Wednesday, January 13, 2021

August 10, 1944: Skinny Opa


Letter from Opa to Grandmother, August 10, 1944.


St. John
August 10, 1944

My Dearest,

I just finished stowing away a pint of ice cream and two glasses of ice water, but even that did not cool me off. We had an awfully hot day and almost broke a record by shooting fourteen holes and yet gettin in before six o'clock. I spent an hour after that, though, fixing some cable breaks.

So they are kidding you about last weekend? Just what do they think is up? Are they right? I am being kidded a little, too. When I told Bob that I had reserved two rooms, he said "don't feed me that stuff." Well, I enjoy being kidded like that; don't you?

Buck came back today from a brief trip to Dallas, and we had quite a talk tonight. He is in a similar fix as we are; wants to get married and settle down, but realizes that this is pretty hard when staying with this company. We decided it would be best to stay long enough to make good and then look for another job. We might do that and, if the twins should arrive ahead of schedule, leave the company earlier.

How are the pictures coming? Don't forget to make Yvonne get us prints of the Bluemont shots; they ought to be pretty good. Do you know that I have only one picture of you? Not a single snapshot!

Tonight, for the first time since the trouble I had, I went to the pool hall; mainly to see how things are standing. Outside of the fact that Buck beat me in pool every time, everything went fine. I ignored some people, and the rest of them were as friendly as before. I guess the town has forgotten the incident, even though I haven't and probably won't for a long time.

To make you feel good, may I admit that you had at least one good influence on me? Ever since your pep talk Sunday morning, I have bought myself some fresh fruit for lunch; peaches, cherries, etc. So far, they have not had any visible effect though, for when I weighed myself last night, the foolish scales stopped at 146 pounds. That's not enough, and less than I used to weigh. I bet our kid is going to weigh 2 1/2 pounds when born.

I played your record over again today and certainly enjoy it. The second part especially is particularly powerful; also better known, I believe. Let's get a good collection of records when we are married; maybe sometime we can afford a real record player. (In fact, a record player has priority over your fur coat.)

I wished I could kiss you good night now!


Opa ventured back into public to test the waters, and other than ignoring a few folks, it seemed to go well! He is hoping that the troubles are behind him, although his own soul has been bruised by the event and he is still healing.

He mentions chatting with his co-worker Buck about plans for the future, very typical of folks new to their jobs. They want to get married and settle, and this company isn't the place for settling. So they figure they will "make good" and move on. 

This idea of working in a place long enough to sort of "pay your dues" is one that is fading a little bit. I think it's OK that it is fading. Companies no longer invest as much into their employees, and often don't invest enough. In the current job market, you really can't afford to stick around and pay dues. If you get a better offer for better pay and benefits, you take it. Raises are more likely to come from a new hire than within your own job. This is not universal, but I've seen it anecdotally with quite a few friends. 

People don't work for companies for long tenures anymore. There isn't much reward for loyalty anymore. Many companies have shown poor form by firing or "letting go" of people just before they were to retire. Now that my husband and I are starting to look more carefully about what it means to retire (miracles), we can appreciate more the kind of loss it is when someone is laid off so soon before they are fully vested in their retirement program. Retirement used to be an assumption, but now for my generation and especially those younger than me, retirement is a very privileged option.

Back to Opa. I want to call attention to where he mentions if the "twins" arrive soon. He's joking, but it's a joke based on some truth. Grandmother's family was full of twins. I think there were two sets in one family of cousins. She was convinced she would have twins (she didn't), and I think she suspected one of us would have twins (we didn't). So maybe it skips two generations? I'm not sure if there is hard evidence about genetic tendencies towards having twins, but she had a lot of twins around her growing up, so it became a part of their idea of what their future may hold. (Side note, my Dad and his brother are 13 months apart, so in a way, they're pretty close to being twins. And Grandmother was adamant that it was on purpose.)

Opa is maybe taking better care of himself because Grandmother told him to; but I'm not sure why he thought fruit was going to help him gain weight. That conversation where Grandmother tells him to eat fresh fruit rings very true. Grandmother loved fresh fruit and vegetables. She grew up on a farm! Opa was about 6'2'', give or take. And he said he was 146 lbs. That's really skinny. His mother would have a fit if she knew! Grandmother was a tiny, tiny woman, so it did kind of crack me up when Opa said they would have tiny babies.

Opa once again paints a lovely picture of their future together: sharing their love of music around a "real" record player when they could afford one. I can attest that they did get to share their love of music in many wonderful ways.

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