Vitauts Turns 90

Vitauts Turns 90

Have Good Living

It seems like there should be something written here about my dad who turned 90 years old on November 1, 2017. I have done some interviews and recordings with him over the years, and I used one line in the video I made for his party that stands out for me. “My father hugged me and say, ‘Have good living.'”

Dad left his farm just outside the small town of Smiltene, Latvia when he was sixteen, and he didn’t return for about 60 years when everyone he had known was already gone. But I do not think one could argue that he did not have “good living.”

Austra and Vitauts

I was just looking at his old photos and tears welled up in my eyes when I thought about all that he has seen and done in his lifetime. At age 45 (exactly half his age) it really is hard to imagine doing this for another 45 years. Vitauts worked until he was 87. Who does that? He worked full-time at 4 different parishes across Nebraska and worked part-time at a couple more in Omaha and Des Moines, Iowa. Who can even fathom how many people he has served in his years as a pastor?

It was great to see people show up from different congregations for his party at the Yutan Country Club this Sunday. He was smiling in almost every photo, posing with people from his past who all have fond memories of Pastor Grinvalds.

I am not sure if I have unearthed any special connection to my father since I have moved to Latvia, seeking my heritage, but I have begun to understand his and my mother’s ways a little bit more. So many of the little quirks and habits of theirs seem very familiar now that I am surrounded by Latvians.

One quality that Vitauts has that is deeply rooted is his work ethic and drive. In all of his years working to raise his seven children, did I ever hear him complain? Did he ever call in sick? Was he ever not ready for his job? Even on the day I was born, the weekend his oldest son passed away, and even when Liesma died, he was dressed on Sunday doing his job. What a forgotten quality this is as we find ourselves pampered by first-world problems and the constant whining of the modern world.

To look at Vitauts’ life of overcoming one obstacle after another, is to realize that human potential is about effort. Drive and perseverance are two qualities that dad exemplifies like no other person that I have ever met. To hear his stories about almost dying when he was young from a tooth infection, or diseases in displaced persons camps, or his travels across America in search of a better life, is to be inspired.

So this is just a little happy birthday message from Jeff, Vitauts’ youngest son, who can only wish to be half the man at 45 that he was and is.

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