Chronicles in Ordinary Time 128: Forefathers

Dan Fogelberg

They came from Scandinavia, the land of midnight sun
And crossed the North Atlantic when this century was young
They’d heard that in America every man was free
To live the way he chose to live and be who he could be
Some of them were farmers there and tilled the frozen soil
But all they got was poverty for all their earnest toil
They say one was a sailor who sailed the wide world round
Made home port, got drunk one night, walked off the pier and drowned
My mother was of Scottish blood; it’s there that she was born
They brought her to America in 1924
They left behind the highlands and the heather-covered hills
And came to find America with broad expectant dreams and iron wills
My granddad worked the steel mills of central Illinois
His daughter was his jewel; his son was just his boy
For thirty years he worked the mills and stoked the coke-fed fires
And looked toward the day when he’d at last turn 65 and could retire
And the sons become the fathers and their daughters will be wives
As the torch is passed from hand to hand
And we struggle through our lives
Though the generations wander, the lineage survives
And all of us, from dust to dust, we all become forefathers by and by
The woman and the man were wed just after the war
And they settled in this river town and three fine sons she bore
One became a lawyer and one fine pictures drew
And one became this lonely soul who sits here now
And sings this song to you

Dan Fogelberg was a ‘lonely soul’ we lost too early, to the C-word. I miss him; though we never met. Dan and I had a lot in common; he provided the soundtrack to several of my carpentry projects over the years; back in the days when it was safe for me to take on such projects.

‘My mother was of Norwegian blood,’ she came here with her mother and two sisters in 1927. She left behind the fjords of Norway, and fish caught directly from the ocean, minutes before. I think my grandmother missed her home, although she and I never talked about such things. She made me cinnamon toast on my way home from elementary school; I think she let my Mom know, by telephone, when I passed her house on my way to school in the mornings…

My Dad had worked in ‘the steel mills’ of Portland. By the time I came along, 9 years after their marriage, he was a Public Accountant. I think he worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for nearly all of the time I knew him. I also think that may be the exaggeration of a son who never got to know his father. Having taken an unexpected ‘right turn’ after leaving the Army with a Medical Discharge, Dad went to work in the shipyards of Portland, working as a welder and a machinist. In the years that followed there were more machine shops, until all of his tools were destroyed in a fire. Then came carpentry and a very brief career as a realtor. I don’t know what he expected when he turned 65; as I tell people, he died at 62 and we buried him at 67. The stroke that forced him to retire came at 62; he hated his life from that point forward—except for the births and visits of two of his grandchildren. He went Home during the pregnancy of our third child. I had my only ‘heart-felt,’ ‘conversation’ with him at 67 in a hospital, as he lay in a coma. He had contracted a flesh-eating disease in a place where no man wants such things to occur; ‘Fournier’s gangrene’. The docs were trying to figure out what to do with what was left, and Dad fortunately had a lower-brain-stem stroke and went Home.

‘The woman and the man were wed just after the war; And they settled in this river town and three one fine son she bore…’

My folks lived in Portland for much of their lives; Portland, sometimes called ‘the City of Bridges’. Our middle kid and his wife now own my parents’ first home, purchased in 1946, when there was a forest across the street. I’ve lived here all my life. My Dad was installing the bright red kitchen floor tiles while I was being born. The tiles remain—they may be made from Red Kryptonite…

I don’t much like birthdays. For some reason, they seem irrelevant to my life. I am the age I am; and I am here by the Grace of the One who created me. The intervening years have been a mixed bag of frustration and wonder…

I spent the last two weeks arguing with my computer and upgrading my website.  There are still some kinks to work out, aesthetically; but I don’t have the time to continue at this point. So many images. I find that I have trouble remembering all the names… For a few years, I trolled Craigslist every day, finding work to pursue; every day I went through a folder in my computer that contains all of the images I use for marketing myself [1300 files]; I stopped trolling a couple of years ago, and now have to hunt visually to find the images I want from, past work—I don’t remember the names.

I had a strange experience a couple of weeks ago, being invited to talk to a group of ‘children’s illustration junkies’ from Ohio about my work; I explained that if there is a list out there of ‘least successful, published, children’s illustrators’ I must be on that list. While I’m still a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI, I don’t participate all that much. I got tired of hearing ‘civilians’ [children’s book buyers] praising my work, and the ‘professionals’ [editors and such]—telling me that it wasn’t ‘accurate enough’…although they buy up cartoons all the time. Accuracy?

I have a biography of Amelia Earhart on my desk, Amelia with a very large head, to remind me to pursue such work… Sort of like this:

Who is Doctor Who?

What’s ahead for this next year?

A trip to Colorado.

Converting a couple of books to Kindle.

Continued work on my new version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s, A Scandal in Bohemia.

Beyond that? I have no idea.


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