Saturday, June 25, 2011


Dick & Caryl (Nasby) Jorgensen, Barb (Jorgensen) and Phil Lewison, Betty
(Jorgensen) and Jeff Rohr,  having just watered the "Vi & Jorgie Tree"

Our parents, Violet and Leon (Jorgie) Jorgensen, left to their children the legacy of a family cabin. Oh, they left us no property or building; what they bequeathed to us was the kind of family they built: Kids who grew up knowing we were loved unconditionally (and completely equally, regardless of the fact that we try to tell little Bobby that he was the favorite); kids who had chores to do (although Dicky would often disappear at dishwashing time); kids who grew into the kind of adults who continue to share that same love, who communicate openly, who forgive easily.

It may sound like I’m trying to boast about the kind of people we are, but I really am intending to say a word about the kind of family Vi and Jorgie made. I’m tempted to fall back on one of those old sentimental recipes: “Pour in a heap o’ love, stir in a generous dollop of hard work (but just a soupçon of money), season with a sprinkling of careful discipline, and marinate in the word o’ God….” As the product of this recipe, I have nothing to brag about; I’m just grateful.

Although our parents had a copy of Dr. Spock on their bookshelf (and I have nothing against child-rearing books), I do not, on reflection, have the impression that they were experimenting on us kids with the latest child development theories. They seemed to know in their bones – or from the traditions of the no-nonsense second and third-generation Scandinavian immigrant families in which they’d grown up – that this is how you raise kids. The chief ingredient – love – was no theory; it was a given – inherited, no doubt, from their parents.

I didn’t mean for this to turn into an essay on parenting skills. (That’s a-brewing.) I started to say that the kids of Vi and Jorgie now love and accept each other and that this, more than our mingled meager finances, is what has allowed us to happily share a family place in the Black Hills for over twenty-five years. (Our brother, Bob, of Jorgensen Log Homes, who built the cabin, was invited into the partnership, but said, “Why should I buy in; I can sneak out there any time I want.”)

Every once in a while, when hearing of our shared endeavor, someone will say that they’re not sure if they could pull this off in their family. We tell them that there are strategies we’ve developed to make it work: A partnership agreement, regular meetings, and an acknowledgement that we don’t make assumptions. (Like “I’m sure my sisters will love the framed picture of brother Dick over the mantle.”) We take a consensus vote almost every time we want to buy a new case of toilet paper. At our meetings we talk, we laugh, we’ve even cried. But the main strategy is that we are the children of Vi and Jorgie…

… and that we are the children of our spouses’ parents: Albert and Ardea Lewison, Olive and Bob Nasby, Wardean and Elmer Jeffries Rohr.  (We are the legacy, that is, of parents with some pretty funny names.) As with the sentimental recipe, above, I am also tempted to say that there may have been, in fact, something about their generation: emerging from a depression and a world war to build a country – and a family.

We’re planting memorial trees to our parents in the valley in which our cabin sits. These thoughts were inspired by the picture, above, of the six of us gathered around the Vi and Jorgie tree.

One of my mantras in ministry is that there are no perfect families – and all of ours are far from it. But these four families, at least, seemed to have this in common: The love described by Paul in First Corinthians, a love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” We now-graying kids of Vi and Jorgie and Olive and Bob and Albert and Ardea and Wardean and Big Jeff are the beneficiaries of this love. We hope to pass it – and a cabin – on to our kids.

More reflections on building the cabin.

We, the children of Vi & Jorgie, etc. are also no dummies. We augment those "meager finances" by renting the cabin and 74 acres out to close personal friends. Happy to talk to you about it.


Beret said...

Beautiful. I often think of how lucky Anna and I are to have grown up in and around this kind of family.

Warren Hanson said...

This is a wonderful piece, Dick. There has always been a secret ingredient in the Jorgensen family recipe, an honest and apparent love which is not always so evident in other families. That's one lucky little tree.