When Dad Died…

…a couple of years ago, I was home for his last week in this life. He had lived alone for a year and did a commendable job with clearing-out Mom’s things; she having passed away a year before. Having always said he loved life, it was now Dad’s turn to leave us. I think, as circumstances were, he was confused, sad, frustrated and scared that last week.

Once, the minister was there doing his job; seeing if he could be of help. I overheard him saying that things will be all right and Dad replying in a very horse voice, “I truly hope so”.

Thinking back, Dad had lived a hard life. Beaten as a child by a dominant father, struggling as a boy through the Great Depression and being bullied, having barely gotten through school. The last year, as I would call him every week, he would talk about things. Things that was personal and fond to him. Like being on the Gerber Farm.

Dad talked about being at the Gerber Farm and how much he enjoyed it. John and Ida Gerber owned the farm and had one son, Frank. The farm was somewhere near Alliance, Oh. Dad was there between 12 and 16 years of age (during the 1930’s) and would live several weeks during the year with the Gerbers, sort of to ease the situation at his own home. As he talked, he seemed to think of them as second parents. He was just like a member of the family, went to church with them, had dinners and it was a get-away for him and, perhaps, a pleasant alternative from his life with his real family.

Sometimes, he would be with them even on holidays and school breaks but most of the time it was summers and as a helper. He would take a trolley or train from Massillon to Alliance or that Dad’s father, Albertum (Burt), would arrange alternate ways.

As he spoke of the Gerbers, he had a nice sparkle in his eye, one of remembrance. He said he would really want to go back up there to see what the place looked like, just one more time.

He had a good relationship with these people, except Frank who would play tricks on this “helper”. John and Ida would give Dad clothes to wear and, as Dad said, they took the time to teach him important things, both with being a farm helper and about life in general. Dad was responsible with keeping the barn clean and keeping things straight. John had often told Dad that he did a good job and was a very good worker.

Once, when Dad arrived to the farm, John Gerber had bought 100 baby chicks, or “peeps” for one dollar. He gave these to Dad to do with, as he wanted. Well, Dad liked the peeps and had no idea about what to do with them. People nearby knew about his peeps and asked Dad what he was going to do with them? Dad didn’t know other than that he had to take care of them, and that’s what he was going to do.

Because of his other chores, Ida said she could take care of them for Dad but would want pay for her work. Dad said that was O.K. and laughed at this, because he didn’t have any money and so the deal wouldn’t be any problem.

Ida took care of the chicks as they grew. She fed them. After a time, when the chicks were older, she killed them, picked the feathers off, sold some but prepared the rest as meals for themselves. She sat down with Dad and, in black and white, showed him all the costs. She tallied the initial investment, her labour, the cost of feed and a pen for them as well as what she had sold. Dad got a very good lesson in business economy from this.

When it was all counted up after expenditures, Dad had made a profit of four and a half dollars. Dad smiled and said, “it was a chunk of money for those times.”

dad_img-copyAs a father with a family, Dad always had his heart “ out in the country”. Whether it was the houses we lived in, the baling of hay as boys at “the old farmhouse”, Kidron auctions, tomato gardens, new mown hay or smell of manure being spread on the fields at springtime, the country never left Dad. It was that single sparkle that fathers keep in their shirt pockets, when real life can be cruel; when life doesn’t turn out like one wishes.

For myself, I miss Dad! I miss chatting with him over the phone. I miss listening to him reminisce. I miss his subtle humor. I miss his postcards; his Christmas cards, his letters, his bundles of paper, his awkward handwriting. I miss…

He’s resting with Mom at Stanwood cemetery now. But, more so, I truly hope things “became all right” for him and he’s elsewhere…on a farm…enjoying it…and finally living his dream.

PS– Written because we watched a cow give birth to its calf on a farm in Quendale today! The familiar smell of spring work in the air, too.

Jeppe Is Safety Checked…

…in order to turn him back into being a British resident. Jeppe originally was British in his earlier life, while cruising the streets of London. A Swedish family had owned him, while they temporarily worked in the U.K. capital for several years, and then brought him to Sweden and registered Swedish. Because of changing circumstances, the family decided to sell Jeppe and that’s when we became owners. We needed Jeppe for our adventures on Shetland.

jeppemot_01Photo: Jeppe gets a lift at the MOT station in Lerwick, Shetland

British vehicle laws allow EU visitors to have their vehicles on English soil for maximum 6 months in a 12 month period. Jeppe now has to be “reborn” to a British subject again. To do this is a minor wall of bureaucratic procedures to contend with. Besides filling in registration papers and a custom declaration, for importing vehicles to Great Britain, Jeppe must be safety checked and approved for this country’s regulations and demands.

So, this blog could cover Christmas time or New Years or there of. Instead, Jeppe has been to MOT inspection, which is basically similar to “bil besiktning” in Sweden, or safety checked.

Jeppe had a time just before Christmas. He did not pass! Apparently, two rust hole had come about underneath him and these had to be welded. So, they holes were quality welded by the fabulous Burra Motor Repairs and a new time was to be made. Unfortunately, Christmas and the festive season put a stop to Jeppe’s anxious ambitions for approval and it wasn’t until Jan. 5 that Jeppe received his approved MOT certificate.

jeppemot_02Photo: Two rust holes stopped Jeppe’s immediate MOT approval and a welding job was needed.

Now, he’s waiting to receive confirmation of British car insurance and then he’ll send in a package of papers and forms, all must be original and not copies, to the DVLA offices in Aberdeen. Hopefully, this will go quickly and we’ll keep everyone informed about Jeppe’s British return.

The Shortest Shetland Day…

…of the year and all one can write about is the weather. Must be the number one topic Shetlanders, and many more, can speak of, as the sun crosses over the islands on its lowest journey of the year.

And, yes, we did have sun today. Above 66° longitude, the day in northern Sweden is just a few hours of blue twilight before the sun tuckers out, sighs and quickly plunges deeper under the horizon. Had it even had the time to be faintly noticed by the frigid occupants of the north? Doubtful!

Yet, Shetland had clear skies this morning. The isles could wink upwards and easily break out a smile seeing that the sun was definitely in its sky. Not under the horizon. Not just a hair teasingly over the horizon. It was a good 15° or more over it and stoutly bragging its presence. The temperature was a blossoming +9° Celsius in places and the shortest day of Shetland started out beautifully…until about midday.

It was at this time that the angry, roaring and infamous Atlantic winds came in from the southeast. Like weather Orcs, the clouds streaked forward across the sky, occasionally consuming the sun and plowing out a path that the wind charged along, whipping up the ocean waves and spitting out froth in its wake.

Force 7. Then, force 8 followed with force 9. Around two in the afternoon, gusts of a possible force 10 sunk its teeth into the water due west of Hamnavoe. The waves smashed onto the outside barrier reef only to be spat across the land and waterfall downwards on the eastern bank, like a broad river of salty rapids, only to recruit again with the water in the boiling bay beyond. So quickly did the wind smash into Shetland today, that some said it was the worst of the season, as they gazed through west-facing windows in the shelter of their houses.

And, what do two north dwellers do? Do the stay home? Do they retain shelter in their “granny flat” and no brave the winds? No! They were no scared of the weather Orcs. They jumped into Jeppe and headed westwards to visit good friends and had an immensely fun day visiting Papil, giving small seasonal tidings and wishing a very Merry Christmas. A super day, as Shetlanders would describe it.

But, afterwards, when the winds were at their worst, what did our two north dwellers do? Did they frantically head back to the flat and its dry comfort? Absolutely not! They headed for their wonderful Meal Beach and went down to the shoreline, now completely covered with waves. Almost grasping for handholds, so as not to be blown backwards from the wind and swept across the mud of the hillsides or roll across the grassy fields (as one or two sheep had observantly done) they reached the frothy beach and… searched…for a piece… of weathered rope!

Because of the wind and the cutting rain, no photographic documentation can reveal the adventures these two north dwellers had on “shortest day of the year”. They almost giggled with glee. Good day! Great friends! And, unusually stormy afternoon winds to playfully go to the beach in! Ah, well…who would’ve thought?

PS- Five minutes ago as of this writing, we had thunder and lightning in the Shetland skies. Cool?

Talking about Shetland climate…

Photo: Although not connected with the text, an example of a Shetland garden and it’s green state for December…
…and the garden can still boast of a few roses still

Lillan’s Eulogy…

The Lady has left us peacefully, today! For being a grand old dame, for which no one really knows how old she really was, perhaps 17, her kidneys were shutting down and she had become weaker and weaker these past weeks, if not since Christmas.

I can remember when she first came into our lives. We had been sitting around the dinner table on a dark evening many years ago, when some person my wife knew was coming by with “Lillan”; a strange name for a cat since it lacked the familiar “s” sound. My sons were young and we all were excited when the lady finally came in through the door holding a wide-eyed little tan tabby-like creature.

This acquaintance explained that she, in her turn, had gotten Lillan from someone else several years before, which explains the uncertainty of Lillan’s age, and now the woman was leaving Jokkmokk (I think she worked for social services) and could neither take Lillan along nor felt it fair to the cat. My boys, and especially my oldest, who had sorrowful disappointments with cats being run over on the main road in front of our house, were immensely pleased and we all were very willing to accept this responsibility. Little did we know at the time that this cat would prove to be an unforgettable delight in our lives.

The two most fears we had with Lillan was being smeared all over the road by a fast moving and heartless vehicle or being carried up the hill into the woods in the jaws of a fox needing a meal.

resize-of-dsc_0037.JPGPhoto: Cat`n a box

Now, Lillan was smart! She learned quickly that any sound of a vehicle would mean to wait in the ditch until it couldn’t be heard any more. Then, with this quietness, it was safe to cross over to the other side, where the river bank proved to be a popular and lucrative hunting ground. In the darker times of the year, she added the wit of waiting for approaching headlights to pass until she knew it was safe to proceed.

But the fox theory was puzzling! The first summer we had Lillan, she disappeared for what seemed to be all summer. She left no signs of existing and we all felt that ole riley Mr. Fox had taken her straight away. But, to our surprise and amazement, Lillan would show-up around when school started a new year. Somewhat thin, but definitely full of stories to tell and adventures experienced, had she been able to speak English or Swedish. She simply took a vacation from us this way each year!

Then, she rested contently the rest of the winter and only took the occasional mouse to keep in practice. She was a tremendous mouser and could pile up her beasts in front of the front door for us to (almost) step on, as we opened the door to let her in at night.

She could do tricks! One trick she learned quickly was the open-the-door-and-let-the-dogs-run-away trick. When she wanted in the house, she jumped at the doorknob, which in Sweden are not round but stick out to one side like a lever. Once she had this down pat, she loved to watch our dogs run out the door and, afterwards, strut herself proudly into the house with a small smirk on her face, as we humans would frantically run out calling for the dogs to come back.

Naturally, we had to change the door handle downwards to prohibit this act!

resize-of-dsc_0123.JPGPhoto: “Don’t forget Miss Moi, please!”

She laid down where she wanted to and at her leisure. She screamed demandingly for food in the mornings as soon as one woke up. She kept the dogs at bay as if she was a lioness training them and they quickly toed the mark with her. She could spend hours on my wife’s desk to watch the birds at the bird feeder, planning imaginary attacks and kills. She loved grill-style potato chips or, for that matter, any snack food and immediately climbed on a person, with drool running from her mouth, with only the mere sound of a snack package being opened.

As my boys became older and moved out of the house, I felt that I had the roll of guardian for Lillan. I’m more a canine person than a feline person and Lillan wasn’t the cat that craved attention or petting. She pretty much kept to herself and had her routines. But, we somehow found each other these last couple of years and I learned to love her wide, green eyes looking at me or when she would buff-up against my leg near dinner time. And, occasionally, she would fall asleep at night on my stomach or curled against a back or knee.

And, though it was sometimes bothersome, I enjoyed her reaching up and pulling my right arm at the dinner table, begging for food. I was always amazed that Lillan ate anything I would throw into her food bowl nearby, be it carrots, pickles, cucumbers, spicy curry food, macaroni or plain old anything! She ate! Anything!


But, these last couple of months, the lady has been slowing down. She had been losing weight in spite of eating normally, she would lay down almost in her pawprints and I noticed that she was drinking more water than usual. I always thought that her wanting fresh cool water was her reminder of living the wilderness life in the forest during summer.

Unfortunately, this was not true. Her days were closing in on her and, though she survived the road,the foxes and near death at giving birth to several dead fetuses, she couldn’t survive kidney failure. It was her destiny, somehow, and today we allowed her to rest the rest she so badly needed. It’s tough when you love an animal. But, isn’t that what love is?

I know there are people who are very fond of cats and who will swear to how great their cat is, or was. I can appreciate this and understand. But, speaking for my family, Lillan is going to continue to be in our memories and lives. We’ll miss the turned down doorknob, she standing on the window sill wanting in on a summer’s night, the placing of foodstuffs out of her reach, her lying on the kitchen table under the warming kitchen lamp, the long drinks of water she did, straight from a running tap at the kitchen sink …I even think the dogs are going to miss her! The house has lost its night watchman.

Sometime later, we will all probably find her again in another life and then we can tell her how very happy she made us and how honoured we had been with having her! Thank-you so much, Lillan!

resize-of-dsc_0140.JPG“Thank-you, too!”

Consider the Lemming…

…when considering some things that are happening in this world. After a week away in the Västerbotten mountains and without television, I’ve listened to the mayhem of worldly actions on the radio and have felt a bit like a lemming.

I would venture in saying that, like many others in the world, Swedes are a pack of mutual admirers without the ability to say, “The Emperor doesn’t have any clothes on!”. Seemingly, they enjoy being acceptable and having the same beliefs and expectations of this order.
resize-of-dsc_0058.JPGPhoto: A Scandinavian lemming
Unfortunately, they are too ready to place criticism into a rhetorical corner and willingly discuss problems for, literally, years without reaching results nor conclusions nor positive changes.

Therefore, the lemming. A week in the mountains gives a distance to this circus. But I sometimes think that it’s only a matter of time that we all will run until we find that cliff to jump off of, possibly be pushed off of. Or, is it closer than we can imagine?

A small reflection…perhaps we need more courageous little boys and less lemmings?

Having Visited Shetland…

…I’ve been in the habit of staying informed about these wonderful islands in the North Atlantic and found the BBC’s Island Blogging site. Naturally, I got hooked on the wonderful language of the bloggers as well as I keep myself informed about life there.

A gentle Shetland croft image near Eshaness, North Mainland

One new blogger in particular has caught my attention and, besides having a mutual background of living in America and leaving it to another place as well as having an exciting ability to write, she wrote something that I wanted to comment on.

She wrote of discarding possessions and backpacks as well as asking, ” When you are on your death bed, do you think you will wish that you had spend just one more day at the office?” She sounded like I do at times. (read- “Gift from the Sea”)

The fact of the matter is, a “commenteer” alias Flying Cat suggested that “It’s the things you can do with money that can bring happiness…” and continues with “…usually people who have none who insist it’s not contributory to happiness.” Therefore I feel I have to put my two cents worth into this.

For many years and many backpacking (trekking) trips, I have learned about the joy of only needing what you can carry in your backpack. I have food for the day, I become physically and mentally more awake from hiking. I have shelter against all types of weather with my tent. My sleeping bag keeps me warm. I lack nothing, but still I have such beautiful and rewarding entertainment with the mountains surrounding me…speaking with me and teaching me.

I’m sorry that Flying Cat hasn’t discovered this, yet. I would like to ask the question, What is it that money can’t buy?

It can’t buy good health or a Blue-Throat landing on the toe of your boot to say good morning. It can’t buy watching a bear kill a moose on a mountain slope. It can’t buy the midnight sun nor a steel-white snow covered night. It can’t buy perseverance against a raging storm nor pride from an honest climb upwards. It can’t buy honesty. It can’t buy inner contentment. It can’t buy life nor can it buy wisdom…nor…happiness.

Surprisingly, if one would spend a whole summer in the Laponia mountains, and you would have only a little money on you, you will have the same amount leftover when you leave the mountains. There is nothing to buy that you need and, still, you will boast of the most splendid time in your life. Something to think about?

Shetland coastline at Eshaness, North Mainland

So, in defense of Shetland: finally home, perhaps there’s some truth in what she is pointing out…it just takes wider eyes and an open mind to understand the wisdom with less possessions in this life…and it’s not too late since a death bed lurks ahead for all of us.

I do know, I can be better with this thought, too …now, back to throwing things away!

English for Swedes: “Commenteer” a person, often with others, giving comments on, in this case, blogs.

When My Parents Died…

…I became more keenly aware of how proud they were of their family and sons through the many photographs they left behind. Pictures of us growing up, on the beach, vacations, graduations, sports, picnics, summer camp, scouting, special Sundays and special moments that are a part of and involves a lifetime. There were many many pictures and, in spite of my father having made attempts to sort these out and classify them in a historical manner, many are undocumented other than what my own memory recognizes. Their pictures were their memory and life. Only part of mine.

To save or not to save? And, for who?

For myself, I have “tons” of pictures. Some of historical importance. Some of commercial value. Some of interesting people, places and events now gone. But, most images are for my own remembrances so that my memories don’t become blurred in time. My children or grandchildren or great grandchildren or….will never really know the story behind these. Image meaning is often personal.

So, I’m not going to burden my descendants with my personal trivia but have chosen to sort out my pictures. The next to important images will be scanned and CD’ed (thank God for digital photography and its archival possibilities) and the important ones will be archived with references and comments. The others will be re-cycled celluloid.

But, as I look at these I sometimes wish I could re-live those moments and had savored them longer than I did, like my own boys’ growing-up and the truly great times I had with them as a father…as a friend.

I will try to be better with my images and try to savor life’s moments more!