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Pragmatic Thoughts on Life & Death October 12, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, Life Balance, People.

Much of my grandfather’s letters dealt with the day-to-day dramas of life in the Vermont legislature, keeping weeds out of his garden, chasing deer around during hunting season, and keeping up with Mother Nature’s efforts to paint a winter wonderland of white.

But he paid passing homage to the arrival and rearing of his grandkids and to the passing of friends and family:


8/20 ~ “We are remembering October [Jamie’s arrival] is not so far off and it won’t be long now. Tell Barbara it is OK to rush about with a wash cloth or something during the moving process but not to lift the piano. Let me know if we can do anything else.”



2/4 ~ “Dear Richard, Barb and “the Problem” ~ I was much interested in your account of feeding Jamie.  In learning calves to drink it was generally necessary to get them just a bit hungry.  I used to discourse on this to your mother and Aunt Lucy and get them quite indignant.  You and Marjorie were NOT calves!  I think Lucy thought me a bit brutal.  It wasn’t, it was just simple common sense.  The same basic strategy applies to all young creatures I think.”

My paternal grandparents with dad and Marjorie

My paternal grandparents with dad and Marjorie

6/29 ~ “As it is nearing July we will be looking for NEWS soon.” [My arrival]

7/20 ~ “We were pleased to get your call and the good news that everyone was OK. We expected it to be but it was nice to know it came and is over.” [“It came” = ME]


2/26 ~ “Tell the children I think of them.  Possibly that will not mean much to Nancy.”

10/6 ~   “Margaret was quite worried over poor Nancy.  It must have been quite bad while it was sore.  [After spilling out of a run-a-way baby carriage, I required stitches in my tongue.]  It is wonderful how children get over such things.  I remember how worried we were when you upset your arm.  I was worried it might be stiff in the joint.  Lots of love and we will be happy to see you any time you can make it.”


3/31 ~ “We just got a special delivery letter from Marjorie saying Louis Stevens died Sunday night.  She also said Douglas Bruce was born and that you called Aunt Pete.  [My younger brother’s arrival.]  We were pleased to hear of it.  We could not feel too badly about Louis as he wasn’t enjoying life much at the last.  He told me he doubted if he would be there when I came home from Florida but he had had so many ups and downs it was a question.  I feel sorry but it is a relief for Rae, I believe, to know it is over.”

Doug's First Birthday

Doug’s First Birthday

5/21 ~ “We had quite a shock tonight. Mr. Hubbard, the minister, dropped dead with a heart attack. It was wholly unexpected. Margaret was very upset. He was erecting a flag pole at his place when it happened. So this is most of the news and tragedy. Like life is ~ some good ~ some bad. Come up any time if you feel like it.”

11/14 ~ “We still chuckle thinking how cute the children were at times.  I guess we would help spoil them if we were around all the time.”

12/23 ~ “Dear everyone, Probably I should write a line and throw in a few bright and salty remarks.  Douglas is too young for me to sum up yet but as far as Jamie and, especially Nancy, is concerned I have to say you are doing all right.  I have to grin internally every time I take a good look at her.”

C'est Moi!

C’est Moi!


2/19 ~ “We enjoyed your letter and account of the kids.  I could picture what you meant ~ that is, the cross currents of your under-6 society.”

6/30 ~ “The sick people are as usual.  We are looking for news!” [Arrival of #4.]

7/16 ~ “I expect Barb is home and the problems in your home are different than those up here. Have courage, Barb, the first 100 years are the hardest. Hope baby will be good enough to sleep nights.”  [My younger sister’s arrival.]


10/15 ~ “It was 28 degrees this morning and sunny.  Hope everything goes well and that you can come up.  I realize it is quite a trip with children to consider but we would love to have you.  Margaret wants to see the children ~ not you! ~ the children!”

'Twas The Night Before Christmas

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas

 Aah . . . that’s better!


1. Silver in the Barn - October 12, 2014

What a treasure. Both the letters and the wonderful, kind man who wrote them. You get such a sense of him from these excerpts and how much he loved each and every one of you. “I have to grin internally”, oh my, that just brings a tear to my beady little eye, really. A treasure.

nrhatch - October 12, 2014

Thanks, Barbara. I loved that line too. I enjoyed renewing my acquaintance with my grandfather through his letters. He died while I was in law school, age 89.

I have many fond memories of our visits to Vermont ~ picnics on the hill, wading in the brook, ginger ale at happy hour, target practice with my grandfather’s rifle, penny candy at the country store, sleep overs with my cousin, and my grandfather’s wry sense of humor.

Silver in the Barn - October 12, 2014

He was a wonderful writer. If he were around in our time, I feel certain he would be blogging and we’d all be following him with a vengeance. I know I would. The apple didn’t fall far, in this case.

nrhatch - October 12, 2014

I have a few more posts in the works using his letters . . . so he’ll be a Guest Blogger! :mrgreen:

2. Rainee - October 12, 2014

Lovely glimpse at time passing – great photos too!

nrhatch - October 12, 2014

Thanks, Rainee. I had fun wading through my granddads letters looking for bits and pieces to share. Adding a few photos helps put faces with the names.

3. katecrimmins - October 12, 2014

You are so lucky to have these. I have the last birthday card my mother sent me (she died 2 weeks later) and it’s a treasure. I can imagine how important these letters are to you.

nrhatch - October 12, 2014

It’s nice to have pieces of the past to remind us of all our lovely memories.

I’ve enjoyed reading and summarizing these letters (which also included some letters from other relatives), but I didn’t keep them all. There were far too many letters, notes, and cards for most people to wade through or get anything out of. So I tried to find the right balance between sentimentality and practicality.

During the process of reading them, I culled the towering pile from 6-7″ in height down to about 2″ ~ now the letters are sorted by date and stored in a single 3-ring binder where they are readable and retrievable. I also prepared a summary of sorts to send to my brothers and sister for inclusion with dad’s autobiography.

katecrimmins - October 12, 2014

Wow! You did a lot of work! You did get a great post though.

nrhatch - October 12, 2014

It was a BIG project . . . but interesting, fun, and a labor of love. I still have to fine tune the summary ~ adding a bit more in and taking some volume out. Then I’ll print it out to keep with the letters and send an electronic copy to my siblings and a paper copy to my Aunt Marjorie.

It was a good project to work on during the heat of the summer.

4. uju - October 12, 2014

Like a time capsule 🙂 Lovely letters Nancy and really nice pictures.

nrhatch - October 12, 2014

It is like a time capsule. Especially interesting is the difference in the cost of living then and now. Hotel rooms for $5. Campsites with hook ups for a week for $6.50. High School Reunion Dinner Parties for $1.50.

5. jannatwrites - October 12, 2014

I like his humor (which I find some of the matter-of-fact statements humorous- like, “the minister, dropped dead with a heart attack”- such a straight-forward way to say that 🙂 I like the photos – especially the one of you on the rocking horse!

nrhatch - October 12, 2014

Thanks! I still look exactly like that . . . but older. 😛

I love my grandfather’s subtle humor and wry observations about life & death. I have a few more posts in mind, using his letters as the starting point. He’ll be a periodic guest blogger.

6. Rajagopal - October 12, 2014

Lovely vignettes of your early years nancy…your pic on piggyback is as endearing as your smiling visage today…

nrhatch - October 12, 2014

Thanks, Raj! Laughing and smiling are two of the things I do best!

7. Jill Weatherholt - October 12, 2014

How fortunate you are to have these letters, Nancy. I love the photos…what a cute little girl you were…you still are. 🙂
I have a similar picture of my sister and I in our footie pajamas reading Twas the Night Before Christmas. Great memories!

nrhatch - October 12, 2014

Thanks, Jill! I love the footie PJ pic . . . footies kept us warm while tiptoeing out to the tree in the middle of the night to see if Santa had appeared yet. Ho~Ho~Ho!

8. Grannymar - October 12, 2014

How fortunate you are to have known your grandfather and also to relive the memories through the letters. I never knew my grandfathers, they both died before any of the grandchildren were born.

nrhatch - October 12, 2014

I agree, GM. I was in my 20’s when my grandfathers passed away ~ one died while I was in law school. The other died a few years after I got married. I didn’t know my grandmothers as well.

My dad’s mom died before I was born. My grandfather remarried and Margaret was like a grandmother to me.

Mom’s mom died when I was 13 but her sister, my Great Aunt Edie, didn’t pass away until after my sister and I had both married.

9. reocochran - October 12, 2014

I found this to be quite wonderful, Nancy! I really loved having postcards from my Grandpa, who would add my Grandma’s name, too. (One he called my clarinet, a ‘licorice stick,’ which at the time, I thought was an original thought! ha ha!)
Holding onto these letters, like a diary, was so valuable for your family, Nancy!
Your grandfather was so down to earth, a jewel in the rough and one who would make a granddaughter proud and feel loved. Your photos really helped to make our picture of your family and heritage complete.

nrhatch - October 12, 2014

Thanks. I love your Grandfather’s tag line for your clarinet ~ a licorice stick. I’ve never heard it called that before.

These letters are fascinating to read. I feel like I have a better understanding of my grandfather than before digging into them.

10. Tiny - October 12, 2014

Love the pictures! He was very pragmatic indeed. I got a giggle from “It came” 🙂

nrhatch - October 12, 2014

I roared when I saw that the first time, Tiny. Talk about hiding pregnancy and childbirth behind veiled words.

Plus it reminded me of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas: “Somehow it came. It came just the same.”

11. Don - October 12, 2014

Letters like these are a real gift, Nancy. Amazing how letters take you right in to the life and nature of the person who puts the words on paper. He must have been a marvellous man. Letters can say so much about a person. Good to see you on that rocking horse. 🙂

nrhatch - October 12, 2014

Thanks, Don. I learned quite a bit about my grandfather’s views on politics, family, gardening, hunting, investing, religion, etc., while reading these letters. It’s been a wonderful experience BUT . . .

While reading, I sense him alive and well. Then I “surface” to the realization that he’s been gone for more than 30 years. Sad.

Don - October 12, 2014

It is sad, but I suppose that’s why those letters are so precious.

nrhatch - October 12, 2014

Yes, you’re right. They bring him back to life in the land of the living . . . for a short while anyway. This afternoon I finished the 82 page summary of the letters for my siblings.

12. Yolanda M. - October 12, 2014

How wonderful for you Nancy to still have your grandfather’s letters! lovely pics 🙂 I agree with a comment you made that having those letters has helped you achieve a better understanding of who your grandfather was…I wish more of us would write letters -emails aren’t quite the same. Maybe that’s why we blog?

nrhatch - October 12, 2014

E-mails are definitely not the same, at least not the ones I send and receive ~ it is rare to have a long newsy note via digital devices.

13. Eric Tonningsen - October 12, 2014

I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this before or if you’d agree, but to me, there is a resemblance between you and your grandmother.

Must have been the era for those spring-based rocking horses. I still remember mine fondly.

Thanks for continuing to share your grandfather’s letters. They help to rekindle fond memories of my grandparents.

nrhatch - October 12, 2014

My aunt (sitting on my grandmother’s lap in the top shot) is the spitting image of her mother. The rest of us share isolated features with our ancestors ~ nose, eyes, ears, smile, etc.

I loved that horse. Probably because I’d watch my older brother enjoy it when I was still too young to ride.

Glad you’re enjoying your own walk down Memory Lane. I have a few more “Guest Posts” to share from my grandfather.

14. Pix Under the Oaks - October 13, 2014

I truly enjoyed the pictures! And love your Grandfather’s words. I am glad he will be a “guest blogger”. I like his statement.. “Like life is ~ some good ~ some bad.” I had pajamas with feets in them too. I didn’t know my Grandfather on my Mom’s side but my Dad’s Dad was very special to me.. he was a Granddad too. Love the four of you on the couch.

nrhatch - October 13, 2014

Thanks, Pix. My grandfather’s letters reveal someone who rolled with the waves rather than fighting them ~ up and down, left and right, good and bad. He showed remarkable life balance when faced with adversity and hardship.

PJ’s with feet are perfect for keeping toes warm on cold nights.

15. William D'Andrea - October 13, 2014

I like those photographs. A few weeks ago, I and two friends were visiting my sister and brother-in-law, when she took out an album of pictures taken when we were both children. One of them showed my sister when she was about 7 years old. She had a very nasty look on her face, while pointing her tongue out at the camera.

I pointed to the photo and said, “You haven’t changed a bit, have you?”

She laughed and agreed with me.

“You’re right.” She laughed, “I haven’t.”

nrhatch - October 13, 2014

Sweet story, William.

16. NancyTex - October 13, 2014

You are so fortunate to have these letters! What a treasure!

nrhatch - October 13, 2014

Thanks, NT. I look forward to sharing a few more glimmers and glimpses in the coming weeks.

I didn’t get around to making the cookies yesterday, but BFF would like to try them. I’ll let you know how it goes.

NancyTex - October 13, 2014

Awesome! It looks like I have a few brave readers who are into giving them a whirl. 🙂

nrhatch - October 13, 2014

Chickpea Flour is used on GF cooking . . . why not skip the miller and go with the nut?! 😛

NancyTex - October 13, 2014

Cut out the middle man. 🙂

17. Three Well Beings - October 13, 2014

How wonderful to have a record of how your grandfather obviously adored you! It’s so fun to see pictures that include your siblings. I only have one brother, and I often wonder what our household would have been had I more siblings. The family picture with your grandparents is just a gorgeous old photo!

nrhatch - October 13, 2014

Thanks, Debra. My grandfather and I had a grand relationship. When we visited Vermont, I had my own room! And he gave me a glass of fizzy ginger ale at cocktail time, and took us up on the hill for picnics and target practice. Plus I got a back rub from him every night to help me fall asleep.

My mom was an only child. My dad had one sister. I think that’s why they opted to have 4 kids close together in age ~ at one point, we were 5, 3, 1, and newborn! Can’t get much closer together than that.

There are Pros and Cons to having more siblings ~ it’s harder for two parents to track misdeeds, but some opportunities must be limited due to the increased expense.

18. anotherday2paradise - October 13, 2014

This is really precious to read, even though you’re referred to as an ‘it’. Your grandfather sound like he was quite a character with a very dry sense of humour. 🙂 I enjoyed the photos too.

nrhatch - October 13, 2014

Thanks, Sylvia. You’ve pegged my grandfather perfectly. Very dry and wry . . . with a twinkle in his eye.

19. Behind the Story - October 13, 2014

It’s uncanny how much the pictures of you as a child look like the pictures of you as an adult. Very cute.

I like your grandfather’s comment about allowing the calves to get just a little bit hungry. My grandson is a picky eater. I wonder if he would eat better if he were a little bit hungry.

nrhatch - October 14, 2014

Nice to hear, Nicki! When I was looking for a hairstyle, I looked at pre-school pictures of me and picked one that works. 😎

Most of us would be less picky if we experienced true hunger rather than constant appetite from images and aromas.

20. livelytwist - October 14, 2014

Lovely letters and photos, diaries for posterity. Perhaps that’s what our blogs will be for another generation. You were/are soooo cute!

nrhatch - October 14, 2014

Thanks, Timi. I love pictures of me as a “wee one.”

Maybe our blogs will linger in cyber space like tiny time capsules, buried beneath layers and layers of cyber silt. :mrgreen:

21. Sun Temples and Druids | Spirit Lights The Way - June 17, 2015

[…] posts re dad’s dad:  The Other Side of Retirement * How NOT To Cook A Turkey * Pragmatic Thoughts on Life & Death * Wry Observations on Dry Politics * Flying Squirrels & Other Silly Bits * Quaint […]

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