Tuesday, April 14, 2009


After reading the sea stories in the news papers, I am so happy to finally reach the end of the trapped captain in the life-boat. I hope he is having a wonderful life with his wife and child. It made me think about my own father who went to sea as an able-bodied seaman at the age of 16. He of course sailed because the wind was blowing. He went to school and also worked his way up until he reached Captain-hood.

I wish I could say I remember him sitting with his pipe telling stories and adventures from his sailing-days. But I can't do that for I hardly remember him at all. He died when I was 10 or 11. And In all those years I had probably seen him no more than a few dozen days. I have a clear memory of him organizing a quartet of his four children. He played the violin and we four had to act as if we were playing drums or trumpets or the base. And we had to march around the room in a line. I remember the words to the song we were marching to.

My other memory was disturbing. My mother and father were in bed and they were talking in low voices. The door between our rooms was slightly ajar, and suddenly I heard my mother crying. I had never heard a grown-up crying. What had she done? I felt it had to do with guilt of some kind. But what had she done? ( I don't know if I knew that father was leaving that day for another 18 or 24 month trip) I might I have cried too, if I had known that. But I did not really know him at all. Around 10 am he left and he never came back.

A couple of years later, the four of us were outside, not playing but hanging around. It was New Years Eve. we had been invited to play outside. Next day was my sister's birthday and we surmised that mother was preparing something for her. We were cold. I had lost my mittens. And suddenly two men arrived. They were somber and bergmanesque. Dressed all in black. They spoke to us. Asked our ages and where wee were in school. And then they left to go ring the door-bell on our house. From where we were, we could see mother opening the door and letting them in the house. And so we worried. What was going on? It seems, looking back, that there was something drastic going on. We were all cold.

Suddenly our cousin Ingeborg was there. She said" Come with me. You are having supper at our house. The mystery grew and grew. We were all scared. Birgit finally was allowed to go home, but the rest of us were not told what mystery was developing. It turned out that the men walking down our alley were men from the company that owned father's ship. The were there to tell mother that father was lost at sea. It was kept a secret for the three of us children for several days. Mother was crying daily and I told earlier that grown-ups did not cry. unless they had done something bad. What could be Mother's crime. There are consequences that developed for years. One interesting development happened on 42nd street in NYC years and years later when Dr. Hansson caught up with me and told me about a disturbing thing he had heard about an old class mate and friend of his. I will tell all about it later.


musingegret said...

Oh Miss Svensto, what a cliffhanger! I don't know if I can wait till Thursday for the next details; you are a wonderful storyteller and have inspired me to try and convince my 78 year old mom to start a blog. She's techno-phobic but I keep telling her that learning new things keeps one young, right? Again, thank you so very much for your wonderful writing and remembrances.

Anonymous said...

A cliff hanger! Don't leave us hanging for too long!

Joanna said...

I never really thought about what it would be like to have a father go off to sea and only see him a few days at a time every year or two. You really wouldn't know him at all. Wow.