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A Visit

My father’s father arrived in New York to stay in 1904. He’d lived and worked there earlier with his brother Nils, I surmised, reviewing records from Ellis Island. My cousin Astrid once speculated that the death of two siblings and a woman’s rejection sent him abroad for good. I joined his much-delayed return to Norway in 1949, when I was two. (My father was sent to live there for a year when he was eight, which was why he was always so close to the family.)
My great-grandfather, after whom both my grandfather and my father were named, was a publisher and insurance man whose pull-down maps swept northern Europe, lifting him and his family into the prosperous upper-middle class. My grandmother, who my grandfather met in New York, was from Stavanger. A cousin from that side is still alive, my sister told me—the last of my father’s generation. On his father’s side, the death of my cousin Elsie—the matriarch of that part of my family—marked the end. 
When I learned that she'd died at th…

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