|My father in a work photo during his graphic art career|
Happy birthday, Teti! Tetis (tevs) ... father in Latvian ... my father, artist Viestarts Aistars, is celebrating his 86th birthday today. And that's a big deal. To me, my family, and, of course, to my father.
|My father's father, writer Ernests Aistars|
I wouldn't mind, however, if my father becomes the new record holder. He is our family patriarch, and we adore him. A gentle man, deeply creative, painting and drawing since his boyhood days in Latvia, he has molded a legacy of art over his lifetime. He was born in Dobele, Latvia, the eldest of four brothers, the son of Latvian writer, Ernests Aistars, and lifelong teacher, Lidija Sulte-Aistars. The Aistars family escaped the country in 1944 as the Soviet armies invaded, killing Latvians in horrific numbers, destroying property, leaving a trail of blood and destruction.
That's one of the reasons I so treasure the few photos we have of my father and his family from those long ago years. On foot, through forests, boarding small boats in the night on the Baltic shores, jumping on trains, taking along only what the family could carry, I imagine those photographs being carried through that nightmare to safety. Finally, the photos, with the family, traveled across the ocean from the displaced persons camps in Germany to the United States.
|My great-grandfather and grandfather|
|My father graduating from Art Institute of Chicago|
|My parents on their engagement day, my maternal grandfather in back|
|My parents' wedding day, May 12, 1951|
|That's me, with my father's self-portrait|
|My father, about 1 year old|
|My father holding his granddaughter, 1980|
We find a few photos from as far back as the days of my great-grandfathers, although we find no images of my great-grandmothers. Perhaps we still will. There are more boxes hidden away in closets, under other belongings, and it's a treasure hunt to find them again.
|My paternal grandmother's father|
|My great-grandfather at far left, wearing a dark cap|
|My great-grandfather at center, back to camera|
|My father with his youngest brother|
I see my father in his father, and my grandfather uncannily similar to his father before him. So we move from generation to generation, carrying our ancestors along with us, a part of us. Their blood runs in our veins today, and will flow in the veins of the yet unborn.
|My father during refugee years, with sketchpad|
|My mother and sister with Dad during his military service in France|
|Four brothers (l-r): Viestarts, Raits, Janis, Aivars|
|My paternal grandmother|
It has not been easy, these past few weeks, helping my parents as their medical needs and growing years called for more assistance. My father has been advised not to drive by his doctors, at least for now, until he regains strength from his recent health issues. That means transport has been up to me, and it has taken a bite out of my time and my ability to keep up with my workload. I've had my moments, admittedly, of panic, wondering how I will keep everything together. I was at full capacity before, working most every day, including weekends. How to manage this now?
Yes, some things have been forced to the side. My garden is full of weeds, some of my vegetable plants have died of neglect. I have had to reschedule work assignments, although I have not yet, thankfully, missed any deadlines. I have even worked on my computer while sitting in doctors' waiting rooms, while my father was undergoing various tests. And I've happily acquired several new clients. It's been a challenge.
None of us will be here forever. How precious are these days, each and every one. I can't imagine my life without my parents as a part of our family gatherings, coming by to visit me at Z Acres, calling me on the phone, being a presence in my days. Peering into those faraway faces in the boxes of family history, I can only think how quickly time races by, and how lucky we are, how richly blessed, who have the chance to grow old, have our hair turn white, and watch our younger generations blossom and take their turn.
Daudz laimes, Tetin. Happy birthday to my dear father. Many more.
|Mama and Dad, reading a birthday card|