Thursday, April 16, 2009


We were told after a few days that our father had died at sea. These were horrible days. If you don't know the facts, what you dream up in your imagination gets more and more horrible. Birgit was told that first day, but she was told not to tell her siblings. We were too young to understand.

There was an inquest to investigate his death. For some reason the inquest was held somewhere in Denmark. Mother was told that she did not have to attend. The owners of the ship would tell her what developed. But she did go, and she did attend. Father had turned up missing on a warm, calm day in the Bay of Biscay, between Portugal and France. Father had written in the log at eight am. Later in the day it was discovered that there was no other entry in the log. The crew searched the ship for their Captain and it was decided that he had somehow left the ship. Mother asked the next in command, "Did you go back to search for him?" The answer was, "No, we were too far from that." Mother asked,"Too far from what?" And the answer was a shrug of the shoulders.

All this came to my ears from listening to Mother discussing it with her friends. She wanted the shipping company to have the police investigate what had happened.

And then came the problems of the insurance companies. She immediately received money from what would compare with Workman's Compensation. And when it was time for the life insurance company to pay, it was denied. They claimed that Father had jumped overboard and committed suicide. Mother had letters that gave a different picture of his attitude at the time. It was to be the final journey for Father on this ship because the company had promised him a brand new vessel. He was elated. There were many new inventions built into the newer ships. On board was the man who was to take charge of the old ship. I think the name of the ship was SEVERIN, but that might have been an earlier ship of his. The company recommended an attorney for mother to use as she tried to get the insurance people to pay. Mother won in the first instance, and the insurance company sought a new trial. In the next trial, Mother won again and so the insurance people went to a higher court and Mother lost. She was devastated and beaten. The lawyer Mother had used was upset. But that was the end of the line for Mother.

I told you all earlier that Dr. Hansson, my mentor, was Swedish and had come from a place very close to my home village. He had gone to school with a boy who became a lawyer while he became a doctor. As I was walking west on 42nd street Dr. Hansson caught up with me. He said he was upset. A very good friend of his from school days was just sentenced to prison for many years. He had been on the take and had lost cases on purpose and then been paid under the table by whichever company he had been suing. I asked what was the name of the lawyer. It was the one who had represented my Mother.

I was eager to tell Mother. She said, "I can't fight that fight again."


musingegret said...

Oh my, oh my, what a doubly haunting story. First your father is declared dead under undeniably mysterious circumstances and then the lawyer hired to help rectify an unjust ruling by the insurance company may have been on the take. Miss Svensto, your powers of remembrance and narration are so entertaining and illuminating that I wouldn't be surprised if a book offer comes your way! Enjoy your Northwest spring; I can't wait for the next chapter.

Haphazardkat said...

oh my gosh. WOW--what a coincidence that the doctor knew your Mothers lawyer!! And how sad that people are willing to take money out of the pockets of Widows and children.
I'm sorry to hear about your Father and your loss.

Vancouver, WA

LMK said...

It surprises me day after day how complicated your life has been, in the intricate sense. Just as I think you're done turning twists on us, you tell us such an unbelievable story, and you tell it eloquently and nonchalantly. Thanks again Svensto, for sharing so much about your past and family.

Anonymous said...

i often think about what a small world this really is and you illustrate that over and over. i enjoy it very much!

Emiana said...

I didn't see that twist coming. My goodness what a shame. I hope that lawyer was in jail for a good loooong time.

Anonymous said...

Dear Svensto,

I have been following your blog since the beginning. Even though words on a printed page are without emotion, I can imagine the resignation in your mother's voice when she said, "I can't fight that fight again."

It would be wonderful if you could record one of your entries so we could hear your voice and really understand what you were feeling. Not if it is too hard emotionally though. Perhaps one of your grandkids could get you set up. I would love to hear in your voice reading one of these blog entries.

Joanna said...

That's an amazing end to the story.

Charlene said...

I check your blog everyday. It's always a treat to find a new post. Thank you for sharing your very interesting life with us. I hope you will continue writing for a long time.

Melinda said...

I have no particular comment to make today, other than to tell you I enjoy reading your blog! I love stories from ordinary and extraordinary parts of "ordinary" people's lives. I always have. As a child, those were the books I loved most as well. And you write them so well. Best, Melinda

svensto said...

musingegret, I enjoyed your comment. Today I read some-one elses blog and as I read the comments I realized thet the original blogger can reply to the commenter. My granddaughter never told me that that was expected. So many times I have wanted to thank people for such heartfelt comments. How can I thank one and all.
But thank you.I will try to discuss this in my next blog.

Donna Love said...

Good Morning, Gertrud! Yesterday at Martha and Bob's we ate a white cake with white icing, stripes of strawberries and a field of blueberries. "In memory of Dad and Mike and all who fought for our amazing freedoms," Martha said. Jan and Peter talked about your blog stories and I realized I'd not read your site for some time.... so this morning I have and will never let a week go by again without savoring your memoirs cum blog.
You' be pleased to see the pride Martha has in your accomplishments, for one, your growing familiarity with the computer... that's just for starters.
Am I supposed to limit my comments to the blog? If so, "Good for you!" I love reading your stories and particularly knowing Sam better.
Hugs, Donna