02 January 2009


I was going to title it 'Mystery' but really that would be too ... well, mysterious :-) But I am puzzled.

In September, 2002 I visited my father and mother for the first time since 1980. My father had just turned 88 in August. My mother was 87. My mother had had a hear attack some years previously, and although her mind was perfectly ok (still is - and in three days from my writing this she will be 94), and her memory clear, she wasn't much interested in recalling the past.

But my father was much more actively 'with it.' And I asked him about something that I had always wondered about.

My mother had four brothers and one sister. She was the youngest in the family - born in 1915 - and her oldest brother Bob was born in September, 1896 - nearly 19 years older than my mother was. The others, in birth order were Byron (1898), Ollie (her sister) (1904), 'Dodo' (1907), and Kenny (1910).

And I am certain that at least Bob, Dodo, and Kenny brought their children up as Catholics. Indeed, I had so taken this for granted that, when I was seeking admission to the Catholic Church in 1995, I wrote to ask my father and mother if, by any chance, I had been baptised as a child. I thought it possible that - perhaps to please her mother - I had been baptised, and of course that would at least have affected the procedures for my admission. And I based my thought on the assumption that my mother's mother had been, at last nominally, a Catholic. Fairly recently Judy, Uncle Bob's younger daughter, confirmed, by e-mail, that, yes, she and her sister Roberta had been brought up as Catholics. I know that my cousins, Kenny's children, took me to the first (and only) Mass I had ever experienced as a child. Come to think of it, the reason I say that Dodo's kids were Catholics is that they went to a Catholic school - but Catholic schools, even then, accepted non-Catholic pupils as well.

In 2002 both my father and mother said they had never heard any such thing, knew nothing about it. When I explained my own experiences, my father said that he recalled my mother's brothers having a kind of romantic interest in their father's supposed Scotch background - though according to 'Annie's researches, he was born in Canada of parents who had also been born in North America - and used to be very keen on Harry Lauder. My Dad thought that perhaps they had become very interested in their mother's supposed French Canadian history.

But none of that could possibly add up to three of them rearing their children as Catholics! I don't know about Byron but for all I know his family may have been Catholic as well. My brother Peter has had some contact with Dodo's and Kenny's children. Perhaps he will talk with them and find out more.

What I do remember about Grandma Dell's religion is that my mother said that her mother - Grandma Dell - had been very taken with Aimée Semple McPherson. So the explanation may have been that my mother's older siblings had all been brought up as Catholics when quite young; that by the time my mother has any memory it was all history.

But it strikes me as odd that my other would not have known something as basic as that her brothers were Catholics. Well, she may have known. When I asked her about this in 2002, she appeared to have lost all interest in the past. And my father may never have known. He and my mother were married in 1934 - Aimée's heyday.

And perhaps this explains something else. My mother's middle name is 'Mildred.' Aimée's mother's name was 'Mildred.' Well, no doubt coincidence - though Aimée was active, together with her mother Mildred, in 1915, her real fame was in the 1920's and 1930's - but I know of no other 'Mildred' anywhere in my family.

But my mother may have been baptised a Catholic - which is an interesting thought!

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