Monday, March 21, 2011

Ol' Doc Siegfried does not look 90!

Sundays around here are usually pretty quiet days filled with laundry, cleaning catch-up, and other assorted chores. But not this Sunday. This one was special. We were gathering to celebrate Grandpa Sieg's 90th birthday.

My father-in-law has been living with us for a while now, and over the course of the last two years I have come to know and truly appreciate my husband's father. He is the salt of the earth, the kinda guy on which you can always depend, rock solid and nuts'n'bolts practical. He has seen it all, survived to talk about it, and you have to stand back and admire that resilience.

Lt JG Francis E. Siegfried
Just being born on a farm in Renville County in 1921 was enough to give anyone a steel spine.  But Franny wasn't about to be confined by the farm and went out of town to attend high school before he did the most unexpected thing: he went to college to become a teacher. The war got in the way, and he joined the Navy V-7 program that allowed him to finish college before heading off to Notre Dame to become an officer. As a Lieutenant JG, he shipped off on an ocean-going LCI. He crossed the Atlantic and was in the Mediterranean in time to witness the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius before heading for England. He was a navigator during the second wave of landings on Omaha Beach. And if that wasn't enough, when Europe was over, he was sent to the Pacific via the Panama Canal. He was off Okinawa awaiting battle orders when the Japanese surrendered on August 15th, 1945 (in the US, however, it was still August 14th.)

June 5, 1947
Mustered out in  January of '46, he returned to Minnesota and took at job teaching high school in Hanska, where he helped his college friend Marilyn Owen find a job teaching English and PE for fall semester '46... they got married in June of 1947.

Somewhere along the line, Franny was dropped and my father-in-law became Sieg. And it was Sieg who was accepted to the University of Minnesota veterinarian program for the fall of 1949.

Steve and his dad
Steve was born on May 29th, 1953, and a couple of weeks later, Sieg became Doc Siegfried.

My father-in-law is a retired big animal vet. Dogs and cats are just not his thing. He knows about cows. And horses. And, oddly enough, chickens. He's the only recorded case of a human having contracted Newcastle diseases..a poultry kind of thing.  He worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for most of his career, and oh, the stories he can tell. To this city girl, they are fascinating, scary, and make me strongly consider becoming a vegetarian!

We lost Steve's mom while I was pregnant with the junior son, but Pop was lucky enough to find love twice more...the first time, albeit sadly and so briefly, with Helen, and then with Vivian. He lost them, too, but managed to keep his feet firmly planted in the land of the living, something both Steve and I watched with great respect for his unflagging fortitude.

Grandpa, Misha, and Steve
When Vivian died, and it became clear that his eyesight was failing, we decided to ask him to come live with us. There was never a moment's hesitation, and I am forever thankful that we made that decision. The boys really got to know their grandfather and he got to know them. There is no substitute for that.

LeAnna, Dave, and Grandpa
Pop has buried three wives, and lost his only child. I don't know how he managed to stay upright. But he did and he made sure I was upright, too. My father-in-law has be an incredible pillar of support for me these past two years. He was beside me, in Steve's place, to walk Dave down the aisle to his own wedding.

So, we had an in-gathering o'guys this weekend. Misha flew in from Milwaukee, Dave and LeAnna were home from their holiday in Mexico, and we convened here for dinner on Sunday afternoon. There was a turkey (whose real purpose was to be turned into turkey soup after the fact) and stuffing, and the long awaited German Chocolate Cake.

90 is nothing to sneeze at.  My own Dad is 90. And today, my father-in-law joins him in that august company. Any day we get to laugh is a good day. Any day we get to sit down to dinner and split a Bass Ale is a good day. Between the two of us, we certainly could muddle into maudlin but we've decided against that. Nope. We're going to laugh whenever we can.

Happy Birthday, Pop! And here's to a whole bunch more!

Wifely Person's Tip o' the Week
Know someone turning 90?
The gift of your time is the best present possible.


  1. Loved it. Send our birthday greetings to Sieg.

  2. Happy Birthday, Sieg.


  3. I spoke with Seig today and promised to call him again in another 10 years -- when he turns 100.

    It's incredible that your father and your father-in-law turned 90 less than 8 weeks apart from each other. I am so happy for both of them!

    BTW why is it "Seig" and not "Sieg"?

    Signed "Anonymuos"

  4. A lovely and inspiring posting, Susan.
    You are all very lucky to have each other.

  5. lovely piece transforming sorrow into real joy

  6. Kathryn sends a very belated "Happy Birthday" to Seig. Really enjoyed your blog and appreciated the photo you sent. Terrific cake!!

  7. The Wifely PersonMay 25, 2011 at 10:45 PM

    I will relay the message...thank you!