An open letter to my parents, long gone --

Dear Mom and Dad -- it's been a while since we were able to sit down and have a good talk -- Dad, almost 20 years; Mom, 26 years.  That's hard to believe.  I still miss you every day.

I'm a senior citizen now and an elder as far as the family goes.  I wanted to tell you that I've been into genealogy for about five years, and have found out a tremendous amount about our ancestors.  Dad, your father was estranged from his family -- did you know that your Uncle Joseph Benard was an adventurous sort, who managed a hotel in Texas, spent time in Mexico working for an oil company, and wound up in California?  Or that your grandfather Joseph Ortmann came from a farming family in Erkeln, Germany?

William J. Ortman's senior picture

Mom, guess what -- I have your Berneburg line traced back to Cuntz D'Alte Berneburg, who lived in 1470!  Did you know that your grandfather Maximilian came from a family in Silesia, where his father was a Master Weaver and also was a trumpeter?  (That one is kind of mysterious.  A trumpeter?)

Waltraud Berneburg's senior picture 

But whatever I learn, wherever I go, it always comes back to you.  All those ancestors made you who you were, and then made me who I am.  I wish so much that I had asked you more about your lives, really quizzed you about all the details.  I have so many questions and so many mysteries that maybe you could clear up.


Elise Ortman, a couple of years after graduation

But here's what I really want to say.  I'm sorry.  I'm sorry for having been such a difficult person in my teenage and young adult years.  I had such high expectations -- I was a bear about hypocrisy and imperfection. Even though I knew I was far from perfect myself, I wanted you to be perfect and was pretty hard on you when you weren't.  It wasn't until I was a parent myself that I understood that you were doing the best you could with all that you brought to parenthood.  And now that I'm a genealogist, I see that everyone has problems, foibles, secrets -- that everyone just does the best they can, as you did, as I am now.

I would give anything for an hour.  Half an hour, and I would have all my questions lined up and ask them as fast as I could.  Although I'm an an agnostic, I still hope that I will see you some day and will have the chance to have everything answered.  I miss you.  I love you.


Comments

  1. Aww, Lise, I love you. That's so sweet.

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    1. Well, I know it's kind of mushy and sentimental, but I mean it.

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  2. Love this. I've made it a priority to ask my dad about his childhood, and what he knows about his family. You and Elke, geologists, inspired me to do so. Thank you.

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    Replies
    1. Oh thank you! So lovely to think I inspired someone!

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