perfect way to mark my 55th birthday.
I made the remark to a couple of my fellow MGC members in the weeks leading up to our choir’s second career performance in the United States that if there were any border troubles and for some reason, or perhaps some unwelcome choir member we were refused entry at the Quebec – Vermont border, it actually might turn out to be more interesting that way than performing at the scheduled event. And I, who really do love performing anywhere, love especially performing to the people of Vermont. This is a people as mellow as the Green Mountain Coffee that they serve, but you can count on them to raise their hands and participate actively in a gospel concert. In the earliest years of Jireh, and before that with Union Gospel Choir, I had the pleasure of being before an audience who not only loved my Lord Jesus but outwardly indicated the same in the way that they responded to his music. Rarely seen in Canada, this gospel fervour, I must admit.
The building of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington was what my ideal church building would look like – simple, but infused with light with windows on both sides of the sanctuary on the main floor and the balcony floor. My own chosen church in Montreal does not possess such easy access to light. We are a multi-campus church that has a goal of having a location in each borough of Montreal. I may just drive across town to some foreign borough should we ever find a location with the quality of light that the Unitarian Universalists of Burlington possess!
The choir performed, and I must say we performed just a little better than usual because we were actively encouraged by the greater part of the black audience and even those of the whiter solidarity set. My wife, Carol, as director is world class. I love watching her lead – she has all the skills on and offstage to excel in her chosen field. Then came my birthday surprise as Reverend Toussaint King Hill from Atlanta, Georgia was introduced as the speaker at this black history month event.
Carol and I went to see a civil rights era movie recently. “Hidden Figures” is set in the very early 1960’s in the state of Virginia and follows the story of 3 black “computers”, women who used their dexterity with adding machines and sometimes, when given the opportunity, their math abilities to enable NASA to send men and spaceships into orbit and to bring them back to earth again. Civil rights history in the United States is so close at hand to us as Canadians and is so troubling because my privileged class of whiter peoples in all their institutions were so slow at bringing equal rights and access to education to their neighbours who didn’t share the same ancestry. It is striking to Carol and I, this injustice, as we can testify as a married couple that there are far more things that we share in common than there are things that would divide us.
Faith in Jesus Christ is perhaps the greatest unifying element that Carol and I share. Carol loves hearing preaching even more than I do as she continues daily to hear the word of God set forth (through means of the internet) while I get my preaching fix but once per week at church. This was my once per week prescription that the introduced Reverend Hill was bringing today and for Carol, it was a sampling of something too rare for our northern breed – African American preaching in the tradition of the great Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.
Reverend Hill is a distinguished alumnus of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, without doubt one of the greatest colleges among all the outstanding educational institutions in United States. He prepared there, as Martin Luther King Jr. himself did, to be the pastor of a church. Reverend Hill received his present call as pastor in 2006, to West Hunter Street Baptist Church in Atlanta. This was the church that Ralph Albernathy also pastored for many years, another renowned civil rights leader, colleague and friend of Martin Luther King. Could there be a better speaker possible for a black history month event in Burlington, Vermont on a sunny day in February?
The sermon, for our speaker did not shy away from his gifting even in this Unitarian setting, started slowly, a cadence well-known in the southern states. As the sermon developed, Reverend Hill added different “tracks” – biblical, historical, musical, mythical, inspirational, political and educational. Instead of going serially from one track to another as a less-gifted speaker might, he wove the traps into a tapestry – one theme appearing for a minute before it stepped behind another track. There was a large white handkerchief ready next to the pulpit for Reverend King’s use. By midway through the sermon, it was obvious that our speaker would be needing the handkerchief even in these northern climes. He was working the tapestry which was meant to both honour and inspire a people. You certainly didn’t have to be black to be inspired and moved by his words. You didn’t need to be a believer to have a great appreciation for his subject of the afternoon, but for those of us who were of the faith in Jesus, he rallied us to proclaim it and to acknowledge Jesus with him.
Carol could not have hoped for a speaker who better represented the preaching style that is native to the churches that birthed the gospel music that Montreal Gospel Choir sings. His connection with American Civil rights history and his practice as a preacher to continue in that tradition along with his obvious faith in God and love of Jesus made him the perfect person for us as a choir to back in this event. Sometimes pastors are accused of “preaching to the choir”. Because of the willingness of Reverend Toussaint King Hill to come north at the invitation of Patrick Brown, sponsor and organizer of this event, he had the opportunity to preach to a choir very different than the gospel choir that he has in his home church. As Montreal Gospel Choir continues to develop in its unique way, Reverend Hill’s sermon on February 26, 2017 will no doubt provide a frame of reference to us in faith and in singing. Preach it, brother!
It is my 55th birthday weekend….and what a weekend is planned!!!! We didn’t plan it this way because it is my birthday, but, this is definitely my idea of how to celebrate a birthday!
I’m giving myself 2 more minutes to write this blog post….so here is the weekend plan. I told myself that I would start putting together the merchandise for the Jireh concert today in Sainte-Genevieve. That’s on the island of Montreal so it is a home-game type of affair. Around 9am, I should pick up the drum shield from Steve’s music. Sometime in the afternoon we’ll have the various |Jireh CD’s and the Get Up t-shirts and my wardrobe (intermission change of look – I sincerely love that, because ‘au fond’ I am a true blue performer and performers do multiple wardrobe changes during the same show) and the Jireh banner for the merchandise table and (have I forgotten anything?), oh yes, there is Carol, my wife and director of Jireh Gospel Choir.
Thinking of Carol, she would find it SPOT ON if I would suggest, maybe around noon today, that we stop what we are doing and pray for the concert today in Sainte-Genevieve and for the second part of the birthday mad weekend which is a Black History Month concert in Burlington, Vermont with Montreal Gospel Choir. We have much to pray about, you can see. We want to do the choir thing well – both choirs. Do well in our interactions within the choir and in our brief but important relationship performing before an audience.
So, there will probably be a cake or two on my choir extravaganza 55th birthday weekend, but the thing that will make it so special is that at 55, I will be celebrating with people I love doing something that is such a big part of my life, something that I LOVE doing and that gives my life fulfillment and purpose.
More on this weekend, later – perhaps a resumé of highlights when I return from Vermont on Sunday evening!