Archive for the ‘Bethesda Lutheran Church’ Tag

WHAT WOULD MY FATHER THINK?   13 comments

At this point in writing my father’s story, I am deeply immersed in the years 1910 – 1912. Before my father went off to college supported by the money he had saved working for two years on a job he didn’t like. Before the first World War that killed his first – and maybe only—best friend and Best Man at my parent’s wedding (June 6, 1917.)

Some few people in Forestville/Bristol Connecticut were buying cars, enough so there were six automobile dealers and retailers listed in the city business directory. He walked to work past private homes whose green lawns were enhanced by gardens of asters and chrysanthemums. On Sundays he walked to Bethesda Lutheran Church to participate in the Swedish service, singing in the choir, having practiced there on Wednesday evenings.

I imagine peace, quiet, and hope when I spend time there. But on 9/30/1910, three days after my father arrived in the United states, the newspapers reported a terrorist bombing of the Los Angeles Times. Twenty people were killed. The source I read didn’t give any details about the bomber or motivation for the carnage. But it awakens me to the fact that we have never been without terrorism.

So what would my father have to say today if he were here about the most recent terrorist attack? Maybe that’s when he’d say of his life, “I’m glad I’m on my way out.” I know he’d feel sadness, dismay, and probably disgust that people or groups choose killing as a way of solving problems. I’m quite sure we would be discussing it at the dinner table, searching for possible answers.

I know he wouldn’t jump to conclusions about motive, while he would relate it to the spate of killings to which we have, sadly, become accustomed. I know he wouldn’t scapegoat.

Was the Orlando attack part of an organized plan by an organized enemy? Apparently not, according to FBI reports. Was it hatred of the LGBT community? Was it the perpetrator’s personal illness – bipolar disorder? Was it the killers confused battle with his own sexuality? Was it a combination of some or all of the above?

Whatever lay behind the horror, he’d know it can’t be explained by simplistic assumptions. He’d worry that some might not understand how complex the situation is and would choose to rush into inappropriate reactions. My father wasn’t opposed to emotions, but he did favor rational consideration when it comes to understanding and responding.

Looking over all the terrorist attacks, domestic or externally motivated, from Columbine to now, he’d see, as we can’t help but see, that the one common denominator is not only the use of guns, but more basically the choice of violence.

On today’s news I heard that investigators are suggesting a psychological factor uniting them all – that the killer(s) were trying to gain control. My father’s youngest daughter (me) finds that highly reasonable. Having control over one’s own life is basic to being fully human. To oversimplify, it comes from expressing one’s own individual abilities and strengths and feeling rewarded and respected for them. When one doesn’t receive that gift through life situations or genetic givens, then shame may encourage debilitating depression, or, with more energy, blaming and gaining control over others. Demagoguery is one control route, but not for all. Enslavement is another, as is killing, whether organized or individual.

I think my father would say we’d better be careful before rushing to violent conclusions of our own, and take a look at the complexity of life under any circumstances, but certainly in a democracy. It may not be immediately satisfying, but solutions that stick in the long run usually aren’t quick and easy.

 

 

BILL BRYSON, 1927, AND “MY FATHER’S HOUSE.”   18 comments

Working on “My Father’s House” has been a life changing eye-opener for me. As his youngest child, I had no real sense of the time when my father arrived in America in 1910 to the quiet little village of Forestville, Connecticut. My big sister and brother experienced much more of the earlier years. And of the amazing changes that occurred during his lifetime.

My sister, for example, remembers people traveling by horse and wagon, and isn’t sure just when trolley’s from Forestville to Bristol were replaced by buses. She also remembers as a little girl shouting to planes overhead, “Hey, Lucky. Give me a ride.”

My brother remembered the days when church services at Bethesda Lutheran Church were conducted in Swedish. In fact, he spoke Swedish with no apparent effort. I, on the other hand, begged my father to teach me Swedish. He didn’t, citing the prejudice he had experienced when he first arrived. I suspect it was really so he and my mother could talk behind my back while I was present.

I have come to realize how painful it must have been for my parents when all three of their offspring married outside the church. Some things make real empathetic sense when one works at getting inside the life of another.

And oh yes, I really miss my brother, partly because I miss him, and partly he isn’t here to answer the questions my sister is too young to answer.

So now to Bill Bryson’s “One Summer: 1927.” I’m not really going to write a review. 2164 people have already done that on amazon.com. I will say it’s a great read and I strongly recommend it. But I want to talk about the reason why I read it – to understand the times my parents lived through. And even some of the times I lived through with them, which has me reading David Halberstam’s “The Fifties” at the same time.

I loved Bryson’s book. His writing style is delightful. What got to me is realizing the amazing changes that took place in America and, indeed, the world, almost without people knowing it. Oh yes, people were excited about specific events. I must say, poor Lindbergh had my sympathetic understanding of the misery his Scandinavian shyness created for him as he became such a lauded hero. Some of the stories of how he – and his mother – handled it are really funny. I don’t think you have to be a Scandinavian to appreciate it.

But the thing that got me is how many of our current problems are rooted in the events of those days. Adding to that Halberstam’s events of the 50s – when I thought I was a grownup – just highlights how much things are changing right now right before our eyes, or maybe secretly behind our backs.

Aside from learning more about my parents’ lives, I find myself hoping to live another 30 years (yeah! Not likely!) to understand what’s going on now.

Now I’ll transport myself back to 1910 to write a few more paragraphs of “My Father’s House.”

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