Grace in Adulthood
In hindsight, I now believe that my readings of Dennis Wheatley’s books on black magic and wanting to become involved with the spiritual unintentionally brought much unhappiness and instability into our home.
My mother was hospitalised for a few months because she developed a hysterical persecution complex. She became afraid of all of us thinking we wanted to harm her, but nothing could have been further from the truth. My Dad was totally devoted to her. Fortunately, surely with God’s intervention, after many months she recovered. As life proceeded she enjoyed her many encounters on TV where she performed as an extra in favourite Australian series such as Homicide and The Sullivans, but only rarely in a speaking role. She particularly enjoyed the frequent encounters with TV personalities on set and in cafeterias. Anyu, as we called her, had no hesitation to walk up to them and start a conversation even with the immensely popular Graham Kennedy. As a family we made use of Anyu to talk down salesmen to give us an even bigger discount while we pretended to be looking at something else, because of our embarrassment. Unfortunately, on TV, Anyu's English accent was too German and I thought ‘put on’, which, unfortunately she had been taught by an elocution teacher.
The photo shows my mother, in glasses, in a television advertisement for cars, playing the role of mother of either the groom or bride. My sister (in the photo with me at her wedding) was affected also by whatever was manifesting itself in our house, injuring herself seriously by smashing a glass sliding door with her bare hand in an outburst.
Looking back on the situation we had unwittingly brought four boarders with evil baggage into our once peaceful house in Ascot Vale, Melbourne.
At university I decided to join the Melbourne University Ski club on Mount Buller. My university friend had a good car and said I would be welcome to join them on the drive to the mountain. He added that they would leave without me if I was late. On the Saturday morning I drove a long way across town in a hurry to get to hilly Warrandyte where he lived. The road was wet, and while crossing a bridge that was immediately followed by a slight curve in the road, my car lost control and started weaving with ever increasing amplitude from side to side. My car barely missed a huge gum tree and plunged down the embankment. I braced myself against the roof as the car cartwheeled down the steep slope. I scrambled out and climbed back to the road where soon a tow truck appeared.
After my car was retrieved the kind tow truck driver offered to drive me to my friend’s place. No good anymore, I thought. They have long since left, but I thought his mother could fetch a doctor to tend to my cuts. When we arrived there his mother came to the door. I began to apologize for being late but his mother said no need to. He is still in bed! I was shocked to hear that after all the trouble I had taken to get to his place in time.
Anyway, they sat me down and gave me a cup of tea. I was quite chirpy until I suddenly passed out. Delayed shock set in. Afterwards, my father who had alerted the Country Roads Board and the police, told me that the road surface was below standard. Tests showed that the asphalt there was unacceptably smooth and well below standard. The police interviewed me and said I was so lucky. The two door Morris Minor was crushed except for the front seats. Anybody in the backseat would have been killed.
Throughout this time I loved my soccer. A few days after my accident the university team coerced me to go to a party they had arranged. They knew I was terribly shy and only once had a brief encounter with a neighbour’s cute daughter, who had taken to me after the school announced that I had won a swimming medal. She was in the swimming team and idolised the sport. I called that off when I noticed that all the relatives, both males and females, kissed her quite passionately on the mouth. I was taken aback. I thought that was reserved for the boy of her choice.
Unknowingly, over the meal they joked very rudely about my mother who, sometimes would reverse from our steep driveway without being sufficiently careful. It was no wonder when she could hardly see through the steering wheel, over the dashboard, of the ancient Hudson Terraplane that was designed to be driven by a large man. I am remorseful now that I was so rude to the girl and her family then. I withdrew from her and never told her why. I was much too embarrassed to give her my reasons. She would have thought I was just too square.
I avoided her on the 40 minute-long tram ride to school and never entered her house again. Years later, when her sister realized that the little girl in her class was my daughter, she really took it out on her in a very nasty way. That was an amazing coincidence because, by this time, we lived on the other side of town. My daughter didn't tell me at the time because she did not know the history behind the teacher's aggressive behavior and was shocked how hard a teacher can be.
I must have told the team about my first encounter with a girl because they threatened to drop me from next Saturday’s game if I didn’t come and meet the 'girls' in a party they had arranged. So I met the girls and felt uncomfortable because they were 'dressed to kill’. Of course, I was attracted, but was much too shy to respond like the other members of the team. Milena, who was to be my wife, had also been coerced by her girl friend to come along.
At the party she noticed that I didn’t smoke or drink and felt sorry for me because my arm was still in a sling from the car accident. When she came up saying, ‘Would you like to come to the kitchen for a cup of coffee?' I was so relieved. We were alone in the kitchen and I watched her every move. Here is a domesticated girl, I thought. Just like the sort of woman I always wanted; she was beautiful. I think you would agree from the photo taken with her mother and sister. Milena is on the right. We had many humorous and amorous times together, and many argumentative ones too as life went on. That’s how the Lord brought us together for the good He wanted in our lives. I was maturing physically, but not in sense.
I became extremely jealous of men who had been and were still in Milena's life. I took her to the snow for a weekend, but had to rely for transport on a car driven by a good-looking, wealthy young German. He was very likable. Well, how did I feel the next morning when they walked down the stairway in the guest house in Mansfield holding hands? Milena said there was nothing to it. I accepted that, but my jealousy only worsened over the weeks to the point where I swallowed a handful of my father’s sleeping tablets and drove off in my mother’s car hoping for a head-on collision whilst asleep at the wheel. I didn't give the people on the road or in other cars any thought. Depression and jealousy can be like that. We become totally self-centred. I know how it feels. About four days later, I walked into our home with a huge burn mark on my chest wearing somebody's ragged woollen jumper. Whatever happened over those days, to this day, I cannot remember. The police found my car parked, unscratched, about 20 miles away from us, not too far from Milena’s home. God was continuing to be good to me.
Before getting married, in 1963, I took Milena to the Koala Lone Pine Sanctuary in Brisbane in a borrowed VW from a fellow post-graduate student who worked in the Fluorine Danger Laboratory at Melbourne University. Milena was beautiful and, although I was happy having her around to myself, I was deeply insecure on the inside.
I really wanted somebody to want me. I wasn’t yet sure whether Milena had the same devotion towards me. I was deeply yearning for the security only God can give, but I didn't know that then.
SATAN IS ALWAYS LURKING ABOUT SEEKING WHOM HE CAN DEVOUR
Many years later, when I was a Christian, my mother confessed that she had been visiting a hypnotherapist for counselling and a cure to settle her many fears. She recounted how he would dim the lights and talk softly, but on the last occasion his voice suddenly became gruff and sinister. He said, “Do you know that I am Satan talking to you?” At that, my mother jumped out of the couch, threw the door open and ran away never to see him again.
She was still unsettled as she talked and laughed about it. I had brought communion home to my mum and dad that Sunday afternoon which they gladly accepted. They allowed me to pray for them. She passed away in the early hours of the same night. The timing of the Lord was amazing.
The Lord did the same thing to my mother-in-law. She told me what an easy medium she had been for a hypnotist on stage. “She would have done anything for me with post-hypnotic suggestions”, a hypnotist in Czechoslovakia said to her relatives, “but I won’t do it for her sake”. When I was converted Milena’s mother was a real thorn in my flesh for years, but later we became the dearest of friends. She served our family hands and foot while living with us for fifteen years. The day came when she called us all to her bedside in Caulfield Memorial Hospital. To my surprise and no doubt to all the relatives as well who knew that we hated each other for years, she asked me to come closer and pray for her in front of everybody, greatly honouring me. She passed away that very night, again in the early hours of the morning. Was it a coincidence? Hardly - it was God’s grace to all of us.
Fast forward now to November 2020. Over the years I was estranged from my sister's family because I tried to bring them to Christ. Perhaps her husband also thought I was after their money because he is a wealthy man. In any case, I wasn't allowed to talk to them and virtually forbidden to come to their home even though they only lived 40 minutes away by car. All I could do was exchange Easter, Christmas and birthday cards with my sister; with precious little written in cards sent to me. I sent her photos now and then but I had no idea what had become of their lives for the past two decades.
In November I received a phone call from my niece to whom I hadn't talked for years and years. She was gentle on the phone asking whether I could talk to her mum. She said that my sister wouldn't be able to talk but only listen. She asked me to talk about things from the old times but please don't talk about church. So that's what I did. My niece occasionally interjected that mum was nodding and smiling as I referred to humorous events in our lives. After 20 minutes I was told that I should hang up now because mum is tired. But before I did I said to her, "All of us love you. God loves you".
Four days later I received another call to say that my sister had passed away. I asked my niece whether she could confide in me and tell me what her issue had been. She apparently had suffered badly from cancers in her body for more than 18 months and in the last month was unable to speak or hold the phone to her ear. I just listened dumbstruck while my niece talked for about 8 minutes to thank me. After she hung up I went to the bathroom strangely at peace but still awestruck by what I had heard. Then the Lord spoke to my heart, "Don't worry. She is with me". An even greater peace surrounded me. My sister had been brought up in the church but then lived a very worldly life with her husband always able to travel anywhere on holidays. Our reminiscence about the old days and my last words of comfort must have set wheels into motion in her mind. She must have repented and turned her mind back to Jesus and to our grandfather who had been a Lutheran Pastor in Germany.