Yesterday, my brother and I went to visit our step-mom, who is downsizing. She wanted to return items we had grown up with, now that our father had passed. These were things coming back to our family that were owned and enjoyed by our mother and dad during their nearly 60 years of marriage. You haven’t lived until your father starts courting at 80, and then remarries. Being an engineer with good humor, although dry, and not known for being a “player” he still managed for part of his last years to have a wife in both worlds, here and in Heaven.
Some of these things had been in drawers, unseen, because there were so many of them. My brother and I appreciated that great care was taken not to dispose of anything the family would want to be passed down later on. A a suggestion my father should mark and label everything, he scoffed, “I don’t want to be living in a museum of my own things.” Point taken.And so, we know Dad loved them, tucked them away in a special place, but left no notation about it or its significance. We had to guess.
I think everyone wants to be like the kids in Madison County, finding an old love letter from someone not of their father’s lineage, a great love secretly tucked away and hidden from family. In reality, I’m not sure that happens very often. We didn’t expect this, nor did we get it. But it’s always fun to revisit the things our father held, loved and decided to save in a special place.
We found these glasses. My brother and I had never seen them before and there wasn’t anything indicating what they were. We guessed they belonged to a bachelor “uncle” of my mother’s who lived in San Francisco and was a dental salesman for a time. He’s buried along with his two spinster sisters, Aunt Mary and Aunt Elizabeth, in a cemetary in Galt, California. We knew Uncle John wore glasses, but not a double-lensed monocle.
Until we stumbled upon this picture. This is my great grandfather Fridell, on occasion of his 25th wedding anniversary 99 years ago. I remember this man, and so, I think I did see these glasses worn by him. Although his beard is short in this picture, he grew it long after my great grandmother passed, and used to separate it and tuck each half into his vest pocket. I remember playing with his beard while I sat on his lap as a toddler. He used to chase me around the house, saying “bitte, bitte Sharon” and I can remember screaming and nearly running into things as we played this little game of chase.
Grandpa Fridell came over from Norway as a young Baptist minister, seeking religious freedom in an environment where it was said the children could not go to school unless they were Lutheran. For a time, he traveled the midwest in a buckboard, with eventually 9 children, living from house to house as he cared for three churches in Nebraska, where there was a large Scandanavian population. My grandmother was the oldest, and had been born in Norway.
He became the pastor at the church California my mother’s father would one day lead, which is where my parents met. It was the church where my grandmother and two of her sisters met and married my grandfather and two of his brothers.
And so the lost is found. The mystery solved. No steamy love letters amongst my father’s things, but a story of dedication, and sacrifice, of new beginnings in a new country and a dynasty to follow. And yes, like everything in my life, a love story.