Horst Seidel - a Few Memories About a Tall Man
By the time you reach the age that Horst reached at his death this past spring, you've acted in many roles and on many stages in the drama of life. I knew Horst when he was in the "Toronto" stage of his life; he was my mother Carola's special friend for approximately a decade until her untimely death at age 54, and, in a sense, the closest thing to a father figure that I knew (my own father having died when I was a baby).
I'd like to share a few memories from this time, and tell you a little bit about the influence this man had on me, a restless and somewhat troublesome teenager in the 1980s!
I don't remember the first time I met Horst very well; I would have been about 10 years old... but I do remember thinking he was VERY tall! :)
Being the only child of a single mother, I was quick to bond with him and team up on my mom; I was (and still am) an extreme extrovert, and Horst, well, not so much! But I found in him a sort of silent supporter when things went belly up with my mother, as they often did during those turbulent teenage years... he would drive me places and pick me up when she stoically insisted that I was old enough and should be independent enough to take a bus or a subway. And, since he had a sporty little red car, it was nice to catch a ride with him.
Horst was also the primary driver to German School which I had to attend every Saturday morning until Grade 13 -- every weekend we'd set out, and on the way to school, we would stop at the corner store so Horst could pick up the paper, and he'd often buy me a sugary treat, too! I looked forward to our little routine. After German school, Horst would pick me up again, and on the way home, we'd stop at the German deli on Lakeshore to pick up buns, cheese, salami for lunch.
It was during these car rides that Horst introduced me to bands like Rush, Pink Floyd and other rock classics. I had been raised entirely on classical and baroque music, and this was my first introduction to "cool" music! :D My mother would never allow this sort of thing in the car whether en route to German school or to the "cottage" in Bancroft, but when Horst and I were alone, we'd crank the tunes on his car stereo, and enjoy a strong beat and a great melody!!!
Music has always been a very emotional part of my soul, and it was for Horst, too: Whenever he heard a national anthem or a traditional German march, he would get teary eyed; despite living abroad for so long, he was still rather a nationalist, and could not control his emotions when it came to patriotic music -- What a sight it was to see such a big, strong man reduced to tears! :)
He also kept in touch with his German roots through regular phone calls to his mother while she was still alive and -- twice during my time -- a visit with his brother in Germany.
One of the reasons my mother was attracted to Horst was his ability to build things and understand construction issues like plumbing and electricity. I remember one winter when Horst had finally had enough of crouching in our tiny bathroom upstairs: My mother and I lived in a small, war-time semi-detached in Toronto's west end, and -- unfortunately -- it just wasn't built for tall people like Horst. He decided he was going to build his own, Horst-sized shower.... Every weekend, he would disappear into the basement to work for several hours. Occasionally, we'd hear a loud string of profanity let loose, when the hammer had found Horst's thumb, for example, instead of the nail it was supposed to be pounding. My mother tried to shelter me from these occasions, and kept me out of the basement during these work projects, but I was very impressed: In general, Horst was a pretty quiet, unassuming fellow, and the loud, angry swear words were quite exciting to me as a teenager, and showed there was more to Horst than the gentle giant who made such a docile first impression!
In my home and garden are many large pieces of quartz and other rocks and minerals, and I have long had an affinity for interesting rocks. This love for the natural world was another gift Horst gave me: Every summer at the cottage, we would visit local mines to collect more treasures, and go to Bancroft's "Rockhound Gemboree" -- it was a highlight of my summers!
Although we continued to have regular phone contact and the occasional visit after my mother died (he called me every year on my birthday and I him on his, and we exchanged Christmas cards, too), many parts of Horst's early life remained a mystery for me.
I know, for example, that he had biological children/grandchildren, but I knew very little about them.
I also know that Horst had spent some time in Argentina, but I have no idea what the context was, what he did there, how long he was there. This became particularly interesting to me this past year, as my partner, our kids and I lived for eight months in Buenos Aires. I would have loved to talk more to Horst about his adventures there!
The last time I saw Horst in person was while he was staying in the hospital in Brampton not too long ago. I was working full time in Mississauga, and raising two kids in south Etobicoke, so I was not able to get up to Brampton very often, but I am so grateful for the few visits we had, and the reconnections we made during that time. He was very sick, of course, but still a tall and impressive man!
Horst and I spoke on the phone in January, and he sounded tired.
I am personally grateful for the companionship Horst provided to my mother over the years he was with her. And as a parent now myself, I can better appreciate the support he gave me and my grandmother, too, who came with the package!
As Horst saw my mother through the end stages of her cancer, I had already become a young adult, and so there was not a great need, really, for him to "take care" of me in any concrete sense once she died. I also know that although his time with Carola provided Horst with many interesting adventures and some happy memories, the real joy he found -- as far as personal relationships were concerned -- was in his subsequent partnership, with you, Marilyn, who are now left to unite those of us who have come together here to celebrate his life.
In addition to having a similar story with your previous partner's illness, you shared Horst's great love of the outdoors, of life at the cottage, and you truly helped to make his little Bancroft nest a cosy home from which to enjoy retirement. I am so grateful, on Horst's behalf, for your companionship: How lucky you both were to find one another and spend many of your twilight years enjoying one another's company.
Let me wrap a proverbial arm around you now, Marilyn, as you grieve the loss of your companion, your love, your Horst. Know that all those gathered with you at this special event, as well as those of us who are with you in spirit, from a distance, celebrate his many roles and his rich life together today!
Thank you, Vinx, Joel, Rick and to all of you who have made and continue to make a positive impact in Alex and Simon's lives. We appreciate you; Happy Fathers' Day!