Tomorrow my dad and I will be out island hopping, working our way to the outermost islands of the archipelago and won’t be back until late in the evening so I am posting tonight what I would have posted tomorrow.
This is the last time my dad plans to be in Sweden. He has slowed down in this past year, needs more rest and the journey here from Panama is long and arduous. Sweden is horribly expensive–it is not unusual for a hamburger to cost $30.00. He is concerned to make provisions for any medical care he may need further along. So there is an incredible poignancy that colors these days as surely as the beautiful Swedish sunlight.
The visit with my older brother, Hans, and his partner, Anne Marie was just incredibly fun. Hans is mischievous, sarcastic, and funny. Anne Marie has this really down-to-earth wisdom that makes it easy to talk about the hard things and see them in a new way. I could tell how much my dad loved having the three of us together.
Today, Tante Maj, and her children, Olle, Kerstin and Jurgen came to visit and brought a typical Swedish lunch with them. Tant Maj and Farbror Gunnar are my dad’s oldest, dearest friends. Farbror Gunnar, stricken by Alzheimers could not come but Tante Maj is as sharp and full of life as ever.
She knows my father well enough to know exactly what meal would make him the happiest. She herself had prepared four different kinds of pickled herring, and served the herring with all the typical accompaniments. We drank aquavit and sang old drinking songs. There was knäckebröd (HARDTACK) and Swedish cheese, new potatoes with dill, and beer.
Dessert was a “Sommar Torta” (a summer cake) that tasted exactly like our birthday cakes tasted when we were growing up. As soon as I tasted it, I understood where my mom’s birthday cakes came from–very unexpected!
After lunch, Olle, Kerstin and I went up the steep hill behind the cottage we are renting. At the top there are two cannon embankments built during WWII and you also get a gorgeous view of Linanäs.
My dad and Tante Maj tell vivid, wrenching stories of the war, of how immediate it was, even in Sweden that was neutral. And they complain about how sanitized war has become. I ache at the thought that my dad has begun to tie the loose ends of his life, has begun to say his good byes, like he did with Maj at the end of the visit. I am so glad for him to get to say good farewells, hard though they may be. But my brothers and I still have so much to learn from him and his generation…