Al's 2002 State of the Union and Christmas letter.
It's been a strange year – and I don't mean just the weather, (which has always been very strange!)
Already in January I got cellulitis in my left leg and foot. Almost like flesh-eating disease. I feared for a little bit that I might lose them. And then in the Spring it went to my heart began to fibrillate, atria fibrillation. The medicos said this particular kind could lead to a stroke, so beware! From 3 medications I went to 7.
Through all this time I was flogging the book I had just translated, Joining the Street People. With minimal success! Very minimal. Somewhere along my 79 years I ought to have studied marketing, or even learned a bit of happenstance now and then.
But as a song from childhood says, "There's a silver lining through the dark clouds shining" and 2002's negative features had positive ones, too.
When I came home from my January bout in the hospital, I found my house spic (and also span!). Ruth Berscheid and sister-in-law Julie had done it! A great Pick-me upper.
Esther moved to Saskatoon in May and she loves her place, the myriad activities available, the company. In Lake Lenore she felt "cabin'd cribbed, confin'd". That's from Hamlet, in case you were wondering, (Oops, maybe Macbeth). The summer concerts in Marysburg were artistically very successful giving one the hope that they soon will not need to be subsidized (As Greg Schulte and I have been doing.)
The rains finally came in July and my flower garden quickly turned into an acre of great beauty. Pansies, dwarf asters, poppies, larkspur, petunias, marigolds, decorative sunflowers and portulaca (Grandma Schulte's "Mossroschen" her favorites) grew in profusion. Strangers stopped their cars to gaze, to feast on this beauty.
On August 22, I invited pupils from my first school, Carmel, to come for a meal and an afternoon of stories. Why? Because on August 27 it was 60 years I had begun teaching there. Gabrielle Roy's book named the children of her first class, "Children of My Heart", and that's how I've always felt about Carmel.
In March George Bunz and others from Rainbow of Hope for Children made a monitoring trip to Brazil, but I didn't feel up to going along. I'll probably have to keep all my dear Brazilian friends' memory green by reflection and correspondence. What good fortune for the Rainbow of Hope of Children that Mr. Bunz and other Wainwrighters took hold of Rainbow's tiller when they did, as founder Hank Zyp suffered a severe stroke in spring. It was (is!) a great comfort to him and to me to know that all continues smoothly with no transition crisis.
I had wanted one of CEAPA's directors (CEAPA is the small holders organization of Alogoas, trying to keep farmers with 8, 10, 12, hectares viable in a society where the big voraciously devour the small) and his friend (a guitarist) to come to Saskatchewan for a series of presentations in June. Canada refused them visas! Strange, since our NGO has always had a good working relationship with CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency). I protested via phone, fax, and slow mail, but to no avail.
One of my English language students, Geraldo Miranda, returned to Brazil in October but since then has received a formal request for an immigration interview. He wants to study electrical engineering in Canada. His sister, Carmen is studying for a PHD in soils analysis at the U of S. She and her husband Marcos Manutte will be returning to Brazil in a year. Carmen is an enthusiastic supporter of land reform in Brazil. The failure to break up these obscenely huge holdings (sometimes hundreds of thousands of hectares) is a primary cause of "miseria", of destitution among Brazil's poor, the majority. Slums and street children cry out for land reform.
All through the 20th Century, whenever any Latin American government undertook land reform, the local military with U.S, help would overthrow that government. Even Pres. Eisenhower did it. When Guatemala Pres. Arbenz nationalized United Fruit in Guatemala (in 1954) Eisenhower sent in the Marines to overthrow the Arbenz regime. "We had to unseat this Communist government that had come to power," he explained. John Kennedy did the same thing in Brazil 10 years later. I remember reading a Reader's Digest article in 1964 celebrating, "How we saved Brazil from going Communist."
Thus are greed and brute force exalted! Thus are justice and fair play maligned! And thus is peace is destroyed. Guatemala plunged into a civil war, which still claims its victims 50 years later. (See Prairie Messenger of Nov. 20, 2002 – I hope you all get the P.M.!)
The A. Gerwing Charitable Foundation had a good year. Its capital invested, should continue giving the 2 NGO's there which we work (Change for Children & Rainbow of Hope for Children) income into the future "when Uncle Al is gathered to his ancestors" and isn't here any longer making his annual appeals, putting on fund-raising shows, etc. (Nunsense was very popular – great actors!)
Joining the Street People: The humble folk who received complimentary copies last year were (are) enthusiastic. The important folk don't have time to read it. I've reduced the price to $12.00 per book (plus $2.10 postage, naturally). Or, for lots of 10 or more, to $10.00. Read again PP 137-145 to recapture the Christmas spirit. The 65th. Wedding anniversary of Johnny & Evelyn dramatizes how old our family has become. It's 74 years since we moved to Nebraska and 69 since we came back (Thank the Lord for that!) and its 60 years since I began to teach. Astronomical numbers!
The Marysburgers are staging an 80th. Birthday party for me at Humboldt's Communiplex, Feb. 22. All are invited. Those in the vicinity of L.L. / Humboldt are invited via local advertising. Those farther away are receiving written invitations. Proceeds are for the Foundation.
On Dec. 15 we're staging a re-enactment of St. Luke's Nativity narrative in Marysburg Church – brass, flutes, organ, soloists, sn. chorus, children's chorus – the works. We're billing it as a curtain raiser for St. Peter's Colony's 100th Birthday, 2003. And the Gerwing clan is all invited "home" for Aug. 1,2,3, 2003.
What good luck that we preserved the log house PA and 5 of his brothers built in 1903. It seems to be the only building from 1903 preserved. And the church tower form 1904! The "clan" last met in 1967, making 100 years since Grandpa Gerwing emigrated to "Amerika".
A blessed Advent and Christmas to you all. See you next summer. Al