The summer solstice started the summer season on June 21, 2018 at 3:07 am here on the west coast in Pacific Time. Within hours after our day began we’d learn news that my husband’s mother’s health manifested symptoms that weren’t there before and ultimately led to a trip to the ER and learning she had cancer throughout her body. She’s 90 years old and 9 months. We quickly made adjustments and got Peter airline tickets, rental car and packed him for a few days back east in Knoxville, Tennessee. Saturday was busy adjusting to the news that she did not have much time as she continued to lose energy and vitality and making arrangements. Peter took time calling his family the day he found out and then following up on the swift developments going on Saturday. He took time to tell his children, in person with his youngest, while I left the house for a bike ride to give him private time with his son. I pondered many thoughts about my husband, my husband’s mother on my bike ride. Early this morning before dawn he caught the first of two planes to get to Knoxville. He’s there now (Sunday, June 24th) as I write this to share the one thing he wanted to make sure his mother knew before her conscious awareness faded; he most wanted her to know he was happy in life. He shared at our dinner out on Saturday night that his mom knew deeply he loved her and she loved him, they have spoken every Sunday on the phone for as long as I’ve known him and I know he has done all the years before, it is just his steady consistency with the people he loves and he is a shining example of consistency. If you have healthy earth signs in your life, you know what I’m saying.
This past September after our honeymoon in Greece and southern Italy we added a few days to our trip to make it to his mother’s 90th birthday celebration. It was wonderful as Peter also flew in his two older children too. We announced to everyone then our marriage, as we had semi-eloped with our two youngest children until we could return and share it with others. We had made that decision because it wasn’t our first marriage and we wanted it simple and uncomplicated. We were completely comfortable in that decision together and the result was a lovely moment for us and two children we still have at home who we felt it important to see our loving union. During Grethe’s 90th birthday celebration we got to spend a lot of quality time with her and the extended family, Peter’s twin sisters who live in Knoxville, his sister’s son — his nephew and his fiancé who came in from Iowa where he is a doctor in his residency (following in the shoes of his parents), and Grethe’s extended family from Denmark, her living brother and his wife, her niece and nephew of her other brother and their spouses, and their son and grandkids. It was a great celebration. We sat with Grethe on more than one occasion listening to her share her stories of her time as an English teacher in Honduras in her late twenties, getting that job offer from someone she worked with briefly in New York or New Jersey. I think she worked in both cities. She traveled far from her home of Denmark in her twenties. How many children in Honduras learned English with a Danish accent back in the mid 1950’s? Grethe also studied about child development with A.S. Neall, the same Neall! Neall! Orange-peel! Check out his books on Amazon, he was a progressive for rearing children as children, not mini-adults. Back then it was progressive for children to play, as they learned so much through playtime, and much more. On her way home from Honduras, through the United States she boarded the maiden voyage of the Bergensfjord for her passage home. When we visited Stavanger in 2016 we visited the marine museum to see a model of the ship and a poster from that era (see photo). On that ship in 1956 she met her future husband, Merritt. The person on the ship that introduced them was a woman nicknamed Superman! Merritt was on his way to Norway for a student exchange. Both Merritt and Grethe were instantly smitten. They had an interesting synchronicity; both were born in a city called Viborg. Merritt was born in Viborg, South Dakota and Grethe was born in Viborg, Denmark. He would visit Grethe in her country that summer, meeting her family as well before he returned home. They wrote letters for two years without seeing each other. Through their love letters Merritt proposed and Grethe said yes and she made the huge transition to move to the United States, marry Merritt in 1958 and shortly after started her family with twin daughters born 1959. A year later my husband was born, imagine three little ones in cloth diapers at once! Grethe’s life bloomed from there with her husband, her children and eventually work she would do in child care.
Grethe continued to work with children throughout her adult life. She built one of the biggest child care centers in Wisconsin over 25 years for the Luther Hospital there. There’s a huge portrait that still hangs in the building there in her honor.
Grethe’s life she lived for that period of time intrigued me as she shared her stories with us that weekend we celebrated her 90 years. One of the most shocking stories she shared was the day the Nazis invaded Denmark and she remember it clearly noting she had been visiting the dentist that day. She was 13 years old when that happened on April 9, 1940. I pondered what that may have been like, how scary for a 13 year old to experience that first hand. She was matter of fact that life continued, they went to school, they tried to ignore the German soldiers in those years. It made me think of the cycles of life too, how some themes during that period of time are present today and seem to have come to life again. I don’t openly discuss astrology with everyone, but it truly made me wonder about the planet Pluto that was discovered in 1933 and from that the manifestation of themes of Pluto in the collective experience. And now, 2018 we are seeing Fascism raise its ugly head once again when the United States is in its own very beginnings of a Pluto return. How many people live to the age of 90? How many changes in life have occurred over 90 years? Technology has definitely changed our interactions with people, it’s made the world more accessible and yet we still find ourselves facing old problems with cultures we do not understand or allowing people simple dignity. I look at Grethe and am grateful I got to know her some. I see my husband’s smile and eyes in hers. I feel and see my husband’s love for his mother and her love for him. Not everyone has felt and known such love and it’s a beautiful thing to witness and feel.
It is Cancer season, ruled by the Moon, the symbol we often look for in charts that signifies our own emotional being, and often our mother in our life. I wanted to share this story of Grethe at this moment because I think so highly of her and I feel she is such a wonderful example of a mother that loved unconditionally and shared her love of children through her professional life too. She did so much for children in being who she was and with great integrity. I hope in her days and weeks ahead that she realizes her life has been rich and lived with great love as she is an example of love to so many others. To all the mothers, thank you for being the support and love that gives us the foundation we need to bloom as civilized human beings. I dedicate this blog to my mother-in-law, Grethe Christensen.
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