Separation from family gets no easier

March 09, 2012 12:58 pm
They came from across the sea and from the north. We hugged, laughed and talked a lot. Then they left again, leaving anguished hearts to adjust to their absence another time.

My cousin’s daughter Danette had married a young Swiss man, Andreas, and took her son Logan to live in a different culture, different languages and among those she didn’t really know.

Another daughter, Wendy, and her two children, Mollie and Jack, arrived from Alaska.

They had all missed spending Christmas here with family, but finally February brought them all back to these shores and the waiting arms of family.

Being alone, I was invited to join them at their much belated Christmas dinner, crowded elbow to elbow, but such a merry time for all, including the small cousins who hadn’t seen each other in many months.

Through the wonders of electronics, they were able to stay in touch, being able to even see each other by the magic of TV images. They could talk and write to make that family connection while they were apart one from the other.

But, oh, the joy to be able to hold them in their arms, to laugh and cry all at the same time even for the short visit.

My heart ached for them all when the departure date approached, for I knew the parting would be doubly

Then they were gone out of sight, out of physical touch. It reminded me of our Hofmann grandparents when they left Switzerland to move to the United States in 1906 with all their worldly goods to make a new life for themselves in a foreign country where even the English language was unknown to them, at least not to our grandmother.

In tow over the rolling seas they brought four little children, the youngest, Margaret, only 2 years of age, the oldest, Rosa, 7. Emma and Fred were in between.

In the next several years, they traveled from New York to Utah, where they joined Grandfather Fritz’s sister, Anna, and her Hildebrandt family, then to Idaho and finally to Oregon with the promise of work for the men in La Grande.

The years were hard for them, for the promised jobs did not exist and they sought any kind of work to sustain their families.

They learned to love this country with their eight children reaching adulthood, marrying and raising their children in the ever-widening family circle. Close in relationship one with the other, the pain of separation from their own parents, relatives and friends in their own homeland eased somewhat.

It was a proud Dec. 12 day in 1923 when our grandfather received his American citizenship.

But, the tears still flowed as news by slow mail told them of the deaths, one by one, of the ones they had loved and left behind.

In those days, their only contact was by letter or telegram wire, the news so far behind their knowledge regarding their loved ones that the waiting was painful.

The travelers never saw their left-behind families again other than a few pictures to remind them of their changing looks as they aged. These were

To think of the changes in communication through electronics after their own deaths would be unbelievable to them had they known what was ahead in this changing world.

George and I, at least, were able to fly by airplane to visit their homeland, taking pictures, movies and sounds to acquaint the remaining families with their parents’ and extended family’s homeland.

Now one of our own lives abroad and another to the far north with technology at their disposal.

Still, the separation from family can be no easier than when our grandparents bid goodbye to all they had known, never to see it again.

The tie between the two countries and another of our states was rejoined as I watched and listened to the reuniting of the Baker family.

Auf Wiedersehn. Until we meet again!


Veteran newspaperwoman Dorothy Swart Fleshman is a La Grande native. Reach her at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it