08 December 2008

I was born

Well, you probably had inferred that. But all autobiographies start out that way, don't they?

Anyway, I was and hereby inform those who might have been in doubt - was he hatched? manufactured? - that I was, in fact born.

Actually, perhaps I had better start a bit farther back. I really don't know what Eddie (and Johnny) might have meant by 'memoirs,' but I take it they want to know a little about my life. And my life came from others.

My father's father was named Hans Jensen - Hans Peder Jensen, I think, though I am uncertain about the spelling of the middle name. I recall my mother telling me, once, that she named my brother Peter Michael after two tomcats. Perhaps she did, but I think there might be a whiff of my mother's humour there. My first name is John - as is my father's - and Hans is just an abbreviated form of Johannes - which is John. So it appears to me possible that I am named after my father, or my paternal grandfather - and that it is no coincidence that my brother's first name is the same as my grandfather's middle name.

I never met my father's father.

I have only little bits of memories of my father (and once his mother) speaking of Hans. The bits of memory themselves are very questionable, but for what they are worth, here they are:

  • He was born in Denmark (that is certain)
  • Maybe in the late 1870's or early 1880's (a guess)
  • He had been apprenticed to a farmer, but ran away from the apprenticeship - my father thinks - because the farmer had failed to keep his side of the bargain regarding Hans's education
  • He came first to Mexico (very uncertain about this but I think I recall my dad saying s0), and began selling spectacles ("try them until you find the ones that work for you") off a horse-drawn wagon
  • He moved to California (certain)
  • He married Lena Weiser - my father's mother (certain)
  • When my father was quite young - 8? 10? - Hans 'ran away' with 'the maid, whose name was Edna' (I remember this from my grandmother because when I told her I was marrying - my first wife - a woman named 'Edna' my grandmother said something along the lines of "Hmm... Hans ran away with the maid whose name was Edna")

And that is about it. But it seems very likely to me that this experience in my father's youth helps to explain some facts about him. I may talk a bit more about it later, but I think it possible to suppose that my father - an only child - grew up with a very great need to defend and care for his mother. His own life is consistent with that.

It is a humbling thought to me. I am afraid I have never very strongly heeded the injunction to honour father and mother. To a considerable extent this is, I expect, a consequence of the details of my life. I married young - just short of my 20th birthday - and from that time on lived at great distances from my parents. My brother and sister have born the burden from the start of caring for my parents in their old age. My sister is now almost the sole care of my mother. When my father was alive, she, and to a considerable extent my brother, took care of him, and of my mother. I did nothing and whilst I was not in a position to do so, I do not think I would have taken very seriously the idea that I should have, for instance, moved closer to them so that I could.

But I do think that much of my father's life's decisions were related to his determination to care for his mother.

His mother - my paternal grandmother, Lena - I knew quite well. Something about her next time.


Triple J said...

I would love to hear more about Hans Jensen (I assume??) and Lena Weiser. Now I get where Eddie's middle name comes from. Why did John keep the surname of Jensen if he had such a close bond with his mom and why did she not take Jensen on as her surname?

John Thayer Jensen said...

I really don't know more about Hans. My father did have some contact with his dad because he told me a story about when his uncle came out from Denmark to visit his father, thirty years after his dad had been in the US. His father was embarrassed to find how difficult it was for him to speak Danish by then.

Remember that all the stuff about my Dad's motivations is based on a little experience on my part and a lot of speculation. But I will be talking about him.

But first about Lena - next time I get a few minutes to blog.


Edgy said...

thanks so much for starting this, and it's a really good start. It's really gripping stuff to me! lol what a nerd...

but yeah keep it going it's great.