29 March 2014

Moving on

Johnny lived with us (sleeping in the out-building where I now sleep) from the beginning of 1998 - end of 1997, actually, I think.  Helen, still at home, was in her third and final BMus year at Auckland University.  Eddie, likewise, was still at home, and (I think) in his 7th Form year at college.  And Adele was commuting on the 6:05AM 'bus with me to St Mary's in Ponsonby.

By the end of 1998 - in fact, from the same day, 14 November, 1998 - only Adele was still at home.

Johnny, at some point - perhaps he can comment on this post - began negotiations to find a job working at a hotel in Sydney.  My own involvement with this must clearly have been slight, since I remember neither when he said he was doing this, nor the name of the hotel he landed a job at.  But land a job he did.  He told me and Susan that he would be moving there in November.

Helen's situation I know more about.  New Zealand universities (like, I believe, English universities) award a Bachelor's degree after three years' study.  One may then seek to enrol in a Master's programme.

More common, however, is to tack on a fourth year - the 'Honours' year - to one's Bachelor's.  This is not, technically, I believe, an additional degree.  If your Bachelor's degree comprised three years' study, you have a Bachelor's degree (Bachelor of Music in Helen's case); if you do the fourth, Honours, year, you don't end up with two degrees; you have a BMus (Hons).

Helen elected to do her Honours year - at Victoria University in Wellington.

Why (you may ask) Wellington?


We became Catholics at the end of 1995.  At the beginning of 1997, Helen attended the Hearts Aflame Catholic Summer School - which was held, that year, in Wellington - and met Robert.  She attended again in January, 1998.  This blog is not the place for me to detail the history of Helen's and Robert's relationship.  Suffice it to say that as Robert is now Helen's husband of 14 years duration, this must have had something to do with her decision.

Not, however, everything.  Uwe Grodd had been Helen's friend and flute tutor before she went to University; and her flute teacher at Auckland University.  It was an excellent idea for her to choose some variety.  And Alexa Still had been flute tutor at Vic; was now the principal flute at the New Zealand Symphony, and would be in Wellington that year.  Bridget Douglas - who now occupies that position - would be Helen's teacher.

University didn't start until the beginning of March, 1999 - but Helen moved to Wellington in November.

But the 14 November date was determined by Eddie's wedding.  He and Eveline were married that day - and, naturally, moved to their home (at the time, in Waimauku).  I suppose it may not have been that actual day that Helen and Johnny both left - but it must have been within a day or two that Helen left for Wellington, Johnny for Sydney.

Susan and I were not yet alone in our house.  Adele was with us - and would be for two more years.  Yet it was a major event in our lives.  I suspect it must have been a major even for Adele, as well - perhaps of greater import for her than for us.  Our family had been tightly-knit, and the children's relationship with one another of great importance for them.  Adele was bereft of three people whose lives had always been part of hers.

Whether connected with this quasi-orphaning or not, I don't know, but by the end of 1998, Adele was very ill with what turned out to be glandular fever.  The long days commuting on public transport, the pressure of school, all combined to make it impossible for her to contemplate continuing at St Mary's.  We were able to get her enrolled in the New Zealand Correspondence School, which she continued in for the next two years.

1999 continued for Susan and me as previous years had done.  Each year we each attended an Opus Dei retreat.  Susan's came home from her retreat in August, 1999 with something on her mind.

22 March 2014


It wasn't easy!

Well, part of it was the money.  In 1990 - or whenever it was that we were told that we needn't give up our US citizenship to become Kiwis - the cost was $130/adult, children free - $260 for our family.

In 1998 - I think we started the process in early 1998 - it was $260 per person, everyone pays the same - $1300 for the family :-(  Now it would be $1645.70!

And the fee is non-refundable :-)

Friends of mine, who have applied for citizenship, have said it has taken them a couple of months.  We applied, probably in January or February, 1998.

It took over a year.  I think my citizenship was granted at the end of March, 1999.

The reason for the long delay, a friend who knows about these things told me, was that we had (a) lived in New Zealand on two separate occasions as permanent residents - from 1973-1976 and then from 1984 to the time we applied; (b) we had lived in New Zealand for quite a long time before applying for citizenship. Both things meant that they had to search a great many details about out history - police records, I suppose - and that in 1998, most of those records were paper records and getting them would require using the post - snail mail.

For the matter of that, I think we were required to get police clearances from the various parts of the world we had lived in.

So we waited.  The grant of citizenship finally came through.  Did we receive it in January or February, 1999? About then, I think.  The oath-taking ceremony took place in March.  Johnny, of course, had New Zealand citizenship by birth.  Helen, Eddie, and Adele were to accompany Susan and me to the ceremony in Pukekohe in March.

Eddie forgot :-)

He did attend his own ceremony later - perhaps April or May.

I may say that the whole thing moved me.  Although Susan and I were adults, when we left the United States, we had lived in New Zealand for all but eight of the 26 years between February, 1973 (when we arrived) and early 1999 (when we became citizens).  Those eight years had been spent in Yap, but even during those years, our orientation was more towards New Zealand than towards the US.  Our church membership - which was definitely constitutional for us - was at the Reformed Church of Avondale.  Our correspondences with friends our own age were with New Zealanders - 'specially Ross Jackson and Richard Flinn.  We had few ties with the US, strong ties with New Zealand.

So this was making official what I felt had long been implicit; we were Kiwis for long before we were citizens. Singing the national anthem is something I cannot take for granted.

We were now all citizens, in any case.  A good job, too - because well before the ceremony took place, the centrifuge had built up speed.  14 November, 1998 saw a great flight of birds from the Jensen nest.

15 March 2014


1998 was, in a way, the Year when Everything Changed for us.

For one thing, Johnny moved back to New Zealand - to Pukekohe, in fact.

Johnny had moved to Seattle in June, 1995.

He had, I am sure, a number of reasons for this.  I myself may have been one - for I was surely at times a rather over-bearing father.  Then there may have been the attraction of wanting to see what his 'roots' (in that his parents are from America, and his mother from Seattle) were like.  I suspect, too, that for people brought up in New Zealand, the very idea of 'America' has a certain draw.

For whatever reason, Johnny moved to Seattle.  By 1997, I think he felt he had quite enough of living on his own, working two jobs to make ends meet, and finding that Americans are, after all, just people, like people everywhere.

Moving back to New Zealand was not entirely simple.  A fair bit of manoeuvring had to be done to make it happen.  He hadn't a job, for one thing.  Nevertheless, he managed it.  He could live at our house (in the outside room where I am typing this!).

Johnny's second job in Seattle had been working at a motel, and I think he was somewhat drawn to the 'hospitality industry.'  He came back either just before or just after Christmas.

And very quickly got a job - working at a hotel.  Johnny will tell me which one it was - was it the Langham?  Or - I think this might be right - the Copthorne.

Helen had started - I think!  She will correct me if I am wrong! - her University studies in 1996.  The normal Bachelor's degree is three years - so 1998 was Helen's last year at Auckland University.  She would earn her Bachelor of Music degree - and what would she do at the end of that time?

Eddie, on the other hand, was finished with high school - and started University (Bachelor of Science, Biology) at Auckland.

Adele was still in school - for another couple of years at most!

It is still unclear to me what the US law is concerning United States citizenship and foreign citizenship.  When we first moved to New Zealand, it appeared to be the case that US citizens who took out foreign citizenship automatically lost their US citizenship.  This seemed not a good idea to me.  In addition, there was a significant cost.  Applications cost $130 per adult (children were free).  So we did nothing.

Now I could see my family in centrifugal motion.  In a year, where would they be living?

Susan and I, at least, had US citizenship by birth.

Johnny was a New Zealand citizen by birth - and had the right to US citizenship by inheritance from his parents.  Helen, Eddie, and Adele had no citizenship by birth (birth in Micronesia did not and does not confer citizenship) - they had US citizenship by inheritance from us.

I had been told by someone - an American citizen who seemed to know what he was talking about - that US citizens could acquire foreign citizenship under certain circumstances - one of which was that they were permanently living in the country whose citizenship they wanted to acquire and that living there as non-citizens caused difficulties.

I decided it was time for us to try to become New Zealand citizens.

08 March 2014


I can't afford it.

I don't remember how much that first retreat cost, the one in September (I think it was), 1997 - might have been $150.  It started Friday evening and ended Sunday late afternoon.

But in addition to the cost of the retreat, I would not be able to work for Rob in my Saturday job - something like $250 lost income.  I said to Sue that we could not afford it.

It is odd how an expense, or a time-consuming undertaking - something, anyway, that has a cost to us - may seem overwhelming when it is a once-off thing - but taken for granted when it becomes a habit.  Annual Opus Dei retreats are now part of my and Susan's lives - and, proportional to the current value of money, just as expensive as that first one was to be.  But the thought of that first one was daunting.

In August, it may have been, we had a friend over for lunch.  Alan was telling us about some character-formation things that he had undertaken during his life and how much they had meant to him.  Somehow I began talking about this retreat, and how I couldn't go - it wasn't only the cost of the retreat; it was the lost income.

Alan was a friend.  Alan was not in that category of what I might call 'very close friends.'  I don't think we ever had had him over for lunch before, and certainly never again.  He lives, now, in Australia, in any case.  My acquaintance with him had simply come from his having done some contracting work for us at the University.

How much lost money from work would I have?  About $250, I told him.  If I paid for the retreat, he said, he would give me the lost money from work.

It was wise of him, I think, to offer to pay only for the lost income - that is, not to pay for the retreat as well.  If I were sufficiently committed to pay part of it myself, the retreat might do me some good; if it was just a gift ... well, it might not mean so much.

I was, nevertheless, stunned by his offer.  I had, I think, more reasons for not wanting to go on that retreat than simply the money.  The whole business was an unknown - frightening, in a way.  But, as I said to Sue, apparently God has spoken.  I cannot say 'no.'

I will not describe too much of the retreat's details.  There is, really, not much to describe.  The retreat was for men.  The retreat was called a 'silent' retreat.  This did not mean some sort of extreme game of communicating only by gesture or writing.  It simply meant that we were there for God, for prayer, for meditation.  If you needed to ask someone what time it was, ask.  We were encouraged to spend some time with the priest - on that my first retreat, a Father Ed from Boston - talking with him, going to Confession.  'Silent' meant that it wasn't the place to discuss our jobs, sport, politics, our families, etc.  We were there 'on retreat' from the routine things of life.

During the retreat, there were about five half-hour meditative talks from Father Ed.  There was daily Mass.  We did a few other communal things - a talk or two by the Opus Dei men running the retreat; the Rosary; Stations of the Cross.  But much of the time we were left alone.  We might pray in the chapel in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  We could go for walks in the neighbourhood.  During meals, we took turns reading aloud at table from selected books - religious, in a way, but not devotional.

But what was overwhelming to me was just being still - not something I am very good at :-) - for two days, and just being in the presence of God.

I came home to Susan overwhelmed, and babbled to her about it - and told her of a woman's retreat that would happen shortly - October, I think - and that I wanted her to go.  There was no more talk of not being able to afford it now.  She went - a little uncertainly, I think.  When she returned, she was not uncertain.

Since then, Sue and I go on retreat annually.  I wouldn't miss it for anything.  It is a habit - a consciously-formed habit.

1997 saw another important thing happening.  At the end of December - whether before or after Christmas, I don't recall - Johnny came home from Seattle.

02 March 2014

Opus Dei

Being a Catholic was entering a whole new world, and one that we knew nothing about.  No doubt I had seen books about Catholic things before; I had as little interest in them as I would have in books about Zoroastrianism.  Susan began bringing home books from the Pukekohe library about Catholic things, books that she thought might interest me.  One that she brought home was about Opus Dei.

I was puzzled reading it.  The author was a priest - an American Jesuit who had worked for years in, I believe it was, Chile.  This man had pretty negative views about Opus Dei.

What puzzled me was that all the factual complaints he had about Opus Dei were about things which I thought positive from a Catholic point of view: they were intensely loyal to the Pope, were against the ordination of women, were 'traditional' (whatever that might mean) in their views on sexual morality.

There was other material that I could agree to viewing askance - except that it was all innuendo.  I don't remember any details now, but there were facts about the popularity of Opus Dei in Spain during the Franco era - and, knowing very little about Franco, I was prepared to accept the generally negative view of his rule of Spain; there were facts about the amount of money that certain Opus Dei-sponsored organisations (of a political lobbying nature) had; there were facts about the practices of Opus Dei (such as the practice of corporal mortification by full members, made notorious by Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code) - a practice I knew to have a long Catholic pedigree.

I became curious - but, still, doubtful.  I found Opus Dei's website.  It looked very attractive - but I was very much aware of the way in which any organisation was able to make itself look good.  I saw contact information on the website - with a certain amount of trepidation, I wrote a letter to the contact address.

There was no response.

One day, I think in July or August, 1997, I saw a glossy magazine at the back of the church (left there, as I found later, by Father Frank Roach, our priest at the time).  The magazine was about Opus Dei.

I determined to try again to make contact.  This time, I telephoned.

There was a response this time.  The person I spoke to said that Father Joe Pich (it's a Catalan name, pronounced 'pick') was going to be in Auckland; he could meet me at my office if I wished.  Would I mind meeting a man who was involved in Opus Dei first, to talk to him?

OK.  But I admit I was uneasy.  What was I getting myself in for?  Was this some 'cultic' organisation which, once in, I would never get free of?  Well, I had agreed to meet them.  I would.

Peter - the man I met - was quite normal - deceptively normal?  I thought.  Was this simply the way they sucked people in?  He seemed interested in sport (I wasn't).  He was a lawyer, working somewhere in Auckland.

The time came for my meeting with Father Joe.  I had in my mind the sort of person he would be:

-   he would be tall (he was)
-   he would be thin (he was)
-   he would be dressed all in black (he was)
-   he would be grave and saturnine (he was cheerful and light-hearted)

I was, if not captivated, at least very much drawn to him.

Opus Dei, he told me, was having a retreat for men coming up soon.  Why didn't I come to it?