Thursday, 14 June 2012

Stories about my grandfather

Dette er på engelsk da det først ble skrevet som svar på en NaNo-post. Men alle de gode minnene jeg kom på mens jeg skrev dette gjør at jeg vil lagre den her også :)

When I grew up my grandfather was the dark, grumpy man in the living room chair. He struggled with health issues that sometimes made him a bit impatient with us kids. At the same time, he was funny and patient with us on his good days. He taught me how to blink with both eyes (one at a time) and move my finger through the flame of a candle without being burned. But unlike my grandmother, who loved to chat about anything and everything with me, we never spoke that much, and I didn't feel I knew him.

When I was fourteen, that changed with such a simple thing as asking him about his school days. A project from school to interview someone about their school days, and I chose my grandfather. He told me about the perfect tiny little school with only thirty students and a kind, loving teacher. And about the bigger school he started when he was nine, with three hundred kids. About the teacher who hit the children, and how that made him unable to learn any more. He almost failed in math. ("I had to teach myself when I started driving the bus. There was no excuse not to give back correct change, so I took night classes, and I made perfect chance, every time.") And how this one time he fought back, when his sidemate was supposed to go into the naughty corner. My grandfather grabbed his friend so the teacher had to haul both kids and their desks to the corner, where they stayed the rest of the class. The glint in his eyes showed that this was his moment of glory.

After that, I think he realized that I loved hearing about the old days. He told me about his career at the train station, where he worked up from a linesman (the one moving the rail road tracks so the trains could go either left or right) until the diabetes made that impossible for him (if he went into shock on the railway, it could kill both him and the passengers). Of how he worked his way up to being the station master. (Though grandmother was the one who had to tell me how important that job was. He never bragged, to the point where he didn't even tell me he was in the city council.)

He also told me about the war, in a very different way than Grandmother. She was frightened of the German soldiers, yet looking back every time she talks about it she shakes her head and mutter "but they were just boys. Young boys, just a few years older than me.". Norway was occupied from 1940 to 45, and several of her friends fled into the woods instead of helping the nazi war effort. Grandfather could stay, as his job on the railway was too important for him to get drafted into the wrong side. He did become friends with a German boy his age, though. They exchanged letters when he was transferred out, and grandfather got a letter from his parents at the end of the war, telling him his friend had fallen on the eastern front. Although he had one friend amongst the soldiers, he never discussed politics with them (being in the very much "not a nazi" camp, considering he joined a party after the war known for being liberal and pro-immigration). But more than anyone else I've talked to about the war, he managed to see the people inside the uniforms. He once told me that most of them didn't want to be in Norway any more than the Norwegian people wanted them here.

That didn't stop him from stealing sugar from the Nazis when the shipment came to town, though. But only a few pieces of cane sugar, for him and his girlfriend (my grandmother). They met during the war.

Grandfather claims that was the one good thing that came out of the occupation. Grandmother was set to work in the kitchen of a high-ranking nazi, where he was lent out from the train station for a while to work as a farm hand. They met, fell in love and got married after the war.

He had many quirks. He had a cane he called Otto, and whenever he went out on a walk, he used to tell my grandmother he was going walking with Otto.

He collected all the golf balls who were struck into his garden (they were the neighbours of a golf course) and sold them back to the course for 5 kroner a ball (about $1, cheap for this country). One time a golfer hit a ball through the window of a living room. He brought the ball up to the owner of the court and told him this ball would cost him more than five kroner. They replaced the window free of charge, and put up nets so that wouldn't happen again.

He could bend the top joint of all his fingers without moving any other joint, except the one he'd lost in an industrial accident. He always laughed when he came to that finger, claiming that was the easiest. (Family quirk: every single member of my family on that side has lost parts of one finger. My grandmother, my grandfather, my father and my uncle. I live in constant fear of loosing a finger!)

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