Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - July 6, 2007

A letter to Dad J

Although I know you were ready to go, it's difficult for those of us left behind to say "goodbye."

You were a central part of our lives and there is a huge gap that no one else can fill. But we have a lot of memories to keep us strong.

I remember the first time I met you. Your youngest son Jerry and I were returning to the United States from Costa Rica to get married. You and oldest son Dave met us at the airport in Houston. I had already decided by then to address you and Jerry's Mom as Dad and Mom J. Using Mr. and Mrs. Johanning seemed too formal, Ken and Rita was too informal and I already had a Mom and Dad. So I thought calling you Mom J and Dad J was the perfect solution.

You and Dave gave me big bear hugs and then we set off for Kansas, with Dave as pilot. When we got to your home, Mom J met us at the door. After embracing her "baby" Jerry, she turned to me and gave me a hug, too. From then on, I was an integral part of your family, which included two more ornery boys, Gary and Kenny. The family eventually grew to include 12 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

I always loved the chaos of the Johanning get-togethers - the laughter, the teasing, the family stories. Your house was always full of people and food and fun. Christmas celebrations included eating, unwrapping gifts one by one, playing cards and singing Christmas carols around the organ.

The music seemed to stop for awhile after Jer's illness and death in early 1986. But then, as the days and months and years passed, we were eventually able to sing and laugh again. I'm not sure what I would have done without your support. I know you were concerned, too, because I was carrying a precious little bundle inside me.

That little bundle - Mariya Beth - is now just a handful of days from being 21. When she was small, she came up with an ingenious way to distinguish between her two grandpas, although she couldn't pronounce grandpa very well. You were a large man and my Dad was small. So you became "Big Crap-paw" and Dad became "Little Crap-paw!"

Oh, how you and Mom J spoiled Mariya! But that wasn't unusual. You spoiled all your grandkids - even daughter Katie. When she was born, you and Mom J said you had "an even dozen grandkids." That meant a lot to me.

The music stopped again after Mom J died. You and I seemed to have an even closer bond, based on an understanding of how difficult it is to lose a beloved spouse.

But, once again, with the passing of time, we were all able to smile again.

I knew it was important for me to maintain contact with the Johanning family so that Mariya could know her biological grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins and so that Katie could share the love, too.

But I now realize that it's been just as important for me.

I love you, Dad J, and I'm going to miss you very much, just as I miss Mom J and Jerry. But once again the music will begin, and no small part of the tune will be the memories we all shared.

Love from your daughter-in-law, Gloria

2007 Index