7.14.2011

Abroad & Below: Just 7 Years Ago


July 4th

While it’s the 4th of July back home, we are celebrating our other heritage today. After spending time with more family members from my farmor’s side, we met with one of the last remaining cousins on my farfar’s side. Margot lives on an island named Alno to the side of Sundsvall, connected by a narrow bridge that places you right in the middle of town. With schools and buildings hundreds of years old, you can tell the island is rich in history and heritage. Margot told us that is hard to find a house for sale here because they usually stay in the family, the most recent sale opening up after a 102 year-old fisherman died a few weeks ago.

Just as her island holds onto history, Margot has as well. She had wedding photos never seen by my dad and other photos with once unknown faces were immediately recognized and dated.

Finding out about deaths is always sad but the death of what I would consider to be my great grandmother was the most devastating. When I last visited Sweden with my dad in 2004, Gulland’s Parkinson’s was worsening but she was adamant to make sure I knew how much it meant to her that I had visited, holding my hands and giving me an envelope of money to my dad to pay for anything I might need in the coming years. She truly touched me; a woman who had last seen me when I was just a year old was overcome by my presence. She reminded me how important it is to keep in touch no matter the distance between family members. When we left their house that year, I promised her I would return before she died.

We found out today that she died a few years ago. No one told us. Not only do I feel at a loss for not visiting her before this year, but I am disappointed we were not told of her death. We would have been at her funeral. At 95, her husband obviously did not have invitations as a priority but nonetheless, we were a bit shocked by the news. I will never forget Gulland. I regret waiting so long to return to Sweden but I am also so grateful that she was able to visit with us in 2004, leaving me with such an enduring lasting impression. Rest in peace Gulland, I will be looking for memories of you when we visit Nils.