Saturday, June 27, 2009

Belated Happy Birthday Grandpa Jim!

I'm two days late with this! I didn't forget, I've just been a little... busy :) My father-in-law, Jim, is a familiar face around here; not only at our house and our business, but in the community in general. If I had a dollar for every time someone hears my last name and asks if I know him, we'd all be retired by now. Jim was a science teacher in Moorhead for over 30 years. He started at what was once called North Junior High School, and it housed 7th-9th grades. But they closed the school the year I was going into 9th grade. I was the first class of Freshman to make the move to the high school and Jim moved as well to teach chemistry. He was also the yearbook adviser and the school photographer.

When people ask me if I know him and I tell him he is my father-in-law, or Rick will say he is my dad, invariably the person asking will tell us, "he was my FAVORITE teacher." Of course, I was one of the few who didn't have him, although Rick did. What everyone seemed to love was all the interesting experiments they got to do in the lab. They also felt he made science applicable to everyday life. Not only did he make chemistry useful, but he made it fun as well.

Can you guess what that translates into as a father-in-law? Well who needs Tim the toolman Taylor? When we first moved back to Moorhead and Rick decided to tear down the single stall garage we had, it was Grandpa Jim to the rescue. Not only did he help Rick demo most of it, he helped oversee the construction of it. We subbed out very little of it, and all of us got our hands dirty. But Grandpa with Grandma at his side did most of it. They also did most of the work re-doing our basement at our first house in Moorhead, in getting it ready for us to rent out to college students.

And then whenever they finish a project at our house, they go to the next child's house to help them with what they need. Even though both Jim and Carole retired from teaching in 2000, they have not quit working in any sense of the word. They are both in the photography business with Rick and travel all across the state of North Dakota and still have schools in Idaho they shoot school day and sports/activity photos for.

But in between all of the work and projects, they still manage to find time to take on one of their most important roles, Grandparents to 3 boys, 1 girl and another little boy on the way next fall! Oh how our kids love their grandparents. Grandpa Jim was hands on with the grandchildren since the day they were born. In fact we would get the biggest kick out of his methods of helping them get to sleep. He'd take a fussy, whiny baby and swaddle it tightly in a blanket, and rock them and in no time they would be asleep. Grandpa had the magic touch every single time.

I finally got Rick and the boys to call him last night to wish him Happy Birthday. Most days neither one of the boys will talk to anyone on the phone. Knowing it was Grandpa's birthday however, they both wanted their turns to talk to him on the phone. I was happy to hear them both wish him Happy Birthday, and they remembered to thank him for their baseball bats. I was reminded that they have a close relationship with him and they felt comfortable enough to talk on the phone with him, even though they typically hesitate to do so. My one Grandfather passed away before I even met him, the other was extremely distant, "kids should be seen, but not heard." I never knew him that well.

So I am thankful and grateful, my kids own grandparents, on both sides of the family, have taken active roles with them. The "magic touch" of Grandpa Jim, may not be about blankets and swaddling anymore, but it hasn't stopped. Its about fishing, and golf and going places and learning all kinds of things. And we couldn't let his birthday go by without honoring all of that, even if it is a few days late.



    GOSH ! You will be a hard example to follow but then how hard can it be with such a loving family :)
    Wish Granpa many more years of health joy and prosperity! God Bless him!:)

  2. Vic, thank you for your enthusiasm and encouragement! One day I have no doubt you will be the same kind of grandparent!

  3. Happy Belated Birthday Grandpa Jim.
    What a nice tribute to your father-in-law.

  4. Dr. John, thank you for your kind words as always!

  5. Hi Vicky...I enjoy coming to your site. I would like to wish Granpa Jim a Happy happy belated birthday...from one teacher to another. He sounds like exactly the kind of teacher I would want for my children. The students LOVE LOVE love the hands-on types of teaching and experiments that he used...and as tribute to him, they have and will always remember him as their favorite teacher. He has touched lives....forever. Happy birthday to Jim!!!

  6. Jackie, thank you for your wonderfully kind words as well! I appreciate your perspective as I know you were a teacher as well! You will have to share more with us sometime about your teaching career :)

  7. Happy Birthday to Mr. Westra!

  8. Happy Birthday to Mr. Westra!

  9. How wonderful that your kids have such a wonderful grandfather.

    Happy Birthday Grandpa Jim!

  10. I think Grandpa Jim sounds amazing not only a great and loved teacher but even more importantly a very beautiful and loving member of your family. You are so right Grandparents are very import. We are a small family and my kids only have 1 Grandmother, my kids spend a lot of time with her and love talking on the phone.
    Happy birthday Grandpa Jim

  11. Thanks Bonnie :)

    Thanks Stephanie :) So True!

    Liss, what would we do without them? So great that you too have a grandparent to your kids so close by and involved .

  12. Happy Birthday Grandpa! Love it!
    I have an award for you!


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