Linenger's Letters to his Son

January 26, 1997
"Just a normal American
"

Dear John Bartmann Linenger:

Such a big name for a 14 month old. Bartmann was Mommy's maiden name. I sort of wanted to name you Bart-- close to her family name and after the mischievous cartoon character "Bart Simpson"--a young boy who is always getting into trouble. I like him. A boy should be adventurous, should push the limits a bit, and should not be afraid to try new things. Anyway, I was vetoed and sounder minds prevailed.

I still feel like a boy. Space is one fantastic adventure. We are pushing the limits. On the frontier. Pioneering. Close to the edge. And I am privileged to be up here representing our country. I feel that strongly.

I've made it through launch. Seven million pounds of thrust. Docking. Two huge spacecraft coming together at 17,500 miles per hour. Undocking. A good-bye to my American crewmates aboard the most sophisticated spaceship to ever fly. And now keeping the life support systems running for the next five months on the space station, in order to survive. One great adventure, but a dangerous one.

So, I want to pass down to you some information on your roots, just in case. Shoot, every parent should write this stuff down for their kids-- life can be short. I'll just cover my half, Mommy will have to tell you her side of the story.

Your Great-grandparents: Pusavc's and Linengers. Grandpa P. came to America from Slovenia. He was a shoemaker. And I mean that literally: he learned how to make shoes in Austria, then immigrated to America and set up a shoeshop in Chicago. I think they dropped a few letters from his name on Staten Island-- but, hey, he was just glad to be here. And he hitched a train to Chicago, hobo style.

Grandma P. is now 92 and sharp as ever. You already met her. Of course, she was Slovenian also. Chicago was famous for its ethnic neighborhoods in the 1920's. Capone never shot at them.

The Linengers came from Germany. Settled near Detroit. Building inspector and housewife with lots of kids. For the most part, still in the Detroit area. Their kids had lots of kids, and to a large part account for the "great launch migration" to Florida, where our 1200 launch guests overwhelmed quiet Cocoa Beach for the 81 launch. Seems that they were all so glad to see me gone (and I mean off the planet gone) for 5 months that they came down to celebrate!

Grandparents: You missed Grandpa. I miss my dad. Died in 1990. He was a telephone man and a great father. Best man I've ever known. I want to be like him for you, John. We'll be playing "catch" a lot and I'll be at all your games, all your banquets, and all your graduations.

Grandma L. you know--she's the one who watched you every time we returned to Houston for experiment training. Great mom. Five children. Between her and Dad she managed to get all five of us through college. Your Uncle Kenny, barely.

Those are your roots, John. I'll tell you more about myself in the next letter--but in general, I'm just a normal American. Very proud father. Lots of going to school (my theory: eventually something will sink in). Lucky man to be married to your mother. Twenty years service in our United States Navy. Work in space. And can't wait for the arrival of your brother or sister.

Be good my son. Heard you'll soon be back in Star City, Russia. Dress warmly, I saw lots of white down there out the window today.

Love,
Dad.

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