December 7, 2002

Dear Friends and Family,

This past year has been a hard one for me with the loss of my dear father in May and Merlin's stepmother Gladys in April. Dad's life was long and full and always an example of loving and giving. Gladys took my two daughters into her heart and made my day, because they got to know a grandmother's love because of her. What my mother taught me holds true: you do not need to be blood to be family.

In July we went to Camarillo (Southern California) for a visit with our future in-laws, Stan and Alice Slaton, to celebrate Danny's brother Ryan passing the Bar Exam. It was a wonderful way to meet all of Danny's family and friends. It was a great party and, since Stephanie wasn't there to be embarrassed, Mom did a little dancing to the band. I must say my daughters know how to pick great families to marry into. From Camarillo we went to Manhattan Beach and visited my cousins Bart and Leslie, Marilyn, Elaine, Suzanne, and of course Zack and Hannah. I could take living by the beach but not three flights of stairs. A good time was had by all.

Two milestones achieved this August: at 62 I filed for Social Security, and Merlin wrote his last college tuition check. Here you see the advantage of marrying late--you already worked enough years for Social Security--and the disadvantage--no early golden years as you are still paying tuition.

In October we were able to go to visit our daughter Jenn and her husband Mark in New Jersey. Autumn in the eastern part of the country is so lush. Where Jenn lives is 15 minutes from Philadelphia and two hours from New York City so we did both. In Philadelphia I got to see my cousins Paul and Kathy and their daughter Jessica. Merlin's father met us in New York and we visited cousin Myra and saw a Broadway play. No, I did not run up the steps of the Philadelphia museum, I am too old to be Rocky, but we saw where everyone takes pictures and if you get there it is a fabulous museum. Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell--God, it's great to be an American. To report on the newlyweds, they are still gaga over each other and making it work.

Merlin and I went to Boise, Idaho, for Thanksgiving with my best friend Becky and her whole family. Stephanie and Danny joined us. Boise is fabulous and I enjoyed the cold crisp clean air. We also celebrated the first night of Chanukah there. For us this was keeping a 17-year tradition of combining our families for Thanksgiving. Hearing the girls giggling, the boys clomping around, and all spoiling Becky's granddaughter Kira makes you realize all the blessings of this time of year.

Going home to Denver for Dad's funeral reminded me of Grandpa Alex's Christmas table. It is now half empty but it is also still half full. So, dear cousins Elaine, Shirley, Milt and Charlene, Eddie and Leroy (my first crushes), Ron and Aggie, Pat and Don and Darlene, Joyce and Jerry, we are now the half that must keep the beautiful bond together. May all of our children know the closeness and love we shared at Grampie's table. Marsha, Gene, and I will always feel that glow.

For the New Year I pray for a country at peace, for health and happiness, for all of us to be able to enjoy our families. Enclosed is a copy of a magazine page I thought you would enjoy. I had it framed for my hallway.


Sandy, Merlin, and Stephanie