August 7, 2011

Grandpa Dug A Well...And Found A Legacy

In 1905 a young, barely 19 year old Norwegian boy stepped off of a ship with hundreds of other immigrants to Ellis Island in New York's busy harbor, eyes wide and bright.  Born in 1886 to humble surroundings in Arendal Norway, Ole had heard of the freedom and riches of America since he was a young boy, how someone with no family wealth or station had the opportunity to work hard and enjoy the fruit of his labor.

By 1912 Ole had met a Norwegian girl from Arendal named Andora at a local Lutheran church, they married and began a family.  Years earlier with the help of other family that had immigrated prior to him, he started work as a carpenter and worked at one of the many shipyards that dotted the harbors of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

My mom is the littlest girl in this picture
By 1926 Ole had several daughters and began building a small cottage in Hopewell Junction New York in the Hudson River Valley area, also know as Fishkill.  By now you've figured out that Ole is my grandfather and while I wasn't born until some forty years later in the 1960's, I began enjoying his mountain home soon after I was born.  I can only imagine that in his heart and grandma's they longed for the mountain terrain that they had known in Norway, especially during the crowded and hot Brooklyn summers.  It's not uncommon even now in Norway for families to have a second small home in the mountains that they visit in the summertime. 
My earliest memories begin in the summers with grandpa and grandma and my family.  At that time, we used an outhouse for a bathroom and a well for drinking water.  In fact, one of the first things grandpa did once he decided to build on this land was to dig for water, as I'm sure was common in that day, since a clean and dependable water source was crucial when considering building a home.  Our days were filled with playing in the woods, burning the trash (my favorite chore) and picking fresh berries for grandma to can or to make some delicious pie or pudding.

My family and I recently visited the cottage lovingly updated and beautifully kept by my cousin and his wife.  They've raised their children there and are enjoying semi-retirement.  I hadn't been there in nearly 20 years and afterward my mind began to wander.

I wondered whether grandpa had ever thought while digging that well that generations to follow would be enjoying his home years later.  I wondered if he viewed his life generationally, if they ever comprehended the men and women that would be born through he and grandma.  I wondered if he realized that with six daughters he would have eighteen grandchildren and over forty great grandchildren.  I suspect they did, since my sister said that once grandma had told her that she had prayed for her grandchildren before they were born.  Grandpa and grandma weren't fancy, but rather simple, God-loving Lutherans, he a craftsman carpenter, she a homemaker and before that a cleaning maid for the wealthier women of New York City.  Yet, through their simplicity and steadfastness they remained married for over sixty years and produced a legacy of faithfulness to God.  Subsequently, through their lives and marriage they passed down to their lineage a devotion to faith and marriage that, has seemed to anchor the 25 plus marriages that were to proceed them.  I haven't deciphered exactly what the source of their stability was that flowed from these two, but I have suspected that their Christian faith, a strong community of believers and simple living were significant contributors.

These are some of Ole & Andora's grandchildren and great grandchildren through his 6th and youngest daughter my mom (center).
I stand grateful that I was down stream from these two.  I can't begin to recount the many blessings that I enjoy because of what they sowed into their children and grandchildren. 

I heard recently that when God wants to make a mushroom he waits 6 hours but when he wants to make a oak tree he waits 60 years.  God plus time makes beautiful things.
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  1. I enjoyed reading this very much.

  2. Ron, you've done an outstanding job of telling your grandparents' story...and finding your place within God's larger story of your family line. I'm inspired by your intergenerational thinking--a mindset better informed by eternity than our typical preoccupation with today.

    Thanks too for your encouragement on my own blog. Blessings on you and your family!


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