Groundhog Day, 1989

Dear Friends-and-Relations,

Dilton Church, Westbury, county Hampshire, England, 1 April 1638:
Samuel Haines and Ellenor Neate were united in Holy Matrimony.

Dilton Church, Westbury, county Hampshire, England, 23 August 1988:
Philip Hodge and Thea Drell Hodge stood here and reaffirmed their love which had first been formalized 3 January 1943.

The relevance of these events to each other is that I am the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson of Samuel and Ellenor. I had previously established this fact by first finding a brief biography of my great-grandfather Marvin Grow Hodge in a history of Rockland County, Wisconsin. That biography had identified his wife’s parents as John Kellam and Deborah Haines. I then found that someone had obligingly written a Haines genealogy which began with Samuel and Ellenor and gave the complete chain to Deborah.

Knowledge of the names of one set of my great7-grandparents is just a dry fact. But we have actually stood in the very same aisle of the very same church in the very same village in the very same county in the very same country in which they had plighted their troth over 300 years ago. Suddenly Samuel and Ellenor have become people, rather than mere names. I wish I knew more about them. I know that they emigrated to Dover, New Hampshire, where he became a Deacon and their first son Samuel (my great6 – grandfather) was born in 1646. But I don’t know who their parents were or whether they had brothers and sisters present at their wedding. Still, among my 500 or so great7-grandparents, those two have now become quite special.

Special, but not unique. Last August, before attending the XVIII International Congress of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics at Grenoble, France, and we spent 9 days in England. Our original plan had been to spend most of our time in libraries and County Record Offices amassing more dry facts about my ancestors. Indeed, we started off that way by going to the CRO in Westbury where we found the original handwritten church register at Dilton:

From 1585 to 1676
Johannes Bradish
vic. de Dilton 1645 March 25

A register booke of the Christenings Weddings and Burialls of Dilton from the first yeare of the reigne of our soveraigne Ladye Elizabeth ____ this present … 1600. Collected and written by Griffen Lewes ministertheare the first day of October 1600

Anno Domini 1638

William Hicketts and Jane Pierce were marryed the first day of April
Samuell Haines and Elienor Neate were marryed the same day

But we didn’t find much else there, and it was still daylight, so we got directions for finding the “old church” at Dilton. After following the turns from main roads to side roads to back roads to a one-lane dirt track, we found it. A simple building in the perpendicular architecture (square tower, rather than pointed steeple) with an austere interior. Over 300 years old, and now a National Trust. Not famous for anything, not elegant, but somehow typical of rural England at its best. And, very personal.

Well, we talked it over in our hotel room in Basingstoke that night and made a change of plans. We did spend part of our time in CRO’s, and I did find a few more ancestors, but the memorable parts of our week were our visits to churches in Wherwell (where Theodota Batcheler was baptised in 1596), Piddlehinton (where John Ford married Joanne Beck in 1583), Upway (where Walter Haight married Elizabeth St. John in 1638), Charleton Mackerell (where Henry Adams (ancestor of two presidents and of me) married Edith Squire in 1609), Barton St. David (where his father John Adams married Agnes Stone about 1580), Sundon (where Edward Bottsford married Alice Pryor in 1606), and Chalgrave (where his father Henry Bottsford married Neyle ___ in 1569).

Indeed, that was all such fun that after the Congress we went to the Atlantic coast of France. There we took pictures of the Huguenot Temples in La Rochelle and nearby San Martin where three generations of Durand ancestors were baptised and married before the persecutions forced my great6-grandfather Dr. John Durand to emigrate to Connecticut. Not content with that, we took advantage of our visit to Sue and family in New Jersey to take our picture in the First Dutch Reformed Church of Hackensack, New Jersey, where my great5-grandparents, Isaac van Deusen and Elizabeth Rosenboom were married on 14 December 1723.

Well, enough about me and my genealogy. Tell me about you. Are you related to any of my ancestors?

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One of the few clouds on a generally wonderful year was the death from cancer of my friend and colleague Abe Berman. Abe was almost exactly my age. He and I had both started partial retirement in the fall of 1987, but he never lived to enjoy it. I grieve for him and his widow, and I am humble and grateful for my own good health.

I am hoping that Thea will write her own page this year, not only to tell you about the joys of a job where her authority exceeds her responsibility (after years in which the converse was true), but also to tell you about her exciting adventure with our son Philip. Meanwhile, let me tell you about my grandchildren (and their parents).

This has been an eventful year for Sue and her family, with both high points and low points. When I wrote last year she was expecting to provide us with a third grandchild in a few months. Alas, it was not to be. In. March she got the results of the amniocentesis, and they showed unmistakeably that the fetus had Down’s Syndrome.

At age 41, of course, the probability of a genetic irregularity, though still small, is finite. That is why they had had the test, and their decision was already made. April and Miriam are two lovely and talented children; Sue and David are both fully committed to and enjoying successful research careers. It would be no favor to anyone–neither to the existing family of four, nor to the potential Down’s child to bring it into existence.

It was obvious what the decision should be. But that did not mean it was easy to implement it or to get on with life after the abortion was done. It has been a very difficult time for her emotionally, but things seem to be getting back to normal now.

Seeing what Sue has been through, I have no use for those on either side of the question who claim that abortion is a simple issue. It is tremendously complex in its emotional and ethical consequences, and I have absolutely no sympathy with those who have the arrogance to try to force their decisions on anyone else.

The good news is that Sue and David have both found new positions in which they are both very happy. Quite independently, Sue received an offer from Columbia University Medical School, and David received one from Mt. Sinai Research Center. Sue is now Professor of Clinical Public Health in the departments of Biostatistics and Psychiatry where she does primarily research in genetics with as much or little teaching as she wishes; David is Associate Professor in Biomathematics and Psychiatry where he does only research. They have left Los Angeles with no regrets from either a living or working viewpoint. Their large three-story house is in a quiet and congenial neighborhood at (address deleted – ed.). Commuting for Sue is a 20 minute bus ride across the George Washington Bridge, with a longer commute by car for David. April and Miriam seem to be adjusting to the change. They have both made new friends and appear to have good teachers in good schools.

From our viewpoint, of course, we now accumulate even more World Perks from Northwest Airlines (that’s the optimistic way of stating it). In previous years we could visit both daughters with a leisurely 400 mile drive along the Pacific Coast as a separator. This December our trip began with a flight to Newark where we had a great visit with Sue and family. Their new house not only has a dedicated guest room, but it’s on a separate floor with its own bathroom. A week later and we were on an all-day plane trip in which we were first driven along Interstate 280 from Teaneck to Newark airport, flew to Minneapolis (!) where we changed planes, flew to San Francisco, and were finally driven along Interstate 280 to the Kellys’ house in Sunnyvale California.

As usual, we thoroughly enjoyed our week with Lisa and Bill. Actually, by a strange quirk, during the first few days we visited with only Lisa because Bill was working in Minneapolis and living in our house!

The ups and downs for Lisa and Bill this year have been both different and similar to those of Sue and David. Since shortly after they were married two and a half years ago, they have been trying to have a baby. At first their response to queries on the subject was a light-hearted “No, but we’re practicing,” but as month after unsuccessful month has gone by, they are having to face the fact that they may remain an infertile couple. They desperately want to be parents, and, in my unbiased opinion, they’d make damn good ones, but so far Nature has refused to cooperate. They’ve both had all sorts of tests and minor surgery which indicate that there are problems and the problems may or may not be solvable.

The emotional despair of maybe not being able to have children is really made worse by that word “maybe.” There’s no question but that their first preference is for Lisa to become pregnant “in the usual way.” As long as that remains even a faint possibility, it’s not easy for them to figure out what their second choice would be. The various modern techniques for having a baby all their own in other than the usual way are time-consuming, expensive, emotionally debilitating, and (most important) have only low probability of success. And, if even those are not successful, which remaining alternative do they choose: adoption or remaining child-free the rest of their lives?

Their trauma is not as dramatically focused as Sue’s was, but, perhaps for that very reason, has been just as emotionally devasting. I admire them for how well they are coping. They’ve joined Resolve, a national support organization, and Bill is an officer of the local section. They talk with and write to others with the same problem, discuss the alternatives, trade information, and gain strength from seeing how others resolve the problem. They have our love and sympathy.

Their good news has a similar relation to that of Sue and David in that it is job related, but that it is not as focused. They are expanding the consulting work they have been doing with our son Phil, and the three of them are thinking about forming their own corporation. So far, they have only written specific computer programs under contract to particular companies, but they are planning to write an ambitious multipurpose engineering program and market it to all takers. Meanwhile, as I write this, Bill is still working full-time for Thea’s former employer Cray Research, and Lisa is still doing some work for Bill’s former employer, Zero-One. Who knows what they’re doing now as you read this?

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Having shared with you some of the elation I’ve found from my genealogy this year, it’s only fair to close out this good-news:bad-news sort of letter by sharing the nadir of my hobby. According to an interview with the well-known genealogist Gary Boyd Roberts who is writing a book on the ancestry of American Presidents, George Bush and Danforth Quayle have an ancestor in common: one James Hamlin who died in Barnstable MA in 1690. And (you’ve guessed it), that same James Hamlin is my great6-grandfather. Oh, the shame of it!

May those of you who share my ancestry bear up well under this adversity, and may the rest of you with only purer genes soften your hearts so that you will still be willing to call me your friend


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Dear Relatives and Friends:

For a change of focus, this is Thea writing now.

Generally, I stay away from commercially-created “holidays”, but Mother’s Day this year coincided with a very special week-end for me. I spent the week-end in Beaver, PA, where regular readers of this epistle know that our son, Philip (also known as PT), lives and has his engineering consulting office. He is a member of the Beaver Valley Flying Club and has both his VFR and IFR licenses for small planes. That week-end in May, PT, his close friend Joy (Joyce Layton), and I flew in a Cessna 172 from Beaver to Springfield, Ohio, rented a car, and drove the few miles to Antioch College in Yellow Springs. There was something truly special about being flown to visit my alma mater by one of my children. My last visit to campus was by car to watch our eldest, Sue, graduate. Phil has not been back since then. The campus this year shows much improvement: it’s relatively clean, there are some new buildings and a big map showing plans for more; there’s a new swimming pool but the gym where we held our iv Dances is, I’m sorry to say, not as glamorous as I remember it! We have met twice with the almost-new president, are well-impressed with him, and feel optimistic about Antioch’s future.

But back to that week-end. We took some pictures of my former haunts and cruised around a bit. PT and Joy were patient as I talked non-stop about what happened “here” and what happened “there” and what it was like listening to Bolero on the lawn in front of Main Building. They were in fact very kind! We had supper at the Tavern and flew home after dark. Lovely.

Another significant event of that week-end was the opportunity PT gave me to fly the plane. He chose a moment when the air was calm, we were on course, and we had no company in the sky, to turn the controls over to me. I was so excited that I almost forgot to breathe. I discovered that flying a plane is a problem in 3-dimensional physics and I really only was able to control 2 at a time! It was wonderful and exhilarating. PT is encouraging me to take lessons but I know that I haven’t the patience for the study and the planning that go into each flight, not to mention the hundreds of hours of practice landings (touch&go’s) and emergency maneuvers just for the first license. But I also know that I will go flying with him again any day I can. There is nothing quite like being up among the fluffy clouds under a blue sky and looking down on the wee people and buildings below. I was queen of the mountain.

Lest you think that we spent our whole 3½ weeks in Europe in County Record Offices and dusty old churches, I should mention that we took time to do some of the less business-like things that we enjoy doing. We sat in the square of Old Grenoble for drinks and watched the strollers. In August Grenoble is a popular vacation spot for the French themselves and for southern Germans, so we did not hear much English and little American except from our fellow attendees at the Congress. We rode the Telepherique across the river to the top of the nearby hills. Phil explored the caves where some of the French Resistance had held out. While Phil attended meetings, I walked the old part of town. We rode La Grande Vitesse; that’s the model I wish American trains would follow. We explored the historic island of Ile du Re off the Atlantic Coast of France, again in the company of non-Americans. We particularly enjoyed the sunny cool weather; having survived the midwest drought, we did not need the sun but we did need the coolness and we especially liked the rain in England. We spent some time at Stonehenge. We took several hundred pictures. On an earlier trip to England, actually to Cornwall, we had walked along hedgerows and country lanes to reach a particularly well-known inn for lunch. More of that kind of scheduled walk would have been fun but 9 days of rain in England !!!

To our surprise some of our close friends are reaching serious retirement time. Can we be that old? Bob Plunkett retired last June and Phil did the planning and arranging for the Plunkett Retirement Party, as well as acting the part of the MC. It was good fun for me; all I had to do was comment and editorialize on Phil’s plans; I had no responsibility. But, despite the tremendous amount of work involved in putting together a sit-down dinner for almost 100 people, with lots of “toasts and roasts,” and arranging for a unique gift, Phil seemed to enjoy it immensely. He is a very good organizer and remarkably relaxed about it all, even the speeches.

A truly fascinating year at my office. Those of you who are in academia and/or read the Chronicle of Higher Education know that the University of Minnesota received a lot of publicity this past year. The school set out to raise $300 million; when all the pennies were counted, we had $364 million, a record for a public university. On the other side of the coin, due to a tempest-in-a-teapot that should not have occurred, within a few months of each other our president and all of the vice-presidents resigned or, to paraphrase Shakespeare, had resignation thrust upon them! In the Department of Computer Science we continued on our way, pretending that none of this was occurring at the higher levels. A large industry grant for departmental computer laboratory equipment, that I seek as one part of my job, came through and we succeeded in getting matching funds from the University despite the turmoil above. So, half-a-million down, six-and-a-half million to go!

But that’s only part of my job. As a former department manager in industry, I can and do represent our department head in some of the activities that fit under the general category of “moving the department forward,” in particular in our contacts with industry. That is a large part of my job, and very interesting it is. This quarter I am back to working 3 days a week after a lapse into full time through-out most of the fall quarter.

For the new year, we wish you all a successful year with only happy occurrences. Haven’t we been promised a kinder gentler nation?