Sunday, July 31, 2016

A little about Otto

It has been 10 years since the old man died and I still miss him. Although I resented him for leaving me an orphan I do my best to understand. He was always there for me and then, all of a sudden, he wasn't. Fortunately, my brother was with me so I didn't have an overwhelming feeling of being alone.

We rarely argued, but once in a while we would. At least he would listen to me even if he thought I was wrong. My opinion had some value and he always seemed to take the time to listen.
Here he was on a relaxing weekend at the beach. He must have finished the cottage because he didn't take gobs of leisure time to do nothing. That's my brother absorbing sunlight on the blanket in about 1964.

He came from nothing and did pretty well in life. He was smart and industrious, but always kind and considerate. Once in a while he would run out of patience, but not very often. He was a textile chemist at DuPont and a dye expert. At the time of his retirement he supervised about 200 people in the laboratory.
He would get back to Norway (and occasionally Iceland and Denmark) to visit family every few years. Both his younger brothers died before he did and one while he was visiting. He kept going back to visit their families and some of his old friends and more distant relatives, but after his brothers were gone he was always a bit sad. He was a terrific correspondent and always sent birthday cards and letters to just about everyone he knew. After I left home for college I usually got at least a letter a week and never went more than two weeks without one for the rest of his life.
Here he is in Norway after going out fishing with his youngest brother.
The big one is a cod.

Here's one from Thanksgiving about 1963 or so.
He didn't do all the cooking, but he did a lot of it. He made the usual American fare, but I looked forward to the special Norwegian foods he would make.  One of my favorites was raspeballer which is a potato dumpling and goes by many other names. He baked Christmas cookies annually and would always send me some packed in a coffee can. I would eat those and get lost in a childhood dream-state. Then there were the Norwegian pancakes which are basically crepes. It is what you put in or on them that customizes them to your taste. They were one of the last things he made for me.
My cravings for goat cheese, pickled herring, sardines, flatbread, and cardamom cookies continue to this day. At least my local grocery store carries most of that.

Although he played French Horn in bands as a young man he was also a good singer and often sang in church choirs. He always encouraged my brother and I in our musical endeavors. I played trombone in the school bands for about six years but the band conductor was such an asshole that I gave it up. I wanted to try guitar and he bought me a cheap one from Sears just to test the waters.  I liked to try rock and roll and started playing by ear until I could play along with a few things on radio. Although, like most parents, he occasionally said, "How can you listen to that crap?"  The Sears guitar was a piece of shit, but gave me a start. It fell apart after a couple of years and in 1966 he bought me a Framus twelve string that I still play fifty years later. I think I'll grab a beer from the fridge and go play it for a while.

Thanks Otto. You were everything I could have wanted in a father.




  1. Jono--What a lovely tribute. If there is a possibility of this happening, I'm sure your father is looking down on you and he's feeling proud and honored.

  2. Sioux is right. He was obviously much loved and is equally missed. This is a wonderful tribute. One which tugs at the heart strings.

  3. Your Dad sounds like a great guy. What struck me the most is how he understood the value of maintaining family ties and that doing so requires effort and communication. In my observation, that can be quite rare in men (at least men I've encountered).

  4. It kind of blows my mind that your dad wrote to you so often, for so many years. That's pretty amazing. Did you keep any? many? all?

    Intelligence and hard work are a fearsome combination. Your dad sounds like a good man. I can bet you're missing him on this anniversary.

  5. I wish I had had a father like yours. you look like him.

    how is your head wound doing?

  6. Very nice tribute to your dad. He sounds like a good guy. I can feel how much you miss him.

  7. Awe thanks so much for my cry for the day. This is an amazing tribute to an obviously stand up guy. I'm sure your Dad is looking down on you with incredible pride.

  8. A great tribute to an obviously great man. I love to read such items but they always make me a little sad. Like couples who celebrate 60th anniversaries and such.

  9. He sounds like a wonderful and fascinating man! I enjoyed your post, and I'm smiling at the thought of you playing your guitar and remembering him. It's a fitting tribute. :-)

  10. Sioux, The funny thing is that I still seek his approval.

    Elephant's Child, It is amazing that even after ten years I think of him quite often.

    Debra, He was exceptional in his desire and ability to maintain all those connections. Near the end people started calling and writing to see if everything was okay because they hadn't heard from him.

    jenny_o, I kept a couple of dozen, but the entire mass would have taken boxes. At lest he wrote an autobiography for my brother and me.

    anne marie, I was lucky to have a father like him. The head wound is healing slowly, but surely.

    Jennifer, He was well liked by most who knew him. I will always miss him.

    Just Keepin, It's still easy to get a little misty when I remember the fun and stories. Did I mention he was a great storyteller?

    Blog Fodder, The next entry will be on a happier note. I just couldn't let this feeling pass this time.

    Diane, I went and played for about an hour. I even tried singing, but wasn't quite there. Wrong key and I sounded like a thirteen year old with the voice doing strange things. So I just shut up and made nice sounds.

  11. Such a beautiful post. It's been a long time since my parents died. I miss them more, not less, with each passing year. The last Christmas my mother was alive she baked sprits for me--the Norwegian kind of sprits with the wonderful almond flavor and not baked too long. Other sprits recipes don't have the same flavor, might be made with margarine or shortening instead of butter (sacrilege), and are often baked too long. Sprits should not be crunchy. I am glad you had a good father. I did, too.


  12. Nice tribute. I'm sure he would like your post.

  13. Wow. What a great guy. Thanks for posting this lovely tribute!

  14. I enjoy learning about the good guys. Seems your father did well by you. Strike a few chords for me!

  15. What a great Dad you had! No wonder you miss him.

  16. This warmed my heart...letters every week throughout his life, homemade cookies every year, and so many wonderful memories. My thoughts are with you at the 10 year anniversary since you lost your wonderful Dad. I'm glad you had such a winner. He certainly had a winning son (or two).

  17. He sounds like a lovely man, Jono, and someone worth the wounded heart.

    A Minnesotan as well? Because he sounds like one. ;-)


  18. Janie, You understand the wonder of holiday baked goodies from the old country. It has to be butter or in some cases lard.

    Tom, Thanks! I hope he would have approved.

    Donna, He was a genuinely kind and decent human being.

    Vanilla, Otto surprised me one day by picking up my guitar and singing something in Norwegian. I was astonished.

    Pixel Peeper, Did I ever tell you that he never lost his accent entirely. I never knew he had one until in my mid-teens someone said, "Your dad talks kind of different."

    Robyn, With so many memories, he is always with me and sometimes appears in my dreams.

    Pearl, He only visited Minnesota a handful of times, but remember a lot of Minnesotans have Norwegian roots. I hope you are well.

  19. Jono, this is such a beautiful tribute to your father. I think he would be proud! My father died when I was just 27 (over 30 years ago) and I still miss him. I think we will always miss them. I am able to talk about him now, though, without crying, so time does help to heal.

  20. Jono, this is too funny...and I can totally relate to this! About 15 years ago or so, my sister-in-law and her family came to visit us. Since we hadn't seen them in a long time, my two young nephews didn't really know us. But they made quick friends with our youngest son and told him, "Your Mom talks funny." And my son, of course, replied, "No she doesn't."

  21. Linda, Mostly just many fond memories you can have and that helps getting past the missing them part. You are half of their genetics, so know that they live through you, both in nature and nurture.

    Pixel Peeper, Haha! That is exactly the way it happened to me! My dermatologist is German (a young guy about 40)and I looked at him with squinty eyes and said in a redneck accent, "You're not from around here, are you?" I teased him a little and got through a little professional layer to the genuinely nice person that was inside him. It is fun to see the person behind the "doctor" moniker. I had my urologist telling me about his chickens after a little prodding. I think it makes for a better relationship.

  22. What a wonderful tribute. To quote Star Trek II (which may be pathetic, but it's true): "As long as you remember him, he's not really dead."

  23. You look an awful lot like your dad. But you know that, right?
    It sounds like he was a great guy. Your posts here are almost like his correspondence habit. You are like him in more than one way!
    The dads of that generation were often distant from their children. So glad that you had a great relationship with him. That is so special.

  24. Lucky you for having such wonderful memories of your old man. Do we ever really appreciate them when they’re alive or do we wait until they’re gone before we fully aware of what they did for us.

    I read your previous post, good luck and let’s hope that all of it is gone. You’re gorgeous, even with a big plaster on your head. And no, you don’t look like Trump. He looks like he’s been sculpted from a big cheese.

  25. Al, As a long time fan of Star Trek I would never take offense. I sent a sincere sympathy note to Rod Roddenberry after his mother, Majel Barret, died. He sent me a very nice personal note. She had been an amazing woman off screen.

    chlost, I hadn't thought much about looking like him, but in retrospect I guess I do. Only taller.

    Friko, I appreciated him when he was here, but even more so after he died and I had time to really think about things that matter. Trump is an ugly human in so many ways. There is so much beauty in the world, but he is a boil on the ass of humanity.

  26. I love this post so much, Jono. Your father sounds much like my father-in-law … who I was never fortunate enough to meet as he passed away a couple of decades before I had the chance. But I feel like I know him, because his son talks about him the same way you talk about Otto. And I think good fathers have a way of rubbing off on their good sons. It's a wonderful thing.

  27. AT, Thanks. Yeah, it really is a wonderful thing. I was a lucky man to have him.