I'm continuing my series of scanning, transcribing, and annotating my grandfather's love letters to my grandmother leading up to their marriage in June 1940. The letters are chronologically organized and preserved, using the methods I discuss in detail in my book, Creating Family Archives: How to Preserve Your Papers and Photographs.
In the ninth letter in the series, Grandpa apologizes for not visiting the weekend before, and believes that he'll be able to come home for the weekend if his cold clears up.
He mentions that my grandmother wrote about having a fight with "Mr. Z." He's most likely referring to her stepfather, Mr. Zabit, or "Pop Zabit" as she wrote on this undated photograph.
This is the part of the series that I feel awkward about revealing online. Everyone involved is no longer alive, but I feel protective of my grandmother and revealing the difficulties of her life.
From what I understand, she had a hard life and grew up poor. When she was a little girl, her brother ate poison berries and died. Her grieving father drank rat poison soon afterwards and killed himself.
Her mother remarried, and her stepfather wasn't a nice man. He beat her mother (with either razor wire or a "razor whip;" I don't remember which but I was horrified when she told me as a kid). We also suspect he was abusive in other ways. I never heard good things about him from her, and I imagine he was a nightmare to live with.
The photograph above is difficult to look at because the body language is so tense. It looks like a police lineup instead of a family photograph.
What I loved about my grandmother is that despite her hard life, she had a wacky sense of humor. She would teach us swear words and silly songs in Lithuanian.
One time when I was visiting her as a kid, I started crying after she yelled at me, which she never did. She got a little cup and said, "Why don't you count your tears as you catch them." Of course, I was concentrating so hard on catching my tears, I forgot about what I was crying about. What a perfect way to distract a child!
When I visited her while she had Alzheimer's, she thought me and my husband were her children, and we still had a lot of fun during the visits even though she got confused about the details. The love was still there.
Feb. 7, 1940
I received both of your letters yesterday and you can imagine my joy when I read them. After hearing of some of the surprises you had prepared for me I am sorrier than ever that I did not come home last week-end.
The only thing that will keep me from coming come this weekend is the cold I have. If it gets any worse than it is it will do me more harm than good to come home in cold weather. I am glad to say that it is much better than it was last night because I am trying hard to get rid of it. Before I went to bed last night I rubbed my throat with Vicks - "Vaporub" - covered it well with gauze and took a few cold tablets. It seems as though I have two colds as my head cold broke up Monday morning and the cold I have in my throat started then. I think I will be alright by [the] time the week-end rolls around so don't worry your sweet self over me.
If things turn out as I expect them to we should arrive in Paterson at about noon-time Saturday. Keep your fingers crossed and hope for some of the nice spring days. You mentioned in one of your letters because if the weather is decent Otto said we may not return until Monday morning. Say nothing of the above to Jean until it becomes definite because I would not want to have Otto change his plans. Let's hope we can spend two nights to-gether because I surely can stand it.
I had to interrupt this letter to take my turn in the bathroom, it is now 7.50 so I must get dressed for work
Glad you hear you are feeling well, but I am sorry to hear you had a quarrel with Mr. Z.
With the fondest expectation of spending a few hours with you again, I remain,
P.S. I love you more than ever.
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