Rosa Amelia Zilkie, the eldest of eleven children, was born in Canada in 1903. Her father was born in Poland, her mother in Romania. She married Cornelius F. Toews, in 1920 (at the age of 17) and took on his three young sons – he being recently widowed. Grandma raised his children and added ten of her own. Once her children were grown and out of the house, she took in disadvantaged boarders – Down’s Syndrome, polio victims, the elderly and infirm, and transient relatives – of which there was a plentitude! Grandma passed away in 1985.
This story was inspired by Rosa Amelia Zilkie
My friend Leonard Gerbrandt was wiry and tall for his age and he had big dimples and a giant Adam’s apple. His mom worked for my parents at our little bakery and she was an elegant beauty reminiscent of the movie star, Hedy Lamarr. She was dark haired and slender with high, rouged cheekbones and large brown eyes. I was just a little kid, but I felt weak when she was near; the scent of her perfume confusing me through a kind of permeating intoxication, although I would never reveal it. Especially to Lenny, who was as tough and unyielding as a Manitoba March storm.
The Gerbrandts were made of stern stuff. Lenny’s older brother was gaunt and menacing – his unblinking stare was like a violent shove. Their dad was an ex-cop. Mr Gerbrandt had been a good baseball player and was a big rugged guy, like a young Robert Mitchum. Mitchum married Lamarr and they begat sons and daughters, including Lenny, who, in later years, taught me how to roll a corn silk cigarette and do a catwalk on my bike. Lenny’s dad was the town cop but then joined the army and when he came back, he was not the same anymore. He had run out of whatever it was that made him Robert Mitchum, the big raw-boned cop who got Hedy Lamarr. Instead, he sat alone in the Hartplatz men-only beer parlour and got quietly loaded every day.
There’d be silence in the seconds before the explosion. Even the crash and roar, the shifting of the sand and silt above would momentarily cease. Then you’d sit there crouched in the dark wondering what had happened to your breath. You’d count it in as somewhere ahead there’d be the movement of a body in scurrying retreat.
“Dear Lord Jesus – please take care of my mom. Please welcome my papa into heaven, Lord. He was a good man and you’ll see that when you talk to him. Everyone knows it. My mom’s good, too, so please watch over her. She says she doesn’t believe in you – but I do – and I know that she does in her heart. She knows how much you love all of your children and I don’t want to die. I don’t, I don’t, I don’t.”
I prefer my Tel Aviv from the vintage days – before the upper crust skyscrapers disturbed the eyes and the hype the ears, and most of all, before the arrival of the glitzy marina. I berth my skiff wherever I find a bit of sand on the shore that hasn’t yet been taken for private development. Nobody disturbs the boat — it’s been around so long they know it’s mine — vintage, like me. I make it a point to fish with my back to the skyscrapers, facing the horizon.
As he drove past the wall, he didn’t look at the flowers. People were still laying them on the indent. He hadn’t.
His mind was flooded with memories, he tried to choose some from others but failed.
Lewis wondered how many people ended up under a mile from where they ended.
21 June 1943
Emma Wick had been beautiful for life. Even at seventy-four she had retained her figure and carried herself with the grace and confidence of someone much younger. For nearly half her time, however, there had been an icy quality about the lady. The few persons who knew her attributed this remoteness to the closely occurring losses of her daughter and husband, many years before. Only Emma knew the truth. She had lost her Mary, who had lived just five years—to a bad case of it having been 1906, more than anything else; but she was the reason why her husband, Robert, lay in his grave since 1907–which was a circumstance that she had never considered anything more than addition through subtraction.