Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My First Annual Valentine Letter

Me and my Valentine in NYC

Dear George,

We got several annual Xmas letters this year, and they are always enjoyable. Katja and I consider doing this each time, but we’re such procrastinators. A blog is a good medium though, so I think I will start an annual Valentine’s day letter instead. My short-term memory only seems to stop abruptly after six months. But here’s what I do recall.

By far the biggest family news this past year is that our son and daughter-in-law, J and K, along with their 2-year-old daughter V and K’s dad Ted, completed their trip to China in August to meet and bring back their new 2-year-old son, L. This plan has been in the works for years, and the journey generated great excitement for everybody. We’ve gotten lots of photos, but it was thrilling when the whole family came up from New Orleans to visit us in Cincinnati for Thanksgiving. L is a darling child and has already picked up an impressive command of English. He and V are exactly the same age (two years old in mid-September), and they’re very close and amicable as brother and sister. They delight in saying one another’s name, keep busy doing things together, and are very alert to one another’s whereabouts and states of mind. I’d forgotten how much energy two-year-olds generate; having two at once quadruples the level of excitement. Plus J and K are wonderful parents – loving, sensitive, fun. We are lucky to be grandparents to such a great family.

J & L, K & V, and Ted in China

For our vacation tripping, we went to New York to celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary on Aug. 28 with Katja’s sister and brother-in-law, Ami and Bruce. They were gracious and loving hosts, and we couldn’t have wished for a more enjoyable trip. Katja’s friends had given us golden sparkly baseball caps, and we wore them all around the city. Highlights of our stay included the elevated High Line Park; the Whitney, the Met, and MOMA; Fela and Back to Normal on Broadway; Ground Zero and the Brooklyn Promenade; dinner at Jean-Georges; and fun time with Ami, Bruce, and Ami’s close friend Jean. Soon after we got back to Cincinnati we went out for dinner to Brio’s at Newport on the Levee with the Feinbergs and the Johnsons to celebrate multiple events: the Feinbergs’ 45th anniversary, Norris’ seventy-something birthday, and our own milestone. Nobody could believe we’d reached these multi-decade milestones that we associate more with our grandparents than ourselves.

Ami & Katja at the Met

Then we hit a rocky period. In late September Katja climbed up on a wobbly stool to retrieve a book from the top shelf, leaned over too far, and came tumbling down, crashing to the floor. An X-ray at the Emergency Room confirmed that she had broken her humerus near the shoulder. Katja saw her orthopedist the next morning, and he determined that surgery wasn’t the preferred option, but the fracture was bad and recovery would take months. The first month was awful; Katja was in continous pain and heavily medicated. Then she began physical therapy, and she did make steady progress. Now her fractured arm is completely recovered, and she’s been back at work since December. Soon after she got better, though, Katja tripped over some rough pavement in a Panera parking lot and jammed her left shoulder. It’s not nearly as serious, but she’s still dealing with a bunch of pain.

Nothing keeps Katja down

J and V bought us a new flat-screen TV for our fiftieth anniversary, and it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable gift. Our former TV was old and dated, so this new, high-definition version enhances our quality of life on a daily basis. We’ve watched a lot of the NFL (Bengals and Packers, not to mention the Super Bowl), PBS, and, given that Katja and I courted in Atlantic City in our youth, we loved Boardwalk Empire on HBO.

We stayed home for Christmas. Our close friends, the Minkarahs, invited us to a big birthday party for 50 or 60 people at The Precinct – Randa’s 50th and Sam’s 80th (both of them looking young and energetic). Then we joined Eleanor, Sam, and the whole Minkarah clan for Christmas Day dinner. We’re very honored to be ad hoc members of their family, and it made for a happy holiday.

Katja with the Minkarah women (Grace, Randa, Maria, Katja, Eleanor)

The current year looks filled with excitement and change since Katja is giving serious thought to retiring. Our original plan was that I’d retire first, and she would follow the next year. Now two years have gone by, so it’s about time. Katja has worked for her entire life, and she views this step with trepidation. However, I think she’ll totally enjoy it. She’s thinking about Paris; I’m ready to hit the road with the sheepdogs.

Despite a cold and snowy winter, many other things have been going on. Line dancing remains fun, I work out faithfully at the fitness center, I enjoy seeing colleagues at UC where I still have my office, I’m busy with various photography projects, we’ve taken in lots of good Esquire movies with our friend Donna, and our sheepdogs Mike and Duffy keep us filled with good feelings. All in all, life is like a dream (merrily, merrily).



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