She was born August 25 1914, youngest
child to a poor blacksmith. The story told,
her mother had gone to a creek nearby in
very early morning to get some fish for
breakfast to the family. But she had to
hurry back home and she just made it
before the girl, who later come to be
my mother, was born.
She was quick in all her moves and doings
and she loved all athletic exercises, in
school as well as on her free time – and she
might needed to be quick, being object for
her four older brothers brutal bullying. But
before it came to that she got rachitis 1915.
Her disability was caused of the lack of
food during W.W.I, making the poor to
suffer hard. She was paralysed from her
waist and below for about one year.
Her mother – who never wanted another
child and didn’t like girls – wrapped her
in an old sock and put her in a corner to
die. But she survived and became a short-
legged girl and woman with a deformed
pelvis, not fit to carry and give birth to
children.(Yet she suffer through three
pregnancies during her lifetime.)
Her family was poor country people,
living in simple cottages, with one room
and a kitchen, some of them built by her
father. He was a skilful craftsman, but
had a hot temper and he never accepted
patronising manners from his upper class
bosses – especially not if he had taken
a schnapps or two. He might have been
political radical, and a participator in
“Big Strike” in Sweden 1909 (but that
can be a family tale). But for certain
he disliked “religion” – Christianity –
and was scornful when he talked about
what was said in the Bible.
My grandmother was the opposite to her
husband – mute, cold and shy. She was
very pious too and she read a piece in
her Bible every day, and she never tasted
alcohol. She loved to cultivate flowers
and vegetables in her garden and to go
to the forest for berries – and she did it
always barefooted. Her soles was thick
and hard as shoe leather.
I met my grandmother only a couple
of times. The first time I visited my
grandparents I was 4 or 5 years old.
And we had dinner in their kitchen.
My nose was just above the very big
plates – and my grandmother served
me food as for a full grown. It was
like eating a whole continent. I was
so full – and assumed not able to have
the dessert too. We never had dessert
at home, so it was exciting news for
me – and it was a lovely candy-red
soap called saga-soup. I insisted I
wanted it – and I got another very
big plate under my nose and my
grandmother pour up soup to the brim:
and I was looking over big Red Sea –
and it was an enormous red sea with
no end! What a horror! It just said
“stop” in my whole body and I could
not even take one spoon to taste it.
My grandmother did not sit with us
at the table, but stood leaning to a
bench with her arms crossed over
her chest, supervising us. Her stiff
body and harsh and unfriendly face
and her silence scared me. I turned
my head to my right side to look at
my mother – but she was blushing
and shaking, looking deep down in
her plate, so frighten she could not
lift her eyes to look at her mother.
She was a grown woman, still she
acted like a punished dog – it was
strange and worrying: I had never
seen her like that before. So I turned
my head in the other direction and
looked at my grandfather. But he just
smiled cosy in his big moustache like
a Santa, pretending he saw nothing.
My grandparents upbringing of their
children was easy: get out of the house
and out of way in morning, come home
to bedtime and don’t cause your parents
any trouble. But four badly brought boys
in an abusive family caused a lot – and
my grandfather beat them up brutal and
often. But he never used violence against
his daughter – she was his pride. And she
loved him dearly too and liked to spend
time in his workshop.
Except liking athletic exercises in school,
as well as on her free time, she also was
a good singer and had a nice soprano
she could have cultivated, if only she had
been born under other circumstances.
She was also a good naivistic painter,
and alike others in her family a talented
storyteller. She loved to read fairy tales,
and listen to the stories the adults told in
the twilight time before going to bed.
And she loved to go out with friends to
dances – she joined the Good Templars
as they hold dances in their club house.
Before she got her first child she worked
as a maid in upper class households.
There she learned the manners she never
got from home. And she was send to a
dentist giving her a denture at age 20.
She also attained a giant contempt for
her own class, which worked well with
her already low self esteem. Later in life,
she told us children – for discipline – we
were just bad seed, being working class
children – unlike the children in “good
families” – who knew how to behave.
At age 26 she became a single mother
and then it was not easy to get a job as
a maid, bringing a child. She started to
work as a housekeeper for single farmers.
It was hard, but my sister remembered
her as an sociable and optimistic woman.
She was very much alike her father –
with the exception for her fear for all
kind of authorities and bullies, and
her rules was: never stick out, but
try to please them; be humble, and
never ask for anything for yourself.
My mother told me about that time, she
had no control over her child because
of the work and people around. The child
looking like a princess with curly blond
hair, became both neglected and spoiled.
When her child at age 4 got pneumonia
she was not able to follow her daughter
to the hospital, and she was too scared
for her employer to lose her job to insist.
When the abandon child was well to go
home, her brothers – all gathered in their
parents kitchen with their wives – started
a quarrel for many hours about who would
drive to the hospital and bring the child
home. They could not resist the opportunity
to bully their sister once again. But her child
was released early in the morning and she sat
forgotten on a bench in a corridor to late in
evening. By then a nurse discover her, still
sitting at the same bench and not moving a
limb. She took the child to her office, gave
her a sandwich and made a phone call. But
this was how they lived their lives together.
My mother and her brothers brought their
childhood abuse and callousness to their
own families. At least one of my uncles
was very violent – he beat his first baby
so bad she later died at the hospital –
later his other children was taken to
foster care for a time. That last incident
gave my mother a lifelong anxiety for
losing her child too.
When her daughter was 8, she came to
work for my father, and they married
the same year, but only – as she always
claimed – because she was pregnant again.
My sister had another sight of my parents
relation at this time. But tender feelings
was too embarrassing for my mother to
admit to have or to express, (if it not to
babies, cats or dogs). And instead for
appreciate her family, she dreamed herself
back to times in life when she was young
and free and independent (from the children,
to whom she told her stories).
After she marry my father she changed
and became more like her mother –
occupied herself in gardening, having
animals and going to the woods for
berries – and avoiding people around.
Both she and her girl had been abused
by the first husband she soon had left,
and by the man she last worked for.
And she too was a habitual abuser.
She had badly beat her oldest – but
it all ended when I was 4 years old
and when my youngest sister still
was a baby. My father came home
from work at the farm there we lived
and caught her preparing a birch to
start to beat me up too. And then he
put an end to all physical abuse.
But he could not stop her from talking,
and in spite she was a very little woman –
she was a big talker. And it was a lot
of babble in my childhood from her, but
hush-hush about what was true and real.
She used to brag with big pride she was
a very honest person, never telling a lie.
The truth was – as I discovered with age –
she simply did not knew the difference
between a lie and a true statement.
She made her abusive brother to a nice
fellow for us children to admire as an
ideal father figure (he was a charmer
when he visited us with his family).But
our real father was never good enough
for her as a family-man and a husband.
(He certainly had his flaws in character,
but that is another story.)
My father and I was considered to be alike:
skinny, quiet and disappearing in reading
books (me) or magazines (my father). She
claimed reading could give me mental
problems in future, and that reading in bed
caused my back problems (those I was born
with). (We hardly had any furniture, except
the kitchen furniture, and those worn out
tourist beds in steel, and trunks and boxes.)
Over the years we came to live in a lot
of filthy and shabby houses. We were
always on the move to a new farm. My
father was either kicked from his job or
could not stand the one he had and just
left it (sudden and surprisingly) to get
another – we became poorer and poorer,
sometimes not even having money for
food, but always in big depts to pay off.
Once, when my father was fired from one
day to the other and the family was to be
kicked out of the house the next coming,
and me and my baby sister was sick in flu
and fever, the neighbours came together
to help us and gave us a basket with food.
(I was just a little one and did not know
what was happening, but still I understood
the feelings of compassion and shame in
the faces of the two big men, those job it
was to carry out our stuff and us kids to
the truck and drive us off the farm).
Even before I started school my mom
was broken down by the circumstances
and by health issues. She changed to
worse – peculiar scared and in shame
for people, obsessed with bacterial fears
and fixed and weird ideas. She loudly
pity herself daily, and nagged about
“what people would think” and thanks
to her we became odd too – so surely
they did think! But she had no empathy
for her own family, only anger and scorn.
About motherhood my mom always said
“I have fed a snake at my chest”. As
child I always thought she hated to have
us all children. But it was the oldest she
talked about – and my sister was a very
disturbed person from childhood to old
age. Later on my mother said about her
“I have giving birth to a monster”.
This family violence I came to witness
first at age 11, and it was when my older
sister swung a frying-pan and threaten to
kill my mother. Me and my little sister
was shaking, terrified over the incident..
But my mother only said “it was nothing,
she has her bad moods sometimes.”
It was stunning how brave she could be,
when she as an individual was in real
danger, comparing to how irrational she
otherwise acted out – not at least for
threats only existing in her head.
My father escaped when I was 16 and
left us without any means for living or
a place to stay. About a year later she
was forced to take a household job for
a heavy drinking and very violent man.
So bad went to worse with no happy end.
My last year with her, she lived abused
again and when things around demanded
her to function as a parent – she just lost it
and became completely hysterical. I left
at age 18 for studies at a boarding school.
But the last years I have come to believe
she after all loved her children. She was
just not able to express her feelings. And
I think she was very unhappy because
of this inability. And she lost us – except
for the oldest, who followed her and took
care of her to her last days – like a curse.
Or a blessing.
We all three daughters met again many
years later – 1990 – at her funeral.
In a way I think she was in her right
to feel so sorry for herself – she was
such a creative woman with so many
good talents and she could have had a
good life and become an eminent and
happy person – but it never happened.
She was just “born under a bad sign.”
But if not for her I had never been born.
And this year 2014 it is hundred years
since she was born. And it should not
pass, without me tribute her with an epos.