"Anthem" by Leonard Cohen

"The birds they sang at the break of day
Start again, I heard them say
Don't dwell on what has passed away
or what has yet to be...

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in"

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Truth, Lies and Betrayal (9/1939)

This is a shot of my mother and Fred on one of their first dates in 1939. It was taken on the porch of my mom's home in Verdun, Montreal Canada. Fred became mom's first husband, father to my oldest brother and a life-long friend to me. They were together from the time she was 17 in 1939, married in 1945, until she left him shortly after my oldest brother was born in 1950.

I will let you hear in his own words how Fred described his first encounter with my mother, as he related it at her memorial service three years ago:

"The first time I saw her was in 1939. For those of you who may remember-1939 was an interesting year: everybody had learned to jitterbug, yet one of the most popular pieces of music was a classical item turned into a pop song-a tango. And Canada declared war on Germany just as the fall semester began-Sept. 10.

But back to that "first time": I was coaching a student team for a friendly basketball game against a group of part-time evening students whose days were occupied earning a living. The game was prelude to a Christmas party at Montreal's newest, and then smallest, college-Sir George Williams (now the incredibly large Concordia University).

In the first half, we were trailing-and it was all due to a young, lively, tenacious, aggressive player who had the shooting eye of an as-yet-unborn Michael Jordan. At half-time, the instructions I gave my squad was to double-team the young lady in question-and, if possible, keep her from scoring again.

At game's end, our irate opponent marched over and called me the most "unsportsman-like coach" she had ever encountered. I listened, apologized for trying to win the game, and asked if I might have the pleasure of a dance later. Another blast hit me decrying my sportsmanship-with the added, "I wouldn't dance with you if you were . . . ."

About an hour later, while I was jitterbugging with a team member, I spotted her standing at the edge of the dance floor watching me. So I deliberately danced the next number with the same partner, and the next!! I felt that pair of eyes constantly on me. I asked the band leader (a classmate-who, incidentally, still leads a dance band in Montreal) to play a tango. His eyes lit up and he said, Jalousie? The pop hit of the day-a classical score with lyrics added, and featured in a 1939 movie, Paris Honeymoon.

I walked over and asked the young lady in question if I might have the honor of a dance. She agreed-and we danced the evening away as though we'd been dancing together all our young lives. (The lyric lives with me: "Your eyes give the answer I'm dreaming of, the soft word your lips will never say! I fear that your eyes just deceive, and it's only the tango you love.)...."

---Fred Kerner (2003)

Throughout all her betrayals and lies, and the difficult years after she left Fred, married and divorced my father, Fred has always been a kind and constant friend and father-figure to me. Fred is the only one of that triangle (my father, Fred and my mother) who is still alive.

Thank you Fred for being there when it counted and for telling me the truth.


doug said...

I saw the photo at Flickr and followed it back here to this post. What a strangely moving and provocative story. Thanks for posting.

Beth K. said...

thanks for stopping by Doug.

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