My Father, My Hero, My Captain, My Friend, My Mentor

Farfar5 years – At times it feels like an eternity. At times it feels like yesterday.

My beloved father passed away in April 2010, only a few weeks after my third child was born.  Thankfully he got to meet her during a quick Skype call, and I know he’s watching over her and the rest of the family from wherever he is.

I’m confident I’ve felt his presence many times during the last few years, as my little family have worked through our new life challenges and if I have been in a situation where his guidance would have been of great help.

In those moments, I have felt his calm hand on my shoulder; as if he was reaching down to say “it’ll be alright, and just do what your heart tells you”.

I miss him very much.  I know my sister and mother miss him too.  It is a great loss and we have been through too many things in recent years.  Some less positive, but even the negative moments have made us stronger as a family – even across the ocean from USA to little Denmark.

It is wonderful to think that my kids still remember farfar.  Not necessarily what he looked like, but his kindness and warm person he was.  When thinking of the few moments my children got to spend with him, and how the cherished these, it makes me a little teary.

As we originates from the vikings, it’s only appropriate to share an old viking prayer –

Lo, There do I see my Father

Lo, There do I see my Mother and

My Brothers and my Sisters

Lo, There do I see the line of my people back to the beginning

Lo, They do call to me

They bid me take my place among them in the halls of Valhalla

Where thine enemies have been vanquished

Where the brave shall live Forever

Nor shall we mourn but rejoice for those that have died the glorious death.

The Rock

Once upon a time, while enjoying my childhood summer, I got trapped on a rock for what felt hours or even days.  It was actually rather traumatic experience, and I’ve been afraid of rocks ever since 🙂

Setting the scene

cottageMany years ago, during the amazing 70s, my parents bought a small summer house cottage on a small idyllic island called Strynø. It was like taken from one of HC Andersen’s fairy tales. Small cottages with thatched roofs, cobblestone roads, wonderful fields and small village.  The village centre had a super market, school, municipal building, and supermarket-icecream parlour-post office (all in one building).  You could only get there by ferry and it only sailed a few times a day.  If you ran out of groceries, you had to live of berries 🙂

We normally went during late spring and most of the summer.  The family Renault 16 (yellow of course) was packed to the brim with supplies and clothes.  In Denmark, you can’t be too sure you get hot weather during the summer, so had to be prepared for anything possible.

While visiting the summer house, we kids spent 98% of the day outside.  Danish parenting is somewhat different, as we (kids) are left to fend for ourselves and learn as we go.  Meals are served during the day, and my parents would open the door, tell us not to come back until dinner time.  We had time to explore, climb, play ball, eat berries and just be kids … without too much adult supervision.  IT WAS AWESOME 🙂

Anyway, during one of these wonderful hot summer days, us kids went on a stroll and ended up by a huge field at the end of a dusty dirt road.  There was a big fence with a gate around the field, but that only means kids are allowed, or it meant something was so big and scary that it had to be locked away.

… but who cares about a gate when we can crawl over it and run in the field.  And so I did!

I was the first one not over, but through the fence, and ran laughing across the field with the sun baking down on me.  I turned around to shout for my sister and friends, only to discover that they were still by the fence/gate.  They had a strange look of fear and I could vaguely hear them shout “RUUUUUUUUUUNNNNN” (in Danish of course) and pointing at something.

My eyes followed their frantic pointing and suddenly I saw this beast with horns come galloping towards me.  I let out a loud yelp, turned and legged it towards a giant rock in the middle of the field.  The beast was gaining on me and I could hear it’s heavy breathing and hoofs hitting the ground hard.

ramboramI jumped the last few yards onto the rock – to safety – and turned around to stare right into the angry eyes of a ram.  He was not a happy camper.

Perhaps he thought I was trying to hook up with his lady sheep or just didn’t like intruders.

I shouted to my sister for help, only to be greeted by hysterical laughter and them pointing at me sitting on a rock, pinned down by an angry beast protecting his turf.

After what felt like hours, probably only a few minutes, my sister finally went for help. Another “hour” went by and I heard the wonderful voice of my dad.

My hero, my saviour had arrived.  My dad can beat and scare off any monstrous ram, or other vile creature of the devil.  Or so I thought.  He was muttering some elaborate escape plan with another dad who had come to help, but I wasn’t seeing any progress in getting me off the bloody rock.

Without water for several “hours” my body was getting weaker and I was not sure I would survive this.  In a panic moment, I attempted to crawl down from the rock, only to be greeted by the ram.  He had absolutely no intentions of letting me survive this.

Suddenly I saw the other dad at the other end of the field, shouting for the ram.  It worked and it started to run towards him.  A few seconds later, my dad was next to.  As he reached for me, the ram suddenly turned and starred a us.  No time to waste, my dad yanked me off the rock and started to run with me on his back.

gimliMy dad was not built for running, a bit like Gimli with short legs, but he was going so fast that his legs were a blur to me.  I could see the ram running after us, and gaining valuable ground.

As we finally reached the gate, my dad threw me over it and jumped up to climb over.  The ram hit the gate and then started to eat the grass my sister was feeding the sheep.  So much for a vicious smoke breathing beast!

So, I learned my lesson.  Never jump a gate to a fenced off field.  If you do, be sure to wear runners and large bunch of grass.

Danish Firestarter

firestarterI love have visitors, especially my family.  I’m very close with my sister and her family, so it was an amazing experience when they came to visit us this summer.  Well, unless your brother-in-law attempts to burn by garden and house!!

Not intentionally of course, and he felt very very very bad about the incident.

He smokes the pipe, which is not so common in the US unless you live in Woodstock, is a hillbilly carpenter or simple organic creature that feed off the land … the latter would most likely live in Woodstock area, have long grey beard and sing Joe Cocker tunes.

I do have to add that Woodstock is a great little area to visit, and is not stock in the 60’s.  A few interesting characters does float around, but it’s fun for the family.

However, my brother-in-law is Danish, and smoking the pipe doesn’t make you weird.  I have absolutely no problem with tobacco smoking visitors, but they do have to smoke outside, and he totally obeyed that rule.

Ever so often he would step outside, with a cold beer, and take in the landscape we live in and ponder on life’s great mystery … how do we get a pool installed.

He would leave the pipe outside, in a secure holder, and tap out the old tobacco in the soil. Little did he (we) realise that this would be a terrible mistake.  We had been blessed with 85-92 Fahrenheit (32+ degrees Celcius) and little rain.

One morning, as my wonderful wife was going to get breakfast bagels, she returned to the house quickly as she had noticed smoke in the flowerbed.  I walk out with a cup of water, but quickly realised that I needed a hell of lot more water.

burning_flowerjpgA large patch (2 x 6 feet) of the flowerbed was literally smoking.  As I placed my hand on the soil, it was too warm and some bushes had started to collapse under the heat.

The scary thing is, my brother-in-law had been tapping out the left-over tobacco for about 2 days, and it had grown into a large pit.

We all noticed the smell of burned wood the night before, but assumed it was there neighbours who had been partying and enjoyed a BBQ.  Nope!!

My dear brother-in-law spent the next two hours with the garden hose and a small shovel, making sure the ‘fire’ had been put out.  He was so embarrassed and shocked at the same time.  No of us expected this.  It just shows how carefull we have to be with fiercest, BBQs and tobacco.  The smallest amber can devastate large areas.

The positive was that, due to his guilt, he cleaned the front area of weed, fixed the other flowerbeds, cut the grass, swept the porch and put up our outdoor clothes drying rack.

…and he made a safe ashtray for his pipe and tobacco, with sand and rocks.

Traffic is Evil

Road-RageTraffic!  The Devil’s work.  The path to Zen and one of the many Catholic trials.  Once you conquer the road rage you are on the path to eternal glory.  Or at least that what we should believe instead of hammering frantically at the wheel or stupidly honk the horn hoping that the traffic will magically disperse.  Only your horn can provide the guidance the other drivers need to open up and let you pass.  It is the Devil’s work!

Most people get stuck in traffic at various times, and at times when you least need to get delayed.  Traffic is evil!  It screws with your well laid plans, whether these are business plans or romantic dates with your partner.

Funnily enough, people have different interpretations of what traffic actually means.  It all depends where they live and which areas they have visited.

Take my dad (bless his soul).  We are from a tiny spot in the picturesque Danish rural harbor village, where traffic is measured in how many people you can wave to when stuck at the local traffic light.  And, there are not many traffic lights to get stuck at, but you do tend to know all people who drives around.

One time I was visiting my parents, my dad and I had to go grocery shopping.  This is when I lived in Dublin (Ireland), where the M50 is a well-known car park.  Anyway, on our way to the local market, we got caught by the red light, with about 12 cars in front of us.  My dad instantly broke into cursing, blaming the economy for excessive cars on the roads, the European influence on rural Denmark and that my mum would be utterly upset with this delay.  After a pain staking 7 minutes we finally cleared the traffic light and parked at the super market.

I subsequently tried to explain to my dad that this was nothing compared to the M50 / Dublin city traffic.  It would take me an hour to drive 10 miles to work, each way, going about 20mph at top speed.

nyc_trafficWithin a few months my parents visited Dublin, which fueled pure road rage in my dad.  I’ve seen him upset before, but this was Saddam Hussein rage.  He was ready to nuke East coast of Ireland, and would happily live in the nuclear winter that follows just to avoid traffic like this ever again.  Needless to say we had a few pints when we finally made it back to the house and WALKED down to the local pub to watch Chelsea beat Arsenal (Gunners) – what a day!

Today we live close to New York City.  Population = 8.4 million souls … almost double size of Denmark’s entire population.  As a result, traffic is bedlam.  Sorry, let me rephrase that. Traffic is absolutely shite.  Please consider that this is the city that never sleeps, so there’s always traffic.  However, on the few occasions my wife and I went on date night to the city, we’ve got stuck in traffic.

  1. If/Then show on broadway – it took us almost three hours to snail through 6 miles down to Broadway, which resulted in us missing dinner, and had to settle for a lovely drive muffin as the door opened to the show
  2. Black Keys (Barclay Center, Brooklyn) – traffic prevented us from enjoying a romantic dinner, but thanks to “awesome” chicken at Barclay Center
  3. Ed Kowalczyk (City Winery) – we had ‘meet ‘n greet’ tickets, but missed the opportunity to meet the dude himself, but did have lovely Peruvian dinner

My dad is most likely sitting in the sky cursing, much to the amusement of St. Peter, blaming anything from Obamacare to Siberian Northern Lights that the traffic is not flowing well, almost causing his son’s (me) to miss out on romantic times with his beautiful wife.

Take care of each other.  Don’t let traffic bring out your bed side.  Be Zen. Be happy and avoid using the horn … it only brings more anger.  Anger leads to the dark side 🙂

Mother o’ Mother

Dear Mother,

Thanks for putting me into this World.  I can only say that I’m a gift to my generation, but some people might just say that I’m overly selfish and arrogant.

We’ve had many years of extreme happiness, family holidays and wonderful adventures.  Some I would prefer to forget, but through it all you’ve been very supportive and always given me the freedom to make my choice.  You mightn’t agree with them, but you respected my decision.

I admit, I’ve made some dumb-ass moves while growing up, and you mostly provided the moral backing … while probably laughing at some of these stupidities.  However, I do want to remind you that you encouraged some of the childhood stunts, even if you attempt to deny it 🙂

  • not stopping me picking up gloving red piece of iron from the beach fire place
  • laughing after I feel on top a huge pile of cow poo
  • taking picture as I was pooping in a bin in the middle of Greenlandic tundra
  • as I vomited having consumed rather large quantities of wiped cream
  • defrosting me after I slept in the shed, after a party, drunk of course

It was so different and much better growing up in the 70s and 80s.  Kids were kicked outside as soon as we had done out homework, despite the season or weather forecast, and had to entertain ourselves playing sports, rummaging in the forest and biking.  You always encouraged this were quick to drag us in to do our chores.

I wish you a wonderful mother’s day, my dear mother.