Monday, December 29, 2014

December 29, 2014 - A Christmas Letter

(Below is a copy of the Christmas letter I am sending to friends and family in the next few days.)

So, this is about my third try at a Christmas letter. 
I find it almost impossible to write a note recapping the year, without starting at the end and working backwards.  This makes it not a cheery start to my letter, so forgive me & brace yourself if you do not know all this news.  (And for those that know, bear with me.)

This Christmas as we were gathered to see the little ones enjoy the wonder of Santa 
and all that is Christmas, 
our hearts were heavy.

On 12.13.14, we said goodbye to Dad with a Memorial Service & burial at West Denmark Lutheran Church in Luck, WI.  It was a beautiful service in the church followed by military honors at the cemetery.  Dad was 92.  His death came unexpectedly on 11.2.2014, just days after gallbladder surgery.   Even now it seems like it cannot be true, he was doing so well before his gallbladder acted up.  Although, doing well wasn’t what you may think.  He was recovering from losing his wife of 26 years.  Ev died on 9.5.2014 after a massive stroke and 5 days of hospice care.  This was a terrible blow to Dad and he missed her so much.  Their 26 years of marriage had been filled with laughter, dancing, travel and family fun. 

On 10.25.2014, we celebrated Ev’s life with a party (at her request) in Luck, and the hall was full of children laughing and the sound of voices remembering how much fun we had all had with Ev in our family.  We placed her ashes in the West Denmark Cemetery on a sunny fall day, with the leaves crunching under our feet.  The headstone Dad selected is a park bench.  The inscription “Keep a Song in Your Heart”, (something said at the end of each Lawrence Welk Show) and an image of a ballroom dancing couple makes this bench a very special spot to rest.

Just 54 days between.  You hear these stories, you wonder at how that can happen, and you never want to be in those stories, yet here we are.  Without dwelling on what could have been, although it is such a temptation, it is better medicine to think about what was.

In August, I drove to Iowa and picked Dad up for a poker weekend in Wisconsin with his son’s and grandsons.  I was the chauffeur.  We took the back roads on our way North and we both enjoyed seeing some parts of Iowa that we had not seen before.  The weekend in Baldwin was a blast for Dad.  He and ‘the boys’ played cards all day on Saturday and then, after a Sunday brunch, I drove him back to Iowa

Before leaving Iowa, Dad & Ev and I enjoyed dinner at their favorite Cancun Mexican Café, and drank marguerites and laughed and laughed.  It would turn out to be the last time I would see Ev, but I find myself thankful for such a wonderful memory of our last time together.

For a couple of weeks at the beginning of July, Dad & Ev came to Luck to attend Family Camp at West Denmark.  This had become their annual trip and they enjoyed the fellowship at camp as well as a chance to see the Luck families.  I even talked them into a week in Rice Lake at my house which included July 4th at Glenn’s lake cottage on Big Moon Lake.  

Dad & Ev always enjoy seeing the family and watching the parade of decorated boats on the lake.  Dad and Ev both loved patriotic events and the 4th of July was no exception.  And seeing the rest of the J family, brought a smile.

Summer was so nice this year, not too hot and not too dry.  I spent some time hauling old wood home from Luck as my cousin Paul was dismantling an old barn on the land where my Grandparents Ansgar & Frederikke had lived.  The barn held a few old artifacts that he generously gave to the Johansens and I hauled it all home.  The barn wood I used to build a miniature replica of the old barn and I am so pleased with my Ansgar’s Lille Barn, complete with silo.  Dad gave me building advice, over the phone, as I finished this fun project.  Here it is on this crisp December 29th morning.  The silo is hidden in this view, but it is there, as is the chute between silo & barn.

In April, Laila flew into Minneapolis and the two of us drove to Iowa to help celebrate Dad’s 92nd birthday.  We all stayed at a nice motel in Garner, Glenn & Kathy joined us and good friends Jim and Janette also came.  (Gus and Lois were home welcoming yet another grandbaby into the family, but they were with us in spirit.)  We spent time visiting, Dad & Glenn played some cribbage and Glenn & Kathy even brought ӕbelskiver for breakfast on Sunday morning!

It was a very fun weekend filled with lots of time to relax and visit with the folks.  As I am typing this and see these pictures, I cannot help but smile remembering how much fun we had just being together in honor of Dad’s birthday.  Ev really loved to see Dad in the limelight and this weekend was fun for her as well.

We Johansen kids are lucky to have had so much fun with Dad and Ev over the years; they made us smile and laugh time & time again.  I know that they wouldn’t want us to be too sad, but to say we miss them is a massive understatement. 

So, in their memory, as we say goodbye to 2014 and farewell to both Dad and Ev, it is my hope that we might all find smiles and laughter enough to share in the New Year, and always.


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