The Humble Swede, my father

I’ve been keeping a blog for the past three years.  My tagline, HumbleSwede, came from a name some friends of mine in college used to call me.  I wasn’t sure then that it fit, but nonetheless it stuck. 

This past Thursday, my father passed away, and it hits me now that maybe that name was aspirational.  My father was truly the Humble Swede.  He was smart.  He was funny.  He was strong.  He was kind.  He was gentle.  But perhaps the adjective that pegged him best was humble.

It has taken me four days to bring myself to write.  I’m trying hard not to be bitter about the way my humble father’s life ended.  Alone.  I know that in this time, my family is not unique in missing out on goodbyes, and hugs, and hands held, but it gives me extra pain to think about my parents, after 65 years together, not being able to see each other these past five weeks, not being able to comfort each other as I know they would have.  My father went to the hospital with COVID in mid November.  He was moved five times, from hospital to rehab center to hospital and back. He never made it home.  Never was able to have a visitor.  But I don’t want to dwell on those five weeks.

I prefer to remember him at our dinner table, when his hearing was better and his mind sharper.  I prefer to remember the pre-Google era when he would bound from his chair to grab a dictionary or encyclopedia because he had to find an answer and his plate of food could wait.  I prefer to remember him purposely mangling the names of my favorite baseball players, his subtle way of pointing out that there were more important things than sports and sports heroes.  I prefer to remember the gauze and tape at the crook of his arm every month for as long as I can remember, the sign that he had given blood…again.  I prefer to remember my parents’ friendly debates at dinner.  Remember when debates could be civilized?  I prefer to remember the wildly unmanicured yard my father cultivated.  More jungle than suburban landscape, it revealed his priorities.  I prefer to remember his stubborn practicality, the cardboard box that served as the mailbox on my parents’ front door, the rubber bands that held open the shower door.  I prefer to remember his views on taxes.  He didn’t mind them as long as they were used for “good.”  “We have plenty,” he liked to say.  

Every dinner at our house ended with my father saying, “Tack för maten,” to my mother (Thanks for the food). 

My mother’s concluding words, “Well, that’s all there is,” led to another predictable response from Dad.

He would declare it “an elegant sufficiency,” and then add, “anything more would be superfluity.”  It was his favorite line from a favorite book, Brighten the Corner Where You Live.  I know he loved that line for its humble sentiment, but just as much for the irony of its high-falutin’ vocabulary.

Yes, my father loved his family tree. He took pride in the accomplishments of his prize-winning grandfather and father, but mostly he celebrated what he had in us.  He may not have uncovered the role of an enzyme or discovered a neurotransmitter, like his forebears.  Still, quietly and humbly, he brightened the corner where he lived.  For that, he will always be famous to me.

26 thoughts on “The Humble Swede, my father

  1. What a beautiful celebration of who your father was at heart. Remembering all those moments and sayings will I hope and pray stay with you and live on, in you. My hugs and prayers go out to you all and I admire your taking to the page in honor of The Humble Swede, your father. More hugs xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My condolences Peter. You wrote a beautiful tribute and remembrance to an obviously remarkable man of whom you have many special memories to cherish. XoDiane

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your father sounds like a truly great man! I’m so sorry that it’s been such a hard few weeks as he has gone up and down with progress. This is a terrible virus and an awful time to go through the mourning process. I hope that writing down memories of your times together will bring you some comfort as you grieve.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. First, I’m so incredibly sorry for you & your family’s loss. It is an immense one. As I was reading this I recalled your Slice back in October when you wrote about your father voting. He sounds like he was a great man.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Peter, I am so sad to hear this news—all of it. And I’m moved (and humbled) by this lovely tribute that so aptly and truly honors your father.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a beautiful piece, it’s sparse elegance tells so much about the man and the writer. Just a lovely tribute. Thinking of you at this sad time.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Beautiful tribute to your Dad. Your family is truly blessed to have him in your lives. His spirit will live on from generation to generation. Peace and Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Peter,
    We lived across the street from your folks for several years in Wood Acres where we shared our little corner of the neighborhood Triangle. (I confess that I even helped your folks plant a few bushes in their front yard one hot summer day to further enhance the unchecked flora!)

    We feel privileged to have shared some very special times with your folks and a handful of other close neighbors when they hosted their annual Christmas social. Leo knew how to make a mean and authentic glögg, and your mom – with her boundless energy – whipped up all of these tasty hor d’oeuvres and cookies and was such a gracious and attentive host. They always made us feel warm and welcome; memories we will hold close to our hearts.

    We are very sorry for your loss and feel so lucky to have known your dad. He was a kind soul, a true gentleman, and he definitely brightened the corner where we lived.

    Our hearts are with you, your mom, and your entire family,
    Doug McManus, Pam Ostuw and Caroline McManus

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Such a beautiful tribute to you father, we are so very sorry for your loss. Your are in our hearts – and with this memorable piece, your father now lives in the hearts of those of us who weren’t lucky enough to know him.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The smallest moments, the littlest quirks, the ever present habits, those are the things that stick with us. These are the things we will notice for a lifetime, we will remember at odd moments, we will cherish. I am sorry for your loss. May your father’s memory be a blessing. I am thankful for him because he raised such a thoughtful teacher and writer.

    Like

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