My farmor (Swedish for “father’s mother”) would have celebrated her 100th birthday today. I remember telling her on her 90th birthday, a magnificent party that was attended by dozens and dozens of friends and relatives, that we’d have to do something even bigger for her 100th, and she assured me that there was no chance she’d make it to that age. She was right — she passed away in 2005 at the age of 92 — though when I Googled her name just now, wanting to confirm that I had correctly remembered the date of her death, I found this:
Much as I’d like to imagine that she faked her own death and is still alive and kickin’ down in her wintertime home of St. Pete, I know she’d never do something like that. Family was too important to her.
I have been sorting through stacks of papers in my ongoing efforts to tidy up the place, and I found a card she sent me, dated April 20, 1994. I was actually rather scrupulous in filing away all of her correspondence to me in a box several years ago, so I’m not sure how this one, which predates my move to California, got loose. However, it’s a very significant letter and if she were here, I don’t think she’d mind my sharing it with you.
Would you believe I found the article that changed Farfar’s life so much? He had given up a trip in 1937 — because of a “deal” (we would have seen Berlin — attended a friend’s wedding in London, etc.). He always regretted not going. From the time he read the enclosed (I think it was 1946) we began enjoying all those wonderful trips around Europe. I’m mighty happy our lives changed so much — as we both treasured all those great memories — and I still do — to this day!
Have 1,000 things to do between now & May 7 (tea here put on by your Mom & friends) — so I’m keeping very busy.
I have no doubt that she was concerned about making sure the house was clean for her tea party on the 7th. Some things just run in families.
I also can’t help but wonder what a visit to Berlin would have been like in 1937. I think I would have been happy to miss out on that particular place and time, considering what was going on then.
Along with the aforementioned article and the card was a clipping showing the late Sen. Edward Kennedy standing next to a woman identified in the caption as Ingalill Thunborg, “wife of the Swedish ambassador to the U.S.” Farmor had written, in her elegant handwriting: “This lady better not get too friendly with this poor excuse of a man!!” Ah, that was my grandmother, all right!
Anyway, I thought I was going to have to type in the article — what were the odds that an essay from the November 1946 issue of Readers Digest would be available online? — but I guess everything is findable in the world wide web, since here it is. I hope you will read it, but the gist of the article, written by an OB/GYN in Piedmont, California (a town located very near to where I live), is about a workaholic physician who is inspired by a stranger’s letter to take a three-month-long vacation. He invites his best friend along, but he demurs, because he’s been “waiting to close a deal.” Finally, the doctor is able to convince his friend to go. At the end of the article, the writer tells us that his friend has since passed away, but “over and over again he said, ‘Fred, I am so happy that we went to South America together. I thank God we did not wait too long.”
The timing is kind of funny (I would say coincidental, but is there really such a thing as coincidence?) since a week from now I’ll be on a plane. Of course, the difference between now and 1946 is that we don’t have to choose between work and vacation. Both Joe and I will be doing our share of telecommuting — I have many clients who depend on me, and as for him, is there any full time worker in 2012 America who can afford to go on vacation for a month? (The French and Germans, on the other hand…)
Still, even doing some work along the way, the most important things we’ll be doing are visiting with friends and family, and enjoying other cultures. My grandmother loved to travel, and I sort of feel like this was her way of wishing me a bon voyage.