Sunday, May 18, 2014


It has been a whirlwind of a weekend; we had a family reunion at Myrtle Beach where you go to see your cousin Oliver and meet your newest cousins, Stella and Lucy.  We all ate too much, talked too much, stayed up way too seemed like the perfect weekend.
Except for one thing.
Today, May 18th, is the 13th anniversary of my father, your grandfather (Nagyapa)'s death.  I can't believe it has been thirteen years of living without him, and I'm constantly sad that he never got to meet you.  I know he would have loved you so very much; in fact, I know he's looking down from Heaven loving on you right now.  As I've written before, you are named after him--his name was Julius (Gyula), the same as his father's, the same as your uncle's, and now you are carrying on this family tradition.
So today I would like to memorialize Nagyapa by posting some pictures of him from my childhood.  He was mostly the photographer and is not in many pictures, but I want you to see him, to know this man.  Your grandfather was a man who had his priorities straight and knew what mattered.  In 1956, he escaped from Hungary after the revolution, lived in a refugee camp in Austria, emigrated to Poughkeepsie, NY, worked at Fargo, and then  volunteered to serve in the US army.  My dad loved all of the opportunities that America offered him, but they were there because of his hard work:  as a salesman, he worked long, often thankless hours and saved assiduously to be able to send money back to his family (another priority for him).
He also knew he wanted to wait until he met the right woman, and that's why he met Nagyi a little later in life.  Once he married her and had us, he knew that we were his priority.  He could have opened that camera shop, could have taken more chances, but he worked at Montgomery Ward and the Rocket Store and at Caldor because they were a source of stable income and could support his family.
Here is a picture of Nagyi and Nagyapa with me, probably in 1973, what would have been my first Christmas?  We never had a whole lot of money but, like Randy Pausch writes in The Last Lecture, I won the parent lottery.  This was my second birthday in 1974:

Here's a rare picture of just him with me and your uncle.  Since Nagyapa was the photographer in the family, he is rarely in any of our pictures.

I think I would never have met your Daddy had it not been for Grandpa and Nagyi.  They both sacrificed so much not only so that I could get a Bachelor's Degree but also a Master's:

And, three years later, when I decided I wanted to apply to Ph.D. programs, both of my parents were so supportive of me.  You know, it's at Chapel Hill that I met your daddy, and the rest is history!

Anyway, one of the things Nagyapa loved the most was photography.  I tried to get into it but never had the eye that he, and your Grammy, do.
 I especially love this picture, not only becuase it's so well-composed but also because it captures one of those brief, elusive moments of beauty.  That butterfly will only alight for a few moments, but this picture makes the experience immortal--it's captured forever and almost made more beautiful through art.  This is exactly why I love poetry and literature, and it's exactly why I'm writing you these letters.  Even though you will never meet Nagyapa, I do hope that you get a sense of him through these letters that I'm writing you.  In that way his memory, like this gorgeous picture, will live in your heart, with you forever.  He is, and always will be, a part of you--I see him in your smile, your focus and concentration, your incredibly deep love of music.  In this way, he lives on in stories, in his own photographs, and in you, his precious little granddaughter.

Becuase Nagyapa valued family so much, I'd like to think he would have been happy that we spent this usually painful weekend with family, building new bonds and reinforcing old ones.  But I don't ever want to let new family get in the way of the memories I--and, hopefully, you--will always treasure.

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