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I posted this first on Facebook, to share it with my family and those friends who were kind enough to offer words of comfort in the days after my fathers death. I am re-posting it here.

 

I am surprised and forever grateful at all of the warmth and support I have received regarding my fathers death. It truly is empowering to see so many kind words from friends and family both far and near, new and old. I will try to take the time, later, to thank each of you individually but for now, please accept my heartfelt gratitude.

When I grew up, my father and I didn’t have a close relationship. My parents divorced when I was about 6 years old and he and I had some very different concepts as was so usual in the 1960s. I knew that no matter how much I might have wanted things to be different, no matter how much I, in my youthful innocence, blamed myself for their divorce, things were the way they were for reasons that I couldn’t understand, nor change. Sadly, I don’t have a great deal of memories of him from my youth.

I do remember the service station / garage he owned at the time of the divorce. It was up in NW Portland, an area I actually would move to after college. I was in kindergarten and then first grade (ages 5 and 6) and when school was out, I would sometimes go there, to be with him and to have a parent to watch over me, as Mom was also working. I seem to remember it being a Flying A (or Texaco?), station by brand name. I would sit on the long workbench in the garage, where they did the car repairs and look forward to eating the chocolate malted milk balls, called Hercules, that he hid in a drawer. I remember his trucks; he was also a truck driver and was often gone on longer hauls. That had, as I found out later, a damaging effect on my parents’ marriage, and my memories of and relationship with him. It meant that I didn’t see my Dad as much as other kids did theirs. I do remember going to the woods with him, though, as he always loved the outdoors, hunting and fishing, and he passed that love of nature on to us.

Sadly, the divorce was not all smiles and fond farewells. There was more than a little bit of bitterness, due to the circumstances involved. As an insecure, shy 6 year old, I bonded with my mother, who had custody of us, as is typical in a single parent family. I remember hearing some of what was said, or what I thought was said, or what was implied, or what was the creation of either me or my siblings and being fairly well devastated by the whole thing. As I said, I internalized it. Without understanding where these feelings came from, without knowing the reality, despite the best efforts of both parents, sometimes directly or by proxy, and my brother and sisters, I remember being very sad, more sad than angry, although I was angry too, for a very long time and I kept it inside.

Sadly, I don’t know what my father thought of me growing up. He was never the type to express his feelings at all. If you allowed him, he would show his kindness, his humor, but rarely did he talk openly and never about the divorce, not to me. Probably for that reason, he and I grew apart. I more or less decided to go my own way without his support or consent. Through my college years and for many years thereafter, we rarely saw or spoke to each other, and then it was strained and uncomfortable.

I remember one time he had gone into the hospital for surgery, when I was a fully grown adult. I don’t remember the year, but I THINK, I was living in Yakima at the time. My Mother told me to call him at the hospital and talk to him, a request that always brought both tension and resentment to the surface. It was a very short phone call. I remember almost every word. I said I was calling to see how he was and hoped he was resting. He replied “I’m fine, and you don’t need to call anymore. Goodbye” and hung up. I was shattered. What I didn’t realize then was that it was his way of dealing with his own discomfort at being in the hospital. He hated it, as I found out later and felt as if his air of invincibility was compromised. His gruffness was not intended to wound, but was an almost desperate defense against vulnerability. My mom had asked me to call her back and let her know how he was doing. I did. I told her how bloody angry I was and that I didn’t want to call him anymore. And I didn’t for a number of years.

In 2002, I met the woman who would later become my wife and decided to finally get married. The wedding was to be held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving Day in 2003, at my sisters’ house in the Portland suburbs. It would be small, only family and a very few select friends, invited verbally or by mail or phone. Despite the informal invites, friends and family rsvp:d. Except my father. You usually didn’t know whether he would show up or not. I remember telling Inger that I doubted he would come and wasn’t at all surprised that he didn’t rsvp. He did show, and it started a healing process for us both.

After I moved to Stockholm the next spring, it was harder to keep contact with anyone in my family, of course. I called him a few times a year; each phone call would be a little warmer in tone than the last. Easier, I suspect for us both over time.

In May 2016, I got a phone call from my sister, Della. Dad was very ill and probably would not recover. My brother kindly offered to pay my airfare to Portland and back so that I could be with the family and see my father. He had been extremely ill on the days before I flew in, but was in good form and spirits when we all showed up at his house near the Oregon coast. He had arranged for us to have an oyster fest and had a whole bunch of fresh oysters, beer, salad, all the things you would want (except sunshine). We talked about how things were in Stockholm, how my wife was, she was home, and my job, etc. We talked about his health problems. The others arrived and he was in a great mood. As I left, we shook hands, and I gave him a kiss on the forehead and told him I loved him. I hadn’t said those words to him in I don’t know how long. I called him a few times in the months after, and the conversations were glad, albeit short. He always hated the telephone.

On his birthday this year, Jan. 5th, I called him again, and wished him a happy birthday.

That was the last time I talked to him.

I’m writing this not to be sad, quite the contrary. To be happy that he had the life he had. To be happy that he and I made the peace we made. And to let him know that I love him and will miss him very much. There was a gaping hole that wasn’t filled and it was both of our faults, his and mine. Fortunately it got filled, at least partially, before it was too late. My family and closest friends always tried to tell me to find a way to mend it, that I’d regret if I didn’t. I would, for the most part, shake my head. I’m glad I finally listened.

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She kept the letters in a drawer

Locked away in a box made of teak

Lined with silk paper.

Next to a sachet of lavender,

Small shoes from her childhood,

Dried flowers from days almost forgotten.

 

Each memory

Tied ever so carefully

Ribbons of the softest silk.

The key, always close to her breast,

Hiding in a locket she always wore

But no one had ever seen.

 

Letters, passports, ticket stubs,

All of them nothing more than

Allusions to illusionary places.

She read them daily, wistfully,

Like an evening prayer to Love,

Mantras to her spirit

Chanting each word by memory,

Gently rolling her tongue over them

To feel the taste of each word of love,

Re-committing her every sigh to memory

 

Praises, laughter, whispers, tears, murmurs,

Words laced with promises

Long since broken

Or, perhaps, all were kept,

But always intended

For someone else.

She read them like a thief of hearts,

These names and places she never knew,

Each stolen secret, a transfixed reality,

Little lies that only her heart knew of.

 

This one, from Gibraltar, spoke of a honeymoon

The one with the perfumed paper, from Paris,

Of the loss of innocence,

This one from Geneva, with the stunning photograph,

Spoke of love reunited,

This one from India, the Holi, the Festival of Colour,

So vivid, the only colour photograph and

How she loved the message of joy-

 

Every destination, every postal stamp,

All these cities where love grew,

Or perhaps withered,

She knew them all by rote

Although she had never been,

Airlines had never called her seat

Ships porters had never held her luggage,

Subway trains never passed her by In the middle of a kiss

The time schedule over run by the romantic urgency

 

The earthly completion of her travels gained no notice

Barely a whisper

On the boards of time,

The pall bearers were hired,

No tears were shed

Now her journey is beginning,

Her soul is free to explore where she could never go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I will see nothing
But the children of peace
Their hair spread against the wind
Like the wings of angels

I will hear nothing
From the tombs of your dead
But the voices from my own thoughts
Like the salve of the ages

I will not open my door
To you as a visitor
Bringing your unrepentant anger
To my thirsty soul

I will no longer dance
With you parents of war
Your darkness blots out
The light from my feet

I will not see your world
Nor read your newspaper
Not hear your symphony
I will not say your prayers
But those which I make myself
The words of empowerment
The songs of unison

I will not drink at your table
I will not eat of your meat
You have no nourishment
To offer such a one as I

The end of the world
As you know it
Will be our only salvation

I will not die
Until we, all of us,
Can die under peaceful skies
Our souls drifting quietly across the sunset
Like a shroud of the finest linen

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The door.  Introduction
This photo was taken last night as i waited for the bus to take me to work. As you can see it’s of a normal entry into a normal apartment building.  The outside is covered up with scaffolding and netting now because they are putting a new facade on.  I started to wonder who lived there? What stories do they have?  I’m going to use this door to tell their stories. Just a couple of paragraphs for each tenant together with a new edit of the pic, the lady who turns 100, the quiet guy no one remembers, the angry young man, the asylum seeker. I hope you find it intriguing

The first story in the sequence, The Door, part 1, Gunbrit

Early morning 25th of November,  a cold wet morning, Gunbrit awakened and thought back in time. Tomorrow would be her 100th birthday and she wondered if anyone would remember. Bengt, her husband had passed long ago, and she had not spoken to her only child, Ole, in years. She remembered the last conversation they had together. It was the First of May, International Workers Day. She had just found out that he was going to demonstrate with the Nazis. She told him she was ashamed of him and never wanted to see his face again. Those words haunted her as she faced the morning, as they had every morning since then. Sweden was, to her, the most free country in the world and her pride in that reputation was enormous. She had been a lifelong member of the left party, strong and proud in her belief in the equality of all, a fact which no doubt fuelled her adamant refusal to make amends with her son. She had, in fact, not spoken his name in years.
Though she was fragile of course, at her advanced age, she was still spry mentally and maintained a semblance of self sufficiency surprising for someone at 100 years. She got out of bed and went to start the day. Her home assistant would be there soon to help her with breakfast and all that went into her increasingly limited existence. She rarely left the apartment anymore for health reasons she felt  her world was collapsing in on it’s self.  She turned on the radio, the volume very high so she could hear it, Always station P1, she hadn’t missed the program “God Morgon Världen” in a very long time, she felt like she was friends with the hosts. It brought her pleasure to hear their voices. She remembered the flower shop that she and her late husband had opened down the block. They had owned it for 30 years before retiring. The money the had made selling it went to travel. They both loved life and always went with the moment, a fact that she never regretted even though she had precious little money now.

In the many years in the neighborhood she had made many friends, but sadly she had outlived those who had not moved on and she was always bad at staying in touch. That meant that there was no one around that she felt close to, that she could talk to or invite to a fika. Her upcoming birthday was a reminder of her isolation.

Maria was to be her assistant that day, she tried to be nice to Gunbrit but it was difficult. With her own problems to deal with and the work conditions, constant understaffing causing the most unreasonable demands, Maria didn’t have the time or energy to do what the job required. Gunbrit loved the flowers she brought, but always wished that Maria could stay longer. Maria had made plans to have a small celebration for her birthday tomorrow, a princess cake and a card together with flowers, but that was tomorrow. Today, she was running late and trying hard to get there on time. She knew that Gunbrit, even with her stubborn self sufficiency needed much help.

Digging her keys out of her handbag, Maria opened the door to find Gunbrit on the floor. She rushed to determine what had happened and if she was breathing. As she leaned over, she heard Gunbrit mutter a word with her last breath, a word she hadn’t said in decades, “Ole”

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Well all,

I work nights at a local hotel and tonight I was talking to a colleague about how our schedule affects us on our time off. By swedish law, we work 7 nights in a row from 22:00 until 07:00, then we are free 7 nights in a row. It’s not too bad a gig, to be honest. The schedule doesn’t change from week to week as the day workers schedule can and we can have a life outside of work at least on our weeks off. Planning things is easy, we only need to remember which week we work or which week we’re off. Keeping in mind that when we work, we’re probably sleeping almost all day and don’t have the required amount of energy for most social encounters.  There is little place for insomnia, that is probably the most dreaded event, long sleepless days or the weeks when our bodies can’t make the adjustment back to normal time.

So with that in mind, I find myself getting increasingly frustrated at one issue regarding the above. That is that I see the events in the world and events in my own little space of it and want to share it, to write about it, to holler from the peaks to sound my barbaric yawp across the rooftops of the world. but my own human physicality prevents it. I can feel ideas and unfinished work rattling around in my brain but when do i get the chance to capture them before they fly away like so many unstarted revolutions? I am a freedom fighter, is my epitaph to be ” the tired one”? What if we stared a revolution and everyone was asleep?  Oh,, wait, i think that’s happened, never mind.

In a nutshell, when did my brain go from this.  images

 

 

to this???   bartbrain

Oh woe is me, oh woe indeed, woe the size of Mt Everest.

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With the thought of the awful attack on the Jerusalem synagogue, it is worth a reminder of our shared humanity. We are all Palestinian, we are all Israeli, we are all Iraqi and American, and Russian, and Rom, and Hopi.

I can definitely understand the sense of frustration coming from the muslims in east Jerusalem as the see their history  being evaporated as Israelis rename streets, overtake homes and even disallow prayer in Al Asqa Mosque, the third holiest site in the Muslim faith, this going against a long-established agreement between the ruling Israeli government and Muslims living in Jerusalem. All of this, of course, on top of everything else they have had to endure. However, there is never a justification for violence. I will always believe a peaceful settlement can be found but not until both sides are ready. I can say with all certainty that Netanyahu is far from ready. Sadly until the rest of the world, the US and Great Britain especially, stop their blind support for Israel things aren’t going to change much. But about the photos…..

These beautiful photos celebrate Palestinian music, sculpture, art and the human spirit. That part of us that no one can truly conquer. Not war, not racism, not apartheid, not poverty, not illiteracy, but rather our souls, our essence. In that sense at least, we are indeed all Palestinians. As I’ve said many times before and will repeat many times, No one is truly free until we are all free, no one is equal while another is oppressed.  I urge all of you to take in the photos, the text and the spirit.

 

 

In Pictures: ‘We are all Palestinians’ – In Pictures – Al Jazeera English.

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