Archives for category: mourning

After we hoisted Elinor into her highchair for a late dinner yesterday, Chad turned to me and said, “I like that outfit.”

I automatically turned to look at Elinor, in her blue striped onesie and red leggings, and smiled, replying, “I like it, too! My mom liked it when she baby-sat as well.” I had thought it was a triumph of baby fashion, as well.

“Where did you get it?” he asked.

I was a little confused about his interest, but complied with the request for information. “Well, the onesie was from the consignment store, and the red leggings …. She always wears her red leggings!” He had seen those a thousand times.

And then we realized our miscommunication. Chad was commenting on MY outfit, which was a tunic from India and black pants, something I had never worn before due to my terror of standing out, fashion-wise, but had worn that day in honor of our Travel Writing Workshop for MDPL.

Yes — my husband complimented my outfit, and I assumed he was complimenting our daughter’s outfit. Though I take responsibility for both outfits, it just goes to show how completely absorbed I have become by Elinor and her little life, and how her welfare has become such a deep, deep part of me. People always tell you about how parenthood and love for a child is this all-consuming, uncontrollable thing, and I had always thought that I could imagine the truth of that. But I couldn’t, and it sometimes hits my upside of the head.

For instance, last weekend Chad hung out with Elinor while I went to MDPL’s book release party at Sweet Action Ice Cream (yum). I had parked a block or so away, grabbed the bag of books, my purse, and my highly unnecessary coat, and was walking toward the shop. I had to cross both Lincoln and 1st Ave. I was late, which always happens these days, and I saw that the little walking man was flashing across 1st, so I began to walk.

As I neared the middle of the far lane, I saw a blueish car begin to turn right. I began to stare it down, and it slowed a bit, but then

there was a crash

and other noises

and everything paused around me, leaving only a series of thoughts in my head.

This is not happening. This car is not going to hit me. I am not going to be hit by a car. I have to get home to Elinor. I have to be her mom. I have to see Elinor. 

Somehow I managed to jump — or fall — out of the way of the car. I landed on my knee and then my butt, bags in piles surrounding me, and the world was still quiet and focused, even as I continued to register some loud crashes and grinding occurring around me.

I looked at the ground, and at my hands, and my legs, and everything was intact. And I breathed a sigh, and said Thank You, and I stood up, somehow gathering all those bags together. Across 1st, the blueish car had driven all the way up the embankment on the side of the road, its back bumper completely smashed in. To its left, in the right lane of Lincoln, was a red Jeep, its front right tire completely flat, its front right bumper well smashed up.

No one was moving, and it felt like all traffic on busy Lincoln had stopped, too. No one had emerged out of the blue car, and I walked toward it, calling out to see if the person was alright, worried that the driver wouldn’t get out and be OK.

But she did step out of the smashed car, and I could see that the front of the car had been completely smashed as the car had driven over the curb and up the sidewalk, as well. The driver was fine, though, and the driver of the Jeep, which must have never slowed down as the blue car paused for me, and which had smashed into the blue car, forcing that blue car clear across the entire street, walked over, wringing her hands, asking if we were OK, nearing hysterics, explaining that the brake lights on the blue car had stopped, so she had kept going ….

Numerous people had stopped and were walking toward us, making sure we were OK. The driver of the blue car asked me if I was OK, and I said, “I don’t think you hit me, or touched me — I just fell — I’m fine” to her numerous times. Someone thrust a phone into my face, and I talked to the 911 dispatcher and assured her that I was OK, and described the scene, and she told me that the fire truck was on its way. Instantaneously, I was aware of sirens, and within a minute the fire truck was there, and I stood in the Saturday sunshine as they checked all three of us over. During a pause I called Julie, telling her that I would be late to the book signing and that she might want to walk over and pick up the books. I could hear the sirens through the phone as I talked to her. A police car arrived and I assured the officer that I was OK, and he took down my name and information, and suddenly I was free to go.

Julie was across 1st, and I walked slowly to her, smiling like an idiot, assuring her that I was fine, and she had driven her car the two blocks and told me to get in. I did, and we had to wait quite awhile to get back into traffic, and in the calm warmth of her car I began to cry.

The immensity of that situation has sat upon me the last week, especially as I came home to Elinor and Chad and began to cry again, especially as I cross streets, especially as I turn right and look everywhere for pedestrians, especially as I went in an sat in Elinor’s bedroom that night as she slept, thankful that I was alright and that she was alright and that life could keep going on.

But the fact that all I could think about, in the face of possible tragedy, was her, is telling. She is such a part of me, such a wonderful responsibility, such a sun around which I now orbit, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Both of us were sick this week, and the sleepless nights and constant stream of snot to be removed from her nose as she screamed bloody murder, and the coughing all night long and crying were very difficult, and I was so grateful to get some time for myself once in awhile, but all in all — entwined we are, and I am so, so grateful.

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Chad is half Swedish. His mother is fully Swedish; her parents emigrated from Sweden in the 40s, I think. This is a wonderful thing, to have such a recent history written across the world, to have such a certain connection to another country and culture. It’s especially precious because Chad has a large set of relatives in Sweden, with whom we keep in decent contact.

We visited in 2009, two weeks of relatives and Västergötland, or West Gothland, in south central Sweden. We divided our time between two cousins of Chad’s mom — Kristina and Karin. Kristina is younger, and much busier, with a son in high school and another young son in lower grade school at the time. But Karin, slightly older, and her husband Börje, have four children who are only slightly younger than Chad and myself. Staying with them, on their organic sheep farm (!), felt a bit more like being part of a family, if only because of the age range of everyone there. It was a wonderful visit, all around. I felt completely welcomed and was enchanted with Sweden, proud to be married to a half-Swede, and strangely conscious that my skin is pretty darn dark and that my hair is, too.

We haven’t kept in the best touch, but all of the people there became very real to me, very much a part of the larger family into which I had married.

But we heard yesterday, haphazardly in the way that intercontinental news travels without the internet, that Börje had died. He was only sixty, and the little information that we had gleaned was that he had been feeling tired. By the time he got to the doctor, he had advanced lung cancer, and within weeks — days? — he was gone.

It’s a shock, as many deaths are. I am still not accustomed to them. Yesterday my mother-in-law told me this as I returned from my afternoon out, as she and my father-in-law babysat Elinor. So I picked up my chubby baby and spent the rest of the day absorbed in caring for her, thinking occasionally of the news and not sure how to approach it, not sure how to deal with it.

I’m still not sure. But last night, while rocking and singing and nursing E to sleep, I felt this calm peace about Börje himself. If there were ever a righteous, humble, and wonderful man, it was him. He was a kind of rock to his family, and he was a gracious host and father-figure to us while we visited. He loved the earth, and machines, and animals, and church organs, and his family with all of his heart. We loved him, and I know in my heart that he led a good life and that he is with God, somewhere beautiful, farming as he loved to do.

What breaks my heart more, to be honest, is thinking of Karin and his children. Karin is a whirlwind of a woman, and she and Börje were the kind of odd couple that makes life richer and louder. She is strong, of course, but I hope that she finds love like that in other places, because it was a unique and wonderful one, from what we could see.

All four kids, too, are in their twenties, and that is just a difficult time to lose your father. Pontus, Britta, Lotta, and Elsa … I cannot even imagine what they are going through.

I suppose that all of this is a miniature tribute to a man I met once, but in that meeting I respected and cared for him.

Good farming, Börje.