Friday, February 25, 2011

A letter or two….

Grandpa Anderson was a quiet man.  Grandpa spent over 25 years by himself after his wife died in 1955.  He had 8 children who all married and had children so he had plenty of places to visit but I think he like his nice quiet home too. Our family kept him involved with our family events and holidays.  He visited regularly and we have very fond memories of his visits.  He came with us on all of our vacations. If we went to the Zoo, Grandpa came with us. Every time we visited the beach, Grandpa came too.  He would sit in his chair at the edge of the water, with his pant legs rolled up and to watch us swim.  I remember more than once a wave came along and caught him off guard and he got very wet but he didn’t care.  He had been around water all his life.  Sometimes he would find some shade and the daily newspaper and before you knew it he was taking a nap. We thought we knew him well.

When he died, we realized that there was a lot that we did not know about him and where he came from. When Mom was going through his house after he died, she found letters and post cards from Norway. She had remembered as a child that her day would get letters from Norway.  She remembered becasue she loved the stamps which came on his mail. She begged him for the stamps off his letters. Grandpa carefully cut the stamps off and gave them to her before tucking the letter in his drawer.

The letters sat for decades collecting dust. Periodically he would get another one, read it and place it in the drawer with the rest. Mom was so sad that she could not read them. She wondered how she would ever figure out what they said. She wondered if he wrote letters back. She thought that he did. She remembered him talking about it but she never really knew for sure if he did. She would take the letters home and tuck them away in her dresser just like he did.  Eventually, she was able to contact Anna, Haakon’s wife, to let her know that Andrew had died. Anna sent a responding letter to Mom.  She would let her know that Haakon had died one month and fours days after his brother, Andrew.

It really bothered my mother that she did not know what the Norway letters said so when she and Dad visited Norway in 1973, she took the letters with her. She and her cousins tried to read them. Eventually, Tormod, cousin Auslag’s husband, said that if it was OK he would keep the letters so he could translate them. He promised that he would send them back with a translation. So Mom left Norway, leaving the letters behind.

Tormod and Auslag - Norway, 1973

After a few weeks, Mom received the first of what would be regular letters from Tormod. Each time she received a new translation she would be so excited. She would read them over and over again. I was a "stay at home" Mother at the time and she would call me to tell me she had gotten another Norway letter. She would read it to me over the phone with such excitement! She would later tell me how disappointed she was that Grandpa had cut the stamps out for her when she was a child because the words behind the stamps were lost for ever. It took Tormod over a year to translate all the letters. Unknown to us at the time his wife, Mom’s cousin Auslag, was being treated for Cancer which she would later died from.

These letters have become a family treasure. We cherish them and the translation which Tormod worked so diligently on for so long enabled us to see a side of our family which would have remained hidden had Grandpa not kept his letters.



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