Writing is a tough job, but even tougher when my topic is so personal. I’m working on “My Father’s House,” wanting from the bottom of my heart to convey the character of the man so many admired. To me he was my father – aren’t all father’s like that? But to my High School boyfriends, as they confessed to me later in life, he was the reason why they wanted to date me. “I wanted to take you out because I admired your father.” One of them who became an architect, added his admiration for our house.

I suppose I should wonder what that says about me. But I do know what it says about my father. He was a special man in the eyes of some who saw him from an outside-the-family perspective.

So why do I get discouraged? Because I want to convey his character and I’m having trouble doing that. Right now I want to help the potential reader know the hurt and challenge he felt when people laughed at him for his Swedish accent and ways. I want them to appreciate his determination to overcome that while improving his career position by saving income from less-than-desirable work to pay for college. I want them to understand his ultimate pride in his perfect English. Except for the Swedish lilt, his accent became perfectly American. I want people to rejoice with him in the small victory when he used the word “nuance,” and was laughed at for using a foreign word. Picture the satisfaction when he opened Webster’s Dictionary to point out the English word.

I want people to recognize and feel the presence of specific folks in their own lives as they read this phase of my father’s story. (My Italian father-in law’s story was of the same kind of courage – the kind of courage so many immigrants brought with them.)

There’s a whole lifetime I want to convey as the writing goes on, but this is what my heart and head are working on right now.

I get discouraged, but I’ll be digging in today to work on it. I guess I’ll have to invoke my father’s spirit and know that the thing to do with a problem is to do something about the problem.

So now, in my imagination, I’ve pulled in encouragement from many of you. Thank you.




Posted June 13, 2016 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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  1. I so believe in invoking his spirit. Mona. And can’t wait to read the book.

  2. There are days – sometimes weeks or months – when the writing doesn’t come. It does’t click. The creative act gets stalled while something within the deeper consciousness works to resolve the matter on which the writer has gotten stuck. Or so it seems to me. I imagine you thinking of this at night, waking in the morning, pondering how to do this during the daylight hours. It’s harder because it’s so dear to your heart. One of these nights, the right paragraph or sentence will appear suddenly. You’ll get up, go to the computer, write it down, and go on a roll. All the best!

  3. It amounts to the same thing A rose ….

  4. This is a perfectly stated essay for all writer. The love and the frustration and the beauty of the writing when it does come. Thank you for sharing this piece.
    Sheila Clapkiin

  5. This is wonderful! As I don’t know any more about your Father than the few lines in your blog I read, I’m certain he would be very proud
    To read this book!

  6. And he was my Grandfather!
    I had the good fortune to know all four of my grandparents, but “Grandpa G” stands out. I did spend much more time with your parents, but none were like him.
    Of course you know him far better and in a very different way than I. I have no doubt that what of his story that was shared with me is at the root of my respect for all immigrants. I always love to hear the stories they might tell.
    On every windy day , he is my companion. I don’t know if my recollection of his love for the wind is one of those “misremembered” things that come to all of us. But when I stand outside on a windy day, which I make it a point to do, he comes to mind; as does his silver hair blowing in the wind. I watch the trees bend and the leaves twist and the clouds making constant new pictures and he is right there with me.
    I don’t recall him saying very much. Perhaps I absorbed his essence through his actions. He kindly let me “help” with the care of his lawn and garden. I realize that wasn’t easy for him, he took such pride and pleasure from his careful attention. I don’t remember anything he said about his garden. I remember he nurtured it, it grew and thrived and he was quite happy to repeat the rituals – especially with his asters – the next year. I remember his delight with the new house they purchased to “down size” when the garden space in the back was on a hillside and he could work with his flowers at waist height.
    I am sure he and Grandma talked about their plans and shared goals. I was never aware of any of that. I recall his just “being” while she did most of the talking. She had a fun sense of humor but so did he in a quieter way. His smile was soft, but clear. His laugh a gentle chuckle. I always wondered if he really liked Lawrence Welk or if he would watch on Saturday nights because it pleased his wife. Yet, there was his love of music and dance that I heard about years later that might have kindled memories. He said nothing about it.
    It was always clear that “his girls” meant the world to him as was his intent to provide for them and nurture them for as long as he was able.
    He was a gentleman and always appeared as such. In his grooming, his behavior and his deference to others I saw him as someone who respected those around him – and himself – enough to hold his tongue when that was necessary. Yet, I never doubted that he would advocate for what was right.
    Perhaps he spoke more words than I recall because what he said was so consistent with his actions. He just seemed to “be there”. He never forgot to wear the tie or put to use some other silly treasure that I had given him when we were together. No words, just a loving “I remember”.
    I suspect you are having trouble describing the things you most admire about him because they really are indescribable. It seemed he never wavered from his intent and remained in steady pursuit whether or not things were going as he hoped. He did not allow himself to be halted by the things life puts in the way so often. He knew where he was going, who was going with him and how to analyze and evade the efforts the universe sent to divert him.
    I never felt that he meant to “take on the world”. I never got the sense that he wanted to change anyone else or the world. He was on his path, stuck with it and deserves every moment of pride and respect that comes to him.
    And he was my Grandfather!

  7. You are more than welcome. Always a pleasure to be asked about him.

  8. Every trip to the Early Music Festival with your son Doug has been full of conversation. I was thrilled he told me your books on this trip. I’ve order the latest and found your blog. What struck me in this message was your comment about your father emphasizing speaking perfect English. I had two Swedish grandfathers. My mother’s father came to the US in 1872. He died in 1946, one year before I was born, but the way I speak comes from him. He owned a country store, was a leader of singing in the Swedish Lutheran churches (“klokker”?) and a community leader. He emphasized to his family correct ennuciation, grammar and meaning of English words.

    My mother, who would have been 104 this year, learned Norwegian from her mother, Swedish from her father and the church, plus correct English because her father insisted.

    My dad’s father is always with me. Swedish too, he was a traveling salesman, who died before I was three. . A 6 foot 6 giant, funny, caring man, he cuddled me, told stories and poems and entertained me while my dad farmed, mom taught school, grandma cared for our house.

    Memories of these Swedish men are part of me.

  9. When I had my DNA done I found out I had some Scandinavian in me.
  10. Hurray!

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