A Love Story for Valentine’s Day

My father loved my mother and it was a love that lasted until his death. I never knew the depth of my father’s love until my mother became ill with terminal brain cancer. It was the day my mother had surgery, after which we would find out if the tumor was benign or malignant. I don’t remember what kept me from being at the hospital when the doctor told my mother and father the news. It was a chaotic time. When I arrived, my mother was sleeping and my father was no where to be seen. I found the doctor and after he told me the news, I went in search of my father. I found him in an out of the way sitting area, hunched over and staring at the floor. I put my arm around him and he wept and he told me how lost he would be without my mother. My father was not one of those stoic men who hide their emotions but I had never seen him so bereft. I have tears in my eyes thinking about it now, fourteen years later.

Letter from my dad to my mom before they were married
Letter from my dad to my mom, 1959
Please do not post to Ancestry or other sites.

After my parents passed away, I found a letter my father had written to my mother the summer before they wed. She was visiting her Roth cousins in California and he was back home in Philadelphia. My father was twenty-two years old and my mother was twenty-one. Here is that letter.

August 22, 1959
At Home.

Hi Lover: Just a few lines to let you know that I received your letter. To tell you the truth I was getting a little worried, I thought that you would send me a post card from one of the places that you had a lay over.

So you got stranded in Albuquerque, that is a great town. What did you do while you were there? Did you get off the train? What made you think that Albuquerque was a small town, it’s know[n] as the fastest growing town in the US.

My father was stationed out west while he was in the Air Force and had a fondness for Albuquerque. I remember when we drove through it on our way to dropping me off at college in Arizona he was impressed by how much it had grown. I think he was a little hard on my mother here. Even when I went out west in the nineties, I had someone ask me if Tucson had tumbleweeds blowing down the streets. I think people back east think of the southwest as being like the old western movies.

So far I’ve done absolutely nothing but eat sleep and work and think about what’s going to happen on October 24th. I can hardly wait.

I took Marge and her Mother down to Wildwood last night and drove back this morning. I felt so lonely in that town that I had to get out of there fast. I missed you so much. Dick couldn’t go because he had to work so I went out Friday night by myself for about two hours and that was all I could stand.

My parents married on October 24th and apparently my father could not wait! Marge was my mother’s best friend, the maid of honor at their wedding, and my godmother. I think it is nice my father drove her and her mother down to the shore. I don’t know who Dick was, but apparently my dad missed my mother so much he couldn’t enjoy a Friday night out alone.

I hope that you are enjoying your vacation, next year we’ll go on one together if we can afford it. Remember I love you, I need you and I’m going to have you. Give my best to your mother and tell you[r] cousins that I hope that I have the pleasure of meeting them.

Your Everlovin

There is something awkward and indescribably sweet about finding a letter between your parents that begins with “Hi Lover” and ends with “Your Everlovin.” A side note, my mother’s mother always called my dad Chuck and my mother told me he never went by Chuck, always Charlie. Well, I guess he did once.

And at the end of the letter he adds this in case my mother did not catch it throughout the letter:

P.S. I miss you.

My father passed away six weeks before my mother. I know it is a cliché but I think he could not stand to live without her.

They were engaged on Valentine’s Day 1959.

Family Memory

Last night over at Geneamusings, Randy Seaver had for his Saturday Night Genealogy Fun a game of ancestor roulette. The ancestor he landed on was his great-grandmother about whom he had this to say:

I called her “Nana” – as did my mother. She was the earliest born person that I remember being with.

She was born in 1868, so I was impressed by that. The earliest born person I remember is my Great-Uncle Milt who was born in 1900. I had some great-uncles born in the 1890’s whom I probably met but don’t remember. My Uncle Milt had no other family living besides us. He never had children and his only brother, my grandfather, had only my mother. So, Uncle Milt would join us for Thanksgiving and other holidays. When he passed away, I went with my mom to his house and it was like stepping into another time. I came away with a penny from 1919, an old fountain pen and three old 78 records. None of those things have survived to present day, I am sad to report.

Compared to 1868, 1900 is not that long ago. My grandmothers were born in 1904 and 1905 and I knew them better than Uncle Milt. Through the stories of my grandmother Naomi Carman Garrison especially, the early twentieth century was not so far removed.

What about my grandmother? Who was the oldest person she knew? My mind went immediately to her grandmother Catherine Hornef Carman. This was not likely the oldest person in her family my grandmother ever met, but she is the only one my grandmother told me about. It is not much, but this may be all that is ever “remembered” about my 2nd great-grandmother. My grandmother told me she remembered her grandmother as a large, happy German woman and remembered her cooking in the kitchen. My grandmother was only seven years old when her grandmother passed away, so one can forgive the vagueness.

Some things I have learned about Catherine Hornef Carman since:

  • She was born 1 July 1845 in Otterberg, Germany to Jacob Hornef and Katharina Faber.
  • She was christened at the Evangelisch-Reformierte Kirche in Otterberg shortly thereafter.
  • They immigrated to Philadelphia when she was a baby and they left Germany “secretly.”
  • She had two sisters Eva Amelia who married Andrew Mahla and settled in Marcus Hook and Mary who has proven elusive.
  • Her sisters were both born in Pennsylvania.
  • She was married in 1862 to Elon Carman at the First Independent Christian Church in Philadelphia.
  • She died 9 April 1913 and is buried in Mt. Moriah cemetery in Philadelphia1

Blue, black and brown.

My father was color blind. I did not think much about it when I was a child. I thought everyone’s dad had their socks pinned together and labeled with their color: blue, black, brown.

When I was an adult my dad told me this story. He worked for a company in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, but often had business in Philadelphia. It was on one of these occasions when he was rushing to an early meeting that he discovered he had inadvertently put on one blue shoe and one black shoe. (His socks matched, though, thanks to Mom and her pins & labels.) He stopped at a shoe store, but it was still early and they were not yet open.

He banged on the door. It would not do to show up at this important business meeting with mismatched shoes. Finally, a clerk came to the front, tapping his watch, then pointing to the closed sign and shaking his head. My father pointed down to his shoes.

The clerk looked down and smiled. He let my dad in and sold him a pair of shoes.

Why this story today? It’s National Two Different Color Shoes Day.