I really enjoyed hearing Jess talk a bit about her mother this morning, and decided it wouldn’t hurt if I did as well.
One of the things that brought Jess and I together originally is that our parents were older, her views of life are more like mine, and mine are more like a pre-baby boomer than would be expected. And also like her, I have little left of my family, she has a half-sister and I have a brother-in-law (and we each have some nieces).
It is funny though, Jess (as usual) is correct, I can’t remember not knowing right from wrong, of course, I don’t remember learning to walk either, I must have learned them about the same time.
I idolized my dad, which is not unusual for a boy, I still do, really, In my 60 years on this earth, I’ve never met a better man, a few, like Jimmie Doolittle, have come close, but they were very similar, really.
If you’ve never dealt with us Scandinavians much, something you have to get used to is, most of us rarely yell, and storm around. if you anger us, we’re likely to just get quiet and withdraw, and decide that whoever or whatever angers us just isn’t worth messing with anymore. It’s not limited to strangers either. I can remember dad not speaking to one of his brothers (one of my favorite uncles) for about 15 years. And, yup, I inherited that too.
In junior high and high school, I worked summers for dad, at the company he ran, and at home we were restoring an old windmill that a neighbor had given us. Given that I was about 15 dad said a lot of stupid things, and we were working on it when he did it again. I dropped my hammer in disgust, it went clang. Dad looked at me and said, “If you don’t want to do it my way, just go in the house.” So I did. It was six weeks before we spoke again. And, yes, it was a bit awkward at work. Good thing was, the rest of the employees understood, they’d been there, as well, and respected me for standing up like a man.
But you know, who always got in the middle of these? Yep, Mom did. She was plenty strong-willed herself but she managed to mediate between all of us, and keep us all alive and reasonably healthy, when dad and I wouldn’t talk or when one sister cracked the other upside the head with a cast iron frying pan or whatever else. The mediator.
But that’s the thing, she was easily the equal of any of us. In an age when most schoolteachers had a year or so of college, she had a BA in English. In fact she commented one time that I spoke good English till I went to school. Her dad was a somewhat big wheel in the Minnesota DFL, and a highly respected man, all the brothers and sisters were successful by their standards, and often prizewinners from others as well.
But, unlike Jess, she detested housework, there were stories up in Minnesota about how good she was at grinding the valves on a Model T, and working on the farm in general, and I can easily remember how much she preferred mowing grass to cleaning house, or even making lunch. She was a good cook, of course, in the somewhat limited sense of a traditional Norwegian menu, of white food on a white plate. She made the only Lutefisk I could choke down.
After college I ended up living at home mostly because dad wouldn’t do much of anything if I wasn’t around, and obviously there were no real rules anymore that I had to follow (like curfews and such) but when I’d get home at night, she’d be sitting there, playing solitaire. She said, and meant it, the only reason she didn’t go to bed was that she wouldn’t go to sleep, there was no reproach if it was 2 am and I was half drunk. But you still got up about 6:30 and went to work! No slackers.
But you know the story I always wanted to know more about was how she and dad got together. You see every once in a while when they’d go back to Minnesota, they’d stop and see a very nice lady named Amy, I think I met her twice and liked her considerably. I found out later she’d been mom’s roommate at college. But the other thing is, mom met dad when Amy brought her date to the dorm! Good thing they didn’t hold grudges, but I still wish I knew how dad pulled that one off.
And it strikes me as significant that when dad was about the age I am now, I was paying a fair amount of attention to girls, and I commented a few times to him about some girl being pretty (or something similar), his comment was, “I didn’t notice.” I believed him, I don’ think he ever noticed another woman’s looks in his life. He (and she) had found everything they needed for better than 50 years in each other. How I wish I could say that some day.
Mom, like dad, passed over quite a few years ago now, and as I get older some of the memories fade but, you know, not very much, and like dad, although in a quieter sort of way, she’s always there in the back of my mind. I think with her love of English (reasonably well used) she’d like that I have come to do a fair amount of writing, and I hope in general that she’d be as proud of me I was and am of her. Thanks Mom.
Happy Mother’s Day