Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Birthday Letter for Our Grandchildren

My family in 1949: Steve, Dave, Vic with Vicki, Doris, Peter

Dear V and L,

Here it is, September again, the time for your third birthdays. That’s so great. You’ve both grown so much in the past year, and you are becoming such good talkers. Your grandma Katja and I are very eager to see you. We are sad that we can’t be in New Orleans this week, but we plan to visit you soon. In the meantime I am going to celebrate your birthdays by writing you this letter. In it, I will tell you something about my family history, because, of course, now it’s part of your family history too.

V.A. and Olga (seated) at their wedding, June 1, 1904

This picture is of my grandparents, V.A. Sr. and Olga, at their wedding on June 1, 1904, in Marinette, Wisconsin. These are your father’s great-grandparents, and so they are your great-great-grandparents. My grandfather V.A. Sr. was born in 1875 in Ostersund, Sweden, and he came to this country in 1893 with his parents, Carl and Martha. Olga had been born in Landskrona, Sweden. She had moved with her parents to Marquette, Michigan, when she met my grandfather. V.A. Sr. first worked in the logging camps. Then he went to school at Ferris Institute and became a pharmacist. He opened a number of drug stores in our home towns of Menominee, Michigan, and Marinette, Wisconsin, and was a very successful businessman. V.A. was a very kind, gentle man who was a loving grandfather to my brothers, my sister, myself, and his other grandchildren. I didn’t know my grandmother Olga as well because she didn’t live as long, but my parents always described her as a very strong woman who was a leader in politics in the state of Wisconsin. My dad Vic was V.A.’s and Olga’s first and oldest child, and then they adopted twin boys, Kent and Karl (my uncles), and their daughter, Martha (my aunt).

My parents Vic and Doris (about 1940)

These are my parents, Vic and Doris. They are also your dad’s grandparents and your paternal great grandparents. Vic was born and grew up in Marinette, Wisconsin, and he met Doris while at the University of Wisconsin. She was from Omaha, Nebraska, and was an honors student in school. Vic became a lawyer and then a judge and prosecuting attorney in Menominee. Doris worked in my dad’s office, then became a homemaker and our mom. She raised four children and created a beautiful home. They had many dear friends and led a very enjoyable, interesting life in our home town. My parents always emphasized doing well in school and striving to be excellent in whatever one chooses to do. They also believed it was important to have lots of fun and enjoy life. They took us many places and exposed us to art, music, books, museums, plays, and many different experiences. They always encouraged us to do the right thing, make good decisions, and keep on the right track. They were proud of their children and their grandchildren (including your Dad).

My brothers, sister, and myself on the river in Menominee (about 1950)

These are our parents Vic and Doris’ four children: my brother Peter (born in 1945), myself (born in 1937), my sister Vicki (born in 1947), and my brother Steven (born in 1941). I was the oldest, Vicki was the youngest, and Steven and Peter were in between. In this picture we are out on the Menominee River at our house on Riverside Boulevard. You can tell that we were happy children who loved one another. We spent a lot of time swimming in the river, playing in the forests, and going on hikes with our Irish Setter dogs. Peter grew up to become a financial executive in New Jersey with two kids of his own. Steven became a lawyer in Seattle, with three children. Vicki became a family and marriage therapist in Santa Cruz, California, with three children. I was a college professor in Cincinnati, and we had one child, your Dad. For many years we all had family reunions together at Vic and Doris’ Farm in Birch Creek, Michigan. Being with my brothers and sister were some of the best times of my life.

Katja and I at our wedding (1968)

I met your Grandma Katja in 1957 when we were students together at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I wanted to marry her the first time I saw her, and we did get married in 1960. First we went to graduate school at the University of Michigan, and, after that, we moved to Cincinnati where we’ve lived for 45 years. You’ve come to visit us in Cincinnati several times already. (Remember our sheepdogs, Mike and Duffy?) I taught Social Psychology and Katja taught French at the University of Cincinnati. Then Katja became a Social Worker who helped blind people have better lives. Now we have both retired from our jobs.

Katja and your Dad when he was two years old at Mt. Airy Forest

Your Dad was born in 1969. Having a child became the most exciting thing that ever happened to Katja and me. We gave him lots of love and attention, and he turned out to be a great kid. He could stand on his head longer than anybody in the neighborhood, was an expert at skateboarding and hacky-sack, and was a champion tennis player. We were very sad when he left home to go to college, but we were also proud and happy for him.

Your Mom and Dad

Your Dad met your Mom when they were in college at Columbia and Barnard Universities in New York City, and it was the best thing that ever could have happened. They fell in love right away and have been together ever since. When they graduated from college and went to New Orleans, they decided to become doctors, which required a lot of hard work for year and years. Then it was time for them to start a family of their own. Who do you suppose that could be?

Two darling children on the first day of school

You children are the most wonderful thing that has ever happened for your Dad and Mom. You are lucky to have such great parents, and they are lucky to have you. Your Mom and Dad are patient, loving, and fun. They are thrilled with what you say and do, and it’s wonderful to see all the fun that you all have together. Already you have been to more places and done more things than practically any children we’ve ever known.

So now it’s your turn, with your parents’ help, to grow up and carry on these family traditions. There are many wonderful people on both your Mom’s and your Dad’s sides of your family, and we are thrilled that you will be such an important part of that. We are excited about being with you many times in the coming years. Happy Happy Birthdays!

Lots of Love,

Grandpa Dave

G-mail Comments

-Vicki L (9-9): Hi David, What lucky little grandchildren you have. It would've been so meaningful to me had Vick and Doris delineated our family history with pictures and anecdotes. You've given Vida and Leo a tremendous gift (as well as myself). Hope things are well at home. Love, Vicki

-JML (9-8): Hey dad, such a nice letter! Thank you

-Jennifer M (9-8): This is so sweet. It brought tears to my eyes. A wonderful gift to your grandchildren.

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