Spring has officially arrived and as I recall, it’s the time when a young man’s mind supposedly turns to finding romance.
My young at heart friend the soomepoiss lost his wife, a non-Estonian, a few years ago and has been living by himself. He seems to be coping quite nicely except that once in a while he forgets to take his anti-coagulant medication which causes problems such as rush visits to the emergency room at hospital.
Our little pensioners’ weekly pub group teases him sometimes about finding a wife, especially as he sometimes laments that he has not had much success persuading his current lady acquaintance to become more than just a friend.
I suppose courting becomes somewhat more complicated when you are in your late eighties and technology has become more complicated.
Back in his day it involved paper notes pushed through the knot holes in the wood fence behind Reaalkool. Which was, and I gather still is one of Tallinn’s elite high schools. The girls school was on the other side. The notes conveyed where the girls would meet them after school. One thing that was highly sought after by the girls was the newly introduced high school ring the boys wore. This was put on a chain and worn around the neck for all to admire.
Speaking of paper notes from girls, I happened to remember the story about a relative, long dead now, that my sister told me some time ago.
Onu lost his wife late in life. He was an extremely patriotic Estonian so a couple of months later drove to Toronto to attend the Estonian Independence Day commemoration or aktus at the seniors’ complex in Toronto known as Ehatare/Eesti Kodu. It was late February so he had dressed warmly as most old folks do that time of year even in balmy Toronto. As he retrieved his overcoat from the coatroom he felt something crinkle in his pocket. He reached in and realized there were several pieces of paper there; they turned out to be scribbled notes with women’s names and telephone numbers.
My mother lived there at one time and I recalled that the majority of the residents are widows. Everyone there knew everything about everybody and when I went to visit mother I would notice the curtains moving in several windows as I was parking in the visitors spot.
At that time Scarborough had already become a scary place and I always had the uneasy feeling that I was driving through an African city. Ehatare/Eesti Kodu seemed a peaceful safe oasis in the middle of all this.
I knew my car would be safe. At least several pairs of watchful friendly eyes were looking out for me at all hours. I suspect that phones were ringing conveying the message that a visitor had arrived. Those old girls knew everything!
Given the level of knowledge about everyone in the complex it was no surprise that everyone knew all about Onu’s recent bereavement. What was surprising was the amount of interest shown in him.
Onu by then was a downright ugly man with blackened gnarled stumps for teeth and a large belly from drink. He was a difficult, rigid, opinionated self centered man and woe to anyone who did not wholeheartedly agree with him. He was always right and they were always wrong. He treated his wife like a servant, spoke badly of her to others even in front of her and probably drove her to an early grave. All of this would have been widely known in the community.
Anyway, Onu, despite his other faults was not a stupid man. Time was short, his need was pressing and like most Estonians, particularly of that generation, he was both frugal and practical. He hated to spend money unnecessarily on long distance telephone charges which were quite expensive back then. How to quickly sort the wheat from the chaff?
Off to the nearest phone booth he went with his short questionnaire and notes. The first, most important question he asked was whether the woman had a valid driver’s license. This narrowed the field down quite a bit. Next, knowing the man, he probably asked directly what had killed her husband (no lahutatud need apply).
One of them qualified and she had one additional thing in her favour. She had the same name as his late wife. He did not even have to learn a new name! This could be very handy in the middle of the night when he was groggy or had too much to drink.
Surprisingly, the marriage worked. Onu was happy and I gather she took good care of him especially later when he got very sick and wound up in a wheel chair for several years before he slowly wasted away of prostrate cancer.
One thing about this life, you never know what is around the next corner, however unlikely it may be.
After I finished telling an abbreviated version of the above tale to my friend I suggested that perhaps he was making a mistake in not looking for an Estonian woman.
He replied that he would think about it but his bones were too old to start making scouting trips to Toronto and the selection here was limited. I suggested that he could put an ad in Eesti Elu pointing out that he had a valid driver’s license and was looking for an Estonian widow similarly equipped.
He could then inexpensively follow up the replies by email-something he recently learned to do.
My other friend, the one we call the professor, jumped in at that point and suggested that he could even ask her to attach a picture of her car.
Soomepoiss said he would think about it.
Kevad - Spring