My father and I drove to a town called Norrtälje yesterday. My dad has never used a GPS system and I got close to being suicidal or homicidal (or both) when he kept trying to contradict Garmin ”Kate” with her very British accent who would say ”turn right” when he thought we should turn left. Thank God we only had to drive for about an hour with not a lot of turns.
Gunnar and Maj Krantz live here—Gunnar was my father’s best friend when he was growing up in Uppsala; they had the kind of friendship where they wouldn’t see each other for years and years and could pick right back up as soon as they saw each other again. Once, when I was in the fifth grade, when it looked like I needed hip surgery and my doctor in Boston had already retired, my parents brought me to Sweden for a consultation with a hip surgeon here in the middle of the school year. Tant Maj and Farbror Gunnar had three kids including a son called Olle and he invited me to go to school with him one day. My parents put me on a train out to the town where the Krantz’ lived and I can remember feeling totally grown up and giddy about getting to go to school with Olle, especially because he was totally cute and I had a huge crush on him.
Tant Maj is going as strong as ever, like my dad. Farbror Gunnar has senile dementia, a lost little boy in an old body. Olle had come out from Stockholm yesterday to watch his dad while his mom spent time with us. We all had dinner together. I always expect my elders to have aged. I am always shocked to see how my peers have aged as well. Olle and I are both in our fifties and it shows. He’s a critical care cardiac nurse who was ever so gentle with his dad yesterday. He and I are going out for a drink in Stockholm when my dad and I go back there on Sunday. No crush any longer but a lot of curiosity about how we’ve ended up living our lives.
The Krantz’ home is much more modest than the one we were in on Monday evening, but again I was struck by the sense of scale and gentility. I am moved by the ability to create beauty and offer wonderful hospitality in small spaces that manage to be filled with light , lovely art and intelligent conversation, with good food that is also healthy, prepared in small kitchens that don’t have all the gadgets we collect in the USA. Dad and I are staying at a small hotel and I notice the small details of hospitality here as well. Both at the hotel in Stockholm and here, our towels are on heated racks and there is something so incredibly delicious and luxurious about getting to get out of a bath and dry off with warm towels.
We’re off to go hiking and have a picnic in a forest park along the coastline. The sun is shining and I am happy.