Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Letters From Norway

Sadly, my grandfather Hjalmar never returned to Norway after his youth. Except for one brother, Nikolai, who was lost at sea during W.W.II, the rest of his family never left Norway to visit the states. My grandfather left behind his mother Hendrikke (she died in 1956), three sisters Bertha, Gunhild, and Borghild, and four brothers Nils, Hans, Klaus, and Johan.

Over the years the family corresponded by letters and cards. In the 30's, 40's, and 50's my mother remembers getting packages with home-made mittens, hats, and
scarfs. Apparently my grandfather's sister Gunhild was very talented at knitting and embroidery. In the 1960's and 1970's correspondence tapered off to an occasional holiday card.

When my grandfather passed away in 1986, we sent a letter to Norway informing his family. At the time we were not even sure if any of his siblings were still living. It turns out his sister Bertha, and brothers Klaus, Johan, and Nils were still in Norway. Thus began a re-correspondence, as I took up interest in reacquainting with the family. It was difficult, as the oldsters only wrote in Norwegian, and could not read or speak in English.

Hjalmar's sister Bertha, who was in her 80's at the time, was the sister I corresponded with. Unlike my grandfather, Bertha's personality was cheerful and interactive. From the late 1980's to the early 1990's, we wrote to each other several times until her death in 1994.

In 1992, I went to visit Norway and met Bertha and Klaus. It was a joyous occasion and one of the most memorable of my life. Bertha seemed at peace to finally meet one member of her long lost family. When she saw me, she clapped her hands and said in Norwegian, "Oh yes! I can see the resemblance!"
Below is the translation of a letter sent by Bertha.

--------------------------------------------------Klaus, Great-grandmother, Bertha, Nikolai

"Dear all of you! Hearty thanks for your letter and the pictures you sent us. We become thereby better known to each other. Those who see John (my uncle) say he resembles Kjell (his cousin). Yes we miss Nils who was always the happy boy from when he was little. He and Hjalmar and Klausen were inseparable. Now we are all old. Johan has had the same as Hjalmar-- heart infraction. It was rather light, so Johan could come home from the hospital. He has help in the house 3 times a week.

Klaus playing his fiddle in 1992, and as a young man

You write about a trip to Norway. Don't know if I can manage such visits now. Had it been 10 years ago it would have been nice for us. We waited for Hjalmar for a long time. Many regards to your mother for us. You have a lovely mother and Hjalmar had a good wife. I shall buy a frame for the nice picture of her.

I will become 85 this summer, so you can understand my writing is not as good as it used to be and I have some trouble gathering my thoughts. I am happy for what I am. I do things around the house okay. We are fine, but there is alot of evil in the world today which destroys a lot of people. We expect Kjell to come home. He will help Klaus with some work.

You write something about the house at home in Grimstad. In those days all houses were built with two livingrooms, kitchen, a hallway, a loft upstairs, and 2 rooms and a hallway. Where we slept as children we called ..... . There were 4 beds, and the boys slept 2 and 2 together in one bed. I can remember my mother banging with a broom handle to wake us in the morning so we could eat and go to school at 9. It was fun. We were 8 neighbors in Grimstad and a lot of boys.

It took a long time before you got an answer back. I have had a bad knee and was not allowed to walk on that foot without support. I am better after I got medication from the doctor.

These houses in Nymark are big houses. We used to be two families. Now we are only 2 people left. That's the way it goes. Those days were cozy when we were all alive. Hearty greetings to all of you from all of us--- Klaus, Johan, and Bertha. You must give many regards to your mother! I will send more pictures later!


Anonymous said...

I've read this 8 times now. I can't get enough of that zany Norweigan grandfather!


the baron said...

sorry, need to write soon. new stuff coming....
the baron