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The Valentine That Gave Me My Valentine

He came from Austria. Dreulach. Or Vorderberg. A place that was always at war. Didn’t stop him from knocking up a woman. Three times, before he fled to America.

Landed in Milwaukee. Finally. A place that needed a carpenter. He settled into his wood shop. Uninsulated. No plumbing. No heat for those sub-zero days. He figured using his hands to work wood—that would keep him warm.

She showed up with three kids in tow. That’s what kept him warm. Or stoked his anger. Or drove him to drink.


He married her. Had two more kids. He gave away his artistry, little Valentine screen repairs, plugs for holes that let Winter in. Nobody would be colder than he was.

Maybe that’s what led to the divorce. A marriage that couldn’t last a brutal winter. Another drift of snow. More icicles on the eaves. Black ice along the front walk.

He slipped into his shop and stayed there, until he couldn’t be alone anymore. Valentine Mitsche, MTM’s great-grandfather, moved in with one of his sons. His ex-wife lived right down the hall.

She followed him everywhere. Or maybe he followed her.

All the way to the end.

24 Comments Post a comment
  1. Carlos Ovalle #

    Wonderful story, reminds me of my grandpa. Like MTM’s great grandpa, he was a carpenter, learned the trade working in a shipyard in Jamaica… or was it Belize? Nobody really knew. A mulatto in any case. Knocked up grandma, then another girl, then another, then another. Never married.
    When I was in college I took a rare trip back home and one day a cousin I hadn’t seen in a decade showed up where I was staying with a kid in arms. “Cute baby, yours?” I inquired. “Meet your newest uncle” she replied. Still busy the old man. He must have been 85 or so at that time.

    February 14, 2014
  2. Remarkable and humbling

    February 14, 2014
  3. Its so easy to be so comfortable and spoiled with the new stuff.
    I always think of my old relatives and say “how could you possibly live like that?!”

    February 14, 2014
  4. I wouldn’t want to discount the brutality of those conditions. I think the strain on relationships would be powerful. Yet they stayed in close proximity. That was probably a practical move, but it’s a tender story despite the rough edges. I love the photograph.

    February 14, 2014
  5. More MTM stories! Actually, it sounds like great-grandfather would be an excellent subject for a book.

    And Happy Valentine’s Day to you both!!

    February 14, 2014
  6. Having that kind of history is amazing, I sometimes wish I knew the history behind my ancestors who came here!

    Nice new banner, btw. Seems I may have seen something like it lately. 😉

    February 14, 2014
  7. Similar immigrant stories surely are told around many-a-table each day, Andra. At first, I feel sad with hardship, then, one can’t help but admire the pure grit of both Valentine and his wife.

    February 14, 2014
  8. Someday I hope you retire as the town historian, chronicling the fascinating lives of those around you. I love love love what you dig up, and how you present it. You truly have a gift for making what could be presented as just the plain facts as something that reads like a bestselling novel.
    I’d buy this whole story.

    February 14, 2014
  9. Wow. What a story! The irony is incredible. A guy named Valentine who was cold at heart. I’m glad MTM didn’t inherit that.

    February 14, 2014
  10. His hands. Those are serious tools.

    February 14, 2014
  11. Your story reminds me the lives my parents and grandparents once lived. What happened to us? Will future generations one day look back on us with wonder and awe because of our hardships?

    February 14, 2014
  12. Both sad and uplifting…depending upon your vantage point.

    Not such a leap from carpentry to architecture, but world’s apart in other things. Happy Valentine’s Day to you both.

    February 14, 2014
  13. Happy Valentines Day to you and MTM. And to Great Grandpa Valentine, too.

    February 14, 2014
  14. tarakianwarrior #

    It’s amazing how we survive and DON’T become our parents. Pain yes, but MTM seems to have a beautiful spirit…which is why you picked each other – two beautiful spirits (and I don’t mean the drinking kind…well, maybe I do…) 🙂 Happy Valentine’s Day you two lovebirds!

    February 14, 2014
  15. “Negotiations and love songs are often mistaken for one and the same” — Paul Simon

    February 14, 2014
  16. Well told.

    A Happy Valentine to one of my favorite couples… The Cootchie Mama and the ever patient MTM.

    February 14, 2014
  17. That’s a very interesting story, Andra. Not a love story, but it ended up as one with you and MTM. Happy V-Day and I got your mail today. The post office rushed it to me in six days. :-p

    February 14, 2014
  18. I like reading your stories very much 🙂 I hope the walk is going well…uhmm…have been out of the loop for some weeks now 😛

    February 14, 2014
  19. happy valentine’s day to you and mtm, what an interesting history and his hands look huge in the picture. )

    February 14, 2014
  20. He must have told her where he was, it couldn’t have been easy back then to find someone who didn’t want to be found. What a tale, he looks like a tough guy.

    February 15, 2014
  21. #

    Thats some story- my goodness you had my complete attention !

    February 15, 2014
  22. I am endlessly curious about the stories of those who have gone before me. I so wish they had written more things down. But if they had then i wouldn’t get to imagine their stories. Great post.

    February 16, 2014
  23. That line between love and hate is always so blurry…

    February 18, 2014
    • Extreme emotions, both. They turn on a dime sometimes.

      February 18, 2014

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