Friday, June 26, 2009

My mother’s pilgrimage to North Dakota

Lois Orstad King
One day back in March or April of this year, my 85-year-old mother told me she’d like to see the farm in northeastern North Dakota where she grew up “one more time.” She and I were sitting in her room at the Rehabilitation Center of Albuquerque, the nursing home where she’s lived since early 2007 after several falls and other health events made it dangerous for her to live alone anymore.

“Well, okay,” I said, mostly kidding, “let’s go to North Dakota for the 4th of July this year. Park River [a town near her family’s farm where she and my dad had lived during the early years of their marriage] is having its 125th reunion then, so we could see a lot of people we know at the same time.”

To be honest, I doubted she’d even consider it since, in previous years, she’d refused my enticements to visit this relative or that in other states.

This time, however, after a quick look of surprise that turned to revelation, she replied with warmth in her voice, “Yes! Let’s!”

Still, I was skeptical, thinking she might be humoring me. But I emailed my five siblings to tell them what she’d said.

Orstad farm, Vesta TownshipTo make a long story short—if it’s not too late for that—several of her children (all of us between 63 and 45, mind you) who spoke to her in the next several weeks confirmed her desire to see the farm where she’d been born and raised. At that point, I started to make the necessary plans.

And so, on July 2, 2009, Mom, my brother David, and I will fly Northwest Airlines nonstop from Albuquerque, NM, to Minneapolis, MN, arriving there around noon. Then we’ll rent a car and drive 304 miles to Grafton, ND, where we have reservations at the AmericInn Motel for the next four nights.

Grafton is a quick 17.1 miles on Highway 17 from Park River, which—with a population of 1,535 as of the 2000 census—has only one motel. I’m told the Alexander House Motel in Park River has been booked for the last year-and-a-half by folks planning to attend the reunion. But, with help from my sister-in-law (-okay: ex-) Gayle Hove King, I found lodging at the Grafton AmericInn.


  1. I put Park River, ND in my google alerts as one of my favorites so anything to do with Park River shows up in my emails. I happened to run across your blog and had to comment.

    I remember your name and Guy King but I think you were a few years ahead of me in school. I graduated in 65. Did you live close to the hospital? Is your mom related to Mrs Meier from PR? I think she told me she was an Orstad. Your mom kind of looks like her. Where was your moms farm? My maiden name was Audrey Jergenson and I lived by the hospital. I am now a Johnson and live only a mile from where I grew up. Sounds like the 4th will be busy here and hope you guys have fun.

  2. Audrey, yes! I remember you. And yes, we used to live close to the hospital. My mom and Phyllis Maier are sisters.

    Thanks for the good wishes. Who knows? Maybe we'll see you while we're in Park River.

    Nancy King