Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Renata Runge nee von Dellingshausen - 1927 - 2009
The deaths in my family continue. Late last night my aunt Nata died. She had been in full time care for some years now as she had had a serious strokes over the late 1990s and the early 2000s. In the last few years she did not communicate much.
My aunt Nata was a second mother for me. She was what I expected a parent to be, she made her displeasure of things I did wrong well known. She was the first person to push to me to be aware of my weight issues when I was in my teens.
I remember as a small child having Tante Nata arrive at our house in Tsawwassen late on a Friday night from Seattle. She came and stayed with us on many weekends from the late 1960s until she moved to Tsawwassen in 1977. By the time I was four or five I really looked forward to her trips because it meant that my cousin Andreas would be staying with us for the weekend. Nik and I would play all weekend with Andreas.
Andreas is between Nik and I in age and was an important bridge for the two us as brothers. Nik and I are four years apart in age, which is far enough that without someone in between we could have effectively lived our childhoods as relatives and not friends. Andreas made it possible for Nik and I to be friends as kids.
When Nata moved to Tsawwassen in 1977 I had family living within walking distance, in new suburbs this is very uncommon. Her home on Cliff Drive was a second home for me, I could walk in and hang out, watch TV, talk, whatever.
Nata moved to Seattle in the mid 1960s and never really wanted to be there, she wanted to be in the lower mainland. She moved there because her husband got work there teaching Russian. Not wanting to leave where she was living was a lifetime theme of Nata.
Nata was born July 30th 1927 in Tallinn Estonia, the first daughter of Patrick von Dellingshausen and Maria von Stackelberg. The first time she had to move against her will was in the fall of 1939 when she was 12 and all the Baltic Germans were expelled from Estonia and Latvia. Not an ideal time in a girl's life to be removed forever from everything you knew.
Nata spent the war in Poznan and Dresden, her parents divorced when she was 14. Each one remarried and children from their second marriages. For the last three years of the war she spent sometime with her mother and some with her father, though less with her father after he moved back to Estonia to manage the Rosen distillery for the government. She really wanted to spend the summer of 1943 in Estonia with her father.
As a teenage daughter, she was expected to help with her young half brothers, she took on her role as a dutiful daughter and helped both her mother and Hans von Fersen with Nils and eventually Lorenz and her father and Ingeborg with Patrick and Nik.
My mother, Lita, was her younger sister and was the rebel. Nata was reserved and did not rebel. She went out partying, but never drank enough to be hung over.
In 1946 Nata was working for the American military press at age 18, she also got pregnant and gave birth to her son Charlie. She lived in Frankfurt with my grandmother and her two young sons, Charlie was one more young boy to add to the other two. Nata liked her work, she liked living in Frankfurt and she did not seem to have any intentions of changing this, but that is not how it was to be.
Lita moved to Canada in 1952 to have more freedom in her life. Maria decided by 1954 that moving to Canada would be good for her two sons and Charlie and made it clear to Nata that this is what the family would be doing. Nata was sent ahead to Vancouver to get things ready for Maria to arrive with the three boys. Once again Nata had to move.
Nata found a community in Vancouver and fit in well. She met John Runge and they married in the late 1950s. From the outside their marriage was very hard to assess or understand. Nata was in public a strong willed and decisive woman, John was a quiet intellectual academic type. I only understood years later how much of a rock John was for Nata, how much he looked after her and allowed her to be herself.
In her late 30s she once again had to move against her will and this time to Seattle, this was the last move that was not her choice. When she came back to Canada in 1977, it was for good. Nata never left Germany behind and traveled there often starting in the early 1970s.
Nata was my introduction to camping and to skiing. In my teens I spent a lot do time skiing with Tante Nata, most often at Mount Baker, but there was also a great trip to Utah on year for a week of skiing.
Her orange 1975 VW bus was a cosntant in my life, I can remember many a hill in that car where we had trouble keeping any power going uphill. It was also big enough inside so that we kids could bounce around inside. Nata was happy to take me along on various trips over the years.
As a teenager I valued Nata's bluntness. It was the sort of critism that psuhed you to do better, to be more mature and responsible. I remember in 1983 when I was in Austria and I did something stupid and ended up in the hospital, I had a goal of getting out of there before Nata made it to Salzburg because I wanted to be on two feet when she told me how dumb I was and how I should have known better.
Nata and Lita were very different people in almost every way possible, but they were much more than sisters, they were close friends. For years Nata would come over to my parent's house for a coffee each morning at about 9 am. From the 1970s into the 1990s this was by bike to give the dog a run, later it was in a car.
All my life Nata had a dog, an almost always some sort of black dog that was the size of a lab. I did not know until recently that she went from her teen years till she was almost 40 without a dog.
I have missed Nata for several years already, the last stroke left her a mere shadow of the woman she was. But she was still alive. As horrible as it feels to say it, now that she has died, I can mourn her death. I miss her and have missed her for some years now.