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Archive for the ‘my family’ Category

I have posted here about my experiences in Spain and France

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Cape Breton Island, raw version
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And those postings have gotten mild interest on a continuing basis from those who surf into this blog.

Now I’m taking a step up. I have completed Part I of the story about myself, my father and my birth family. It can be accessed at http://www.box.net/shared/rnt4e0diza.

Here are the first few paragraphs of that memoir/story:

The Story of My Daddy- Part I

This story is roughly based on the life of my father, mother and my sibling brothers and sisters. Today (2010) there are only two of us that survive, my brother JP and me.

I have been struggling for the past 10 years+ attempting to tell the story of my Daddy’s life and of his family. Today I feel I have done about as well as I could with this first part of my Daddy’s Story.

Him and me in November 1937 Vernets-l-bains

My Daddy, H-L G was born in 1890 and came into this fractious world in a small obscure part of French Acadia, Ile Madame.  This is an island that has a land link to Cape Breton Island and is part of the Province of Nova Scotia.

So check out the rest of the memoir/story and tell me what you think about it. I may get it published!

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2010/11/29 at 15:20

How and why I’ve been telling my life story here and elsewhere!

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António Damásio, Portuguese neuroscientist.
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I like Antonio Damasio‘s thoughts about our brain and our behaviors influenced by the working of our brain, or brains!

Here is what I read by him on the Big Think web site:

we do not give the same amount of emotional significance to every event.

For some 45 years of my life I felt little emotional significance coming from my experience in Spain, France and then Canada when I was a babe in arms until I was 10 or so. It was as if I had not experienced anything but I did have nightmares and often.

And yes I remember being a fearful little boy, bigger boy and teenager. But since my birth family believed that we had to move on and not dwell on less beneficial history, I never had nor asked for, the chance to recover, consider and put behind me the frights that I lived through especially in France from September 1939 until we arrived in Canada in July 1940. I guess you could say that I had almost 12 months of little boy hell with my birth family during our prolonged “escape” during the Fall of France.

As I understand it from pieces of family recollections, my mother and my siblings lived in and around Verneuil-s-Avre about 160 kms south east of Paris during most of that time.

It must have been a reasonably quiet place until refugees from Belgium, Luxemberg and the north of France began trickling through starting around May 10, 1940 and then stampeding through after May 18 to the south and west of France chased by the German panzer tanks, infantry storm troops and terror bombing by Stuka aircraft.

But let me go back to what Damasio says about the amount of significance I must have put on those experiences, especially when my nanny, Pensa Gomez, left us to live with the Wanamaker family in France. To this day, I can’t hear some music without tears welling in my eyes. In my case that’s got nothing to do with John Boehner‘s supposed emotional outburst talking about how much he has done to protect and recover the American Dream. But I guess each of us has a right to our own significance!

Later in his discussion Damasio says that we tend to go on and change or reconstruct the narrative we tell about our life. Depending on other pleasureable or unpleasant events in our life. For myself, I cam late to the telling of the narrative of my life. I didn’t really begin until I was 65 or so.

From 4 to 65 is a long time to have left my narrative untold and unremembered. But I finally got here and now I feel better for having told my narrative, even if the first 5 years worth are mostly reconstructions from bits and pieces from my older brother, random family records and photos. At least I know what I looked like at about 8 or 9 months in Barcelona and then in Montreal and in the Pyrenees when I was 2 and after that when I was 4 in Paris in 1939.

I’ve just had a thought that I regret because I thought that I had put this stuff behind me insofar as my father was concerned. But I had another thought, and maybe Damasio is right in this way, about resenting my father’s placing more importance with his Bank and employees in France and not enough on me in my plight of feeling repeated losses too early in my short life till then. There I’ ve said it “I resent what my father did to overstay in France and Spain” just to satisfy his own interests and those of the Bank!

I will come back to this tomorrow or the days after!

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2010/11/12 at 00:26

I cannot ignore these thoughts about family memory

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Wasps eating an apple that has fallen from a tree.
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The title of the book is “The Grace of Silence: A memoir. Given my birth family’s record of passing over family traumas and how it seems to have affected me for most of my adult life, I couldn’t resist noting these thoughts:

Norris illustrates the everyday cost of silence at seemingly minor moments: her mother’s unexpressed anger when a white neighbor cuts down an apple tree rather than let the Norris children pick the fruit from a branch that overhangs their yard. Norris’ failure, at age 26, to muster even a scowl when two white women in an airport misjudge her father, assuming he is a lush rather than a very ill man struggling to maintain his dignity.

Norris acknowledges that there could have been — and perhaps should have been — a more direct response to these incidents. Not speaking out may preserve the image of the “model minority,” but these learned silences prohibit real conversations about race. With learned candor, she describes the corrosive effect of family stories left untold, showing how the denial of painful histories can only contribute to the anger, unease and mistrust of “post-racial” America. We may not hear those stories until we ask for them. But some things simply must be said.

My family issues had nothing to do with “real conversations about race”. But they had a lot to do with the “corrosive effect of family stories left untold.”

My birth family’s denial and setting aside painful histories did contribute to my own anger, unease and mistrust of what my past meant to me. I would venture that we all suffered because of our inability to recognize the hurt of horrible outcomes within our family experience. I know that I suffered the pain of being a displaced child in more than one circumstance. Only now can I say it, accept it and feel that I can forgive my parents and older siblings for what they left unsaid and uncommented upon!

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2010/10/03 at 10:24

1939 was a “turning point year”

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German cavalry and motorized units entering Po...
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Writing a review of the latest Hitchens book, Ian Buruma writes that 1939 was a turning point year. Well it is a fact of history that Hitler chose the turn his game of international blackmail in 1936, 1937 and 1938 into all out war in September, 1939.

A German and a Soviet officer shaking hands at...
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What did my father have in mind when he accepted to go to Paris in April 1939 for the Royal Bank of Canada after getting out of Barcelona only months before that in 1938? Did he simply ignore the trend of overt agressiveness being openly shown by Hitler’s Nazi regime? Did he care if that could have any effect on his life and the life of his family?

I’ve read about 1939 in a few history books. All agreed that it was a beautiful spring and summer, especially in Paris. Was that the existential factor that induced him to continue living in Paris even after Hitler’s armies invaded Poland in September 1939?

It’s a fact I remember about my boyhood in Sherbrooke QC during the war years of late 1940 till 1945, that my father rarely missed listening to the BBC news broadcast. Surely he listened to the same news broadcasts in 1939? How could he not feel the menace of attack from the belligerent Nazi armed forces right up to the invasion of Poland and especially as reports from the Eastern Front left little doubt that Hitler’s  intentions couldn’t be peaceful since his takeover and elimination of Polish elites was evident, even at that early stage of WW II?

Or was it that my father subscribed to the ideas of the Canadian Prime Minister of that  time, McKenzie-King, who met with Hitler in 1937 and felt he was a calm and serious political leader, even though Von Neurath, the German Foreign Minister admitted to King that many Jews had been treated “very roughly” in “cleaning things up” in German cities, like Berlin?

In the end me and my family made it out of France at a few minutes after midnight!

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2010/06/28 at 23:32

June 18, 1940 me and my family were still in France

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and Sir Winston Churchill was giving his “their finest hour” speech in the British Parliament:

This is how this time is described in yesterday’s NY Times:

Seventy years ago, on June 18, 1940,Winston Churchill, barely six weeks in office as Britain’s prime minister and confronted with the threat of invasion from Nazi-occupied France, rose in the House of Commons and, in 36 minutes of soaring oratory, sought to rally his countrymen with what has gone down in history as his “finest hour” speech.

The speech — ending with the words “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour’ ” — has resonated ever since. On both sides of the Atlantic and beyond, it has been hailed as the moment when Britain found the resolve to fight on after the fall of France, and ultimately, in alliance with American and Russian military might, to vanquish the German armies that had overrun most of Europe.

Me and my family eventually, around June 25, 1940, well after Churchill’s speech and after the armistice was signed by Petain  with Hitler’s Nazi regime, left the shores of France for Portsmouth, England.  We  got back to shores of Canada, via Halifax NS by July 13, 1940 when I officially landed in Canada as testified by a document from Immigration Canada.

I have no living memory of landing in Canada or of leaving the shores of France, but I take something from my feeble connection by place to Churchill’s famous words.

We made our way back to Canada on the MS Batory, which at that time was carrying the gold bullion holdings of the Government of Poland. Needless to say our convoy,  which left Greenock,  Scotland on July 7 was heavily protected by ships of the Royal Navy.

This is a quote from an earlier post about his convoy:

According to Royal Navy archives on the July 5th, battleship REVENGE met anti-aircraft cruiser BONAVENTURE (Captain H. J. Egerton) and troopships MONARCH OF BERMUDA (22,424grt), SOBIESKI (11,030grt), and BATORY (14,287grt). These five ships, which carried $1,750,000,000 in gold and securities from the Bank of England for safekeeping in Canada, departedGreenock at 0545 on the 5th escorted by destroyer GARTH.

The British ships arrived safely at Halifax on the 12th. Troopship BATORY with engine room defects was detached to St Johns escorted by anti-aircraft cruiser BONAVENTURE which then continued on to Halifax. Troopship BATORY arrived at Halifax on the 13th.

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I have written here more than once about my being born in Barcelona in 1935

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Overview of the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada...
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That was less than 12 months before the  grim clouds of Spanish fascism morphed into a officer led rebellion against the liberal socialist Republic that had been voted into power in a recent election in the seesaw battle between all the opposing political forces in Spain pre-WW II.

It is with some pleasure that I read “Hemingway Reports Spain Part I” in TNR book section this morning:

Barcelona

It was a lovely false spring day when we started for the front this morning. Last night, coming in to Barcelona, it had been gray, foggy, dirty and sad, but today it was bright and warm, and pink almond blossoms colored the gray hills and brightened the dusty green rows of olive trees.

Then, outside of Reus, on a straight smooth highway with olive orchards on each side, the chauffeur from the rumble seat shouted, “Planes, planes!” and, rubber screeching, we stopped the car under a tree.

“They’re right over us,” the chauffeur said, and, as this correspondent dove headforward into a ditch, he looked up sideways, watching a monoplane come down and wing over and then evidently decide a single car was not worth turning his eight machine guns loose on.

Hemingway’s clear prose style gives me an indelible picture of the Spain of 1938 when my father was deciding, while enduring the onslaught of daily bombings in Barcelona by Italian aircraft from Majorca, when to leave that beleagured city.

Less then 12 months later he and the rest of our family were in Paris, which was clearly in the way of Hitler’s helter skelter plans to defeat the armies of the European democracies before undertaking the final fatal battle against the USSR.

It’s odd how writings from that time, like Hemingway’s don’t go away, They just keep popping up when and where I least expect. These writing only remind me about my unfinished writing job.

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2010/06/10 at 19:26

It’s never too late to post about really cool thoughts

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Colum McCann by David Shankbone
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This is from the NY Times 2009/6/15 or last Bloomsday! What pearls of wisdom from Colum McCann, who is the author of the forthcoming novel “Let the Great World Spin.”:

Vladimir Nabokov once said that the purpose of storytelling is “to portray ordinary objects as they will be reflected in the kindly mirrors of future times; to find in the objects around us of the fragrant tenderness that only posterity will appreciate and discern in far off times when every trifle of our everyday life will become exquisite and festive in its own right: the times when a man who might put on the most ordinary jacket of today will be dressed up for an elegant masquerade,”

This is the function of books – we learn how to live even if we weren’t there. Fiction gives us access to a very real history. Stories are the best democracy we have. We are allowed to become the other we never dreamed we could be.

The last 10 years of my life I have striven to recover the story of me and my birth family between Sept 1, 1939 till I got to Halifax July 13, 1940 after a frightening escape from the Fall of France 1940. That part of my childish memory is rubbed clean, except for wispy daylight flashes of memory in London sometime in late June 1940 and on board MV Batory crossing the North Atlantic in a well protected convoy between July 7 and July 13, 1940.

Unlike Colum McCann I have not yet found that book, or collection of stories, that piques my mind memory banks or my novelistic imagination! Oh I wish that I had! This thought must get into my family history book! And I will make it so!

 

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2009/11/23 at 07:34