Going Home Again

Chance or accident?  Perhaps . . .

My Dad, Carl Ohlin, came as a nine year old, with his parents, Peter and Maria Ohlin from Sweden, and for the rest of their lives they might have wished to go back for a visit, but time and circumstances said no.

But Wayne Ursenbach, the husband of, Bernice, one of Carl’s daughters, was in Europe on company business, and when that was over, he called Bernice, to ‘come on over’ and let’s do a bit of exploring. And they did.

And one of the places, was Eskilstuna, Sweden, where Dad had lived as a boy. They prowled, and they, as well as the woman at a Traveler’s Information counter, were in awe as they found they were there on a street that Dad had known and mentioned.   And Bernice cried as she wished she could have told Dad of the day and coincidence.

Then time passed and Wayne and Bernice’s son Stephen, in Europe this past month, also went to his Grand Dad’s (Carl) home town, and rejoiced as he photographed tall churches that had been there for centuries. Buildings that Carl couldn’t have helped but have seen and known.   And there was rejoicing on both sides of the Atlantic over the ‘going home’ occasions.

Today, with travel so available, one would think parades of people would be ‘going home again’. and joyously do so in some parts of the world, but in others????   Yes, in others, it’s best to not even try, for you might never get there, much less get back..

Read on and I’ll tell a tale of one person, and in my whole story I shall hide all mention of gender. Safer that way. But the mother of one of a couple who had lived in a mid-east country, died, and the child of that woman, decided to go home, from America, for the rites. It wasn’t a good decision, for they never dreamed the ‘traveler’ would be imprisoned, labeled a spy, and threatened with death. Returning to the American home an impossible dream.

I met this person about 20 years ago, and had occasion to hear the first part of their story. How they chose, to leave that mid-east country, and ‘come to America’ bringing their children with them. Same as thousands have done over the centuries and it was good..

They were skilled in crafts which have world-wide usage, and so easily found work, Their children adapted to American schools and by the time I met them the kids were ready for college and the two were both doing extra work to help pay their ways. Nice.

Time passed and not too long ago I stumbled upon people who know the couple I write about, and quite accidentally heard the second part of their story, only this was a ‘going home’ story of horror par excellence.

The death of the mother was sad, and so they thought it would be good if she/he went ‘Home’ for the sorrowful rites. But it was not to be, for as she/he stepped from the plane in that mid-east country, he/she was met by the police and for the next five months was imprisoned as a spy, traitor or whatever. The joy of any family ‘reunion’ was lost in terror as the family, from both there and here, were put through absolute hell.

Those there, had to prove they weren’t sending information to America, and the one from here, going home for a funeral, had to prove his/her innocence.

Five months is a long time and the execution of that one was tossed back and forth by the authorities there, with even the date of execution set.

Who knows what happened? And if anyone knows, who will tell, but suddenly she/he was released and told to get out of that country fast if they valued their life. The people telling me, knew only the basic facts, No details. No one talks. And so fear we have never known before is implanted here in America. The fear of simply sharing the events of our lives.

Our family, in Sweden, rejoiced, told the world, sent pictures by the internet and gloried in searching for old bonds. The other not too far away by today’s reckoning, was luckier than many, and was not executed, but only imprisoned, mistreated, then suddenly kicked out.

We live in two worlds, and can only thank The Source’ that we were born here on this side of the world, and not there on the other side.  TYG



I Am An American

I read where a beautiful woman, who was a ‘grandchild’ on the old Bill Cosby Show, was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey and stated that she was an American and not an African-American. Oprah was not amused.

But I see that young woman’s point of view, and agree with her.  My father was born in Sweden, so I’m a first born generation American, and yet I’ve never been asked to identify myself as Swedish-American.

The basic definition is if you were born here, with your first breath, you are an American. Period. No arguments. However, if you were born elsewhere, came here and completed your immigration papers, you became, as my father did, an American. Again, with no if’s, and’s or but’s. The same as everyone else, because . . .

. . . yes, because, with the exception of American Indians, everyone one of us is a descendant of immigrants. America is a nation of immigrants. And for many reasons, it’s become not only interesting, but ‘big business’ to trace one’s lineage to find out exactly where we did come from.

For some reason, some one is making a big deal of the term African-American. The majority of Blacks have been here since before the Revolutionary War, and no one can argue that fact, for we are the ones who brought them here. They did not choose to come, but we wanted them, and Abraham Lincoln’s words of Emancipation, yes, that far back, gave them all the rights of any other citizen. American citizens.

They have fought, been wounded and died in our wars, including The Revolutionary, The Civil, and every war since.

My father was born in Sweden, came here as a 10 year old, and was never called a Swedish-American.  Chinese, Japanese, Indonesians, Mexicans, all become Americans and not any two-word label. I agree with that lovely young woman on Oprah’s program.   I don’t know her name, but we all knew her at the time of the Cosby Show, and she, on the Winfrey show, which most of us do not see, spoke these words and Oprah was angry.  At least she took umbrage.

Many black skinned Americans have lived here for more generations than the majority of us have.  Lincoln made them Americans, and now it looks as if we’re trying to make them only half-way Americans.

We aren’t blind. We can see and when we meet people, it’s no problem to recognize those beautiful Far Eastern almond eyes, the sun-tan skin of the Latinos, or the almost albino hair of Scandinavian children.  My mother said that up until I was seven or eight years old, it was impossible to see the dividing line between my hair and the white sheets of my bed. She thought I might be an albino, but Dad said, “No, just Swedish”.

Yes, most of us are quick-witted enough to know if the person we’re meeting has Scandinavian, Far Eastern, Black or Spanish features. It’s differences that make us the United States, and we’ve been proud to say to the world that we accept all and have created a huge ‘Salad Bowl’ of the best of everyone from everywhere. Anyone who had the guts and determination to get here where they could develop according to their work and dreams, and not be held back because of their ancestry. To become Americans.  Are we endeavoring to get rid of that old, old dream that has for centuries drawn people to us???

I agree with the lovely young woman, whose name I do not know, and wonder why Oprah was appalled.   She, Oprah, was born American, where she was able to make a name and fortune such as she never could have in any other nation. 

Or, is she and others, for some reason I don’t understand, striving  to continue that difference and identification, known in the past as The Color Line?  Is it to someone’s advantage, monetarily,  to not let those dated words ever  die?  Is there some group fighting to keep that attitude alive??

But it doesn’t matter, for it’s now far past time to drop all labels of what we were and concentrate on what we are and can become.  Americans, as Jefferson so boldly stated, and Lincoln emphasized, that all men (humans) are created equal, with the same rights and privileges. It’s why people of the entire world dream of coming here.   To be Americans. Not to become half-breeds wearing some superimposed two-word label.

To be President of the United States, it goes without saying, that person must be an American. Is President Obama going to be labeled as being half-American? Then we must go back to the beginning and re-label everyone of our Presidents, for each of them was a descendent of Immigrants. Just like you. And me.

AIDS Is Still Today’s Leprosy

Deny it or not . . .

We all know, when we see those short, carefully worded obits that they are for one who has died of AIDS and we sadly pass them by, except when the name is of one we know.

Once I saw such words about one who was my friend. And it matters little that it has been years since we last laughed and talked, I mourn that he is no more in a body and I miss his calls when we chatted, set straight the events of the world . . .  and talked of God .

And my heart still aches for his family because AIDS  remains today’s leprosy and survivors are stripped of the consolation others have when they are free  to speak of the sorrow and the history of the death with caring friends.

See, I know, for several times death,  for husband and parents and others has come close to me, and each time I was surprised to discover how much healing came to me, when I could talk about the days, weeks, months of osculation between hope and despair we experience when someone close is diagnosed as ‘terminal’.

And I thanked God that there were friends who were willing to listen as I unburdened myself on the why’s, how’s, what’s, and offered friendly shoulders for me to cry on.

But with AIDS it’s different, for no one even wants to hear of AIDS.  There is a deep fear, and those left behind not only have their sorrow over loosing a loved one, but the added sorrow of people’s unthinking cruelty when  they almost  ignore the death and even the burial services.

A friend told me of being ignored in such a way. People who had been quick to remember birthdays and other such occasions, never spoke of his death and even passed by on the street, pretending (?) not to see her. I’m sure it’s because they don’t know what to do, or to say,  and so they do nothing.  Sad.

But we are learning, for this is how Cancer once was treated.

I clearly remember as a child, when we kids should have been sleeping, I overheard my parents whispering about a neighbor dying of cancer.

Yes, there was a time when cancer was a no-no disease and I recall my parent’s surprise when the words ‘died of cancer’ began to appear in obituaries.

And now, thank God, AIDS is also beginning to appear there. but just the same, it still is to-day’s leprosy. Strikes fear in all of us, and when we learn someone we know has that disease, we are torn between “Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know”, or the big one of, ” Don’t come near me. Oh, please don’t touch me.”

But the sooner we get our thinking straight, the better it will be for all, because, if you haven’t already been faced with AIDS  or  the death of someone near you from AIDS, you will.

It is not just a disease of Gays and celebrities.  Quite   ordinary people get it from blood transfusions, scratches, accidents, and, yes, it does happen to  ‘nice’ people.

The death I spoke of was for a wonderful person I once often laughed and talked with, wondered why it suddenly all stopped, and then . . . just as suddenly I knew why.

Once AIDS enters a life there is no time or energy for anyone or anything else. It’s a survival course, except everyone knows there is no survival, but. chiseled in stone. the verdict of death.

My friend was given a most private burial, and I don’t know what I could or would have done, but oh, pray God, I hope I’d have had the love and the bravery to let him know he was still my friend and that I cared.

And . . . with AIDS still not freely accepted (as we once did with cancer) now we face Ebola. Pray God, to give us time to find peace with one horror before another comes to us.

Murray’s 2014 Woman of Achievement

 Surprise . . . It’s Me.

               Sometimes unexpected, but wonderful happenings enter our lives, and such a one recently came to me when Murray’s Mayor D. Ted Eyre. and his staff, named me Murray’s 2014 Woman of Achievement.

I was stunned, for when Rhondi Knowlton, Assistant to the Mayor, called to ask me to attend the Murray Scholarship Pageant, where I would be so cited. I was deeply honored, but regrettably said “No” to her invitation.

The problem is, that as one’s years accumulate, at the same time the energy to enter into such functions diminishes. I rued the necessity of my decision, but knew that the energy for accomplishing what the program would require, was no longer mine.

Actually, each day I accomplish quite a bit, but do so by consciously rationing the use of my energy, so that, if one day, I have “10 Units” of Energy, I use only 8; and if I have only 7 or 8, I use only 5 or 6 that day. Works for me.

I sent sincere letters of thanks to Mayor Eyre, his assistant Rhondi Knowlton, and Leesa Lloyd, the only ones I knew who had worked on the invitation, and once that was done, I tucked it all away as a wonderful ‘might-have-been’ memory. I chose to give it no more thought, and to tell my family at some future date.

So I was surprised to find that on the night of Murray’s Scholarship Pageant, I was honored anyway, and later that night an etched ‘citation’ and an armful of roses were delivered by Rhondi to my son Bill’s, home. I was delightfully overwhelmed.

I don’t know what was said about me at the Pageant, but I hear that pictures were shown, taken at different times for use in ”Jim” and Bette Cornwell’s well-known Murray Eagle Newspaper, where I was writer, Women’s Editor and for decades wrote a weekly column Out My Window which won many State and National Awards.

Those columns truly were born from the thoughts and dreams of my mind and heart. Many readers wrote approving letters, and I still meet people who thank me for my words ‘back then’. One moment I treasure dearly is when I was in ‘line’ at a bank and a man asked if I were Ethel Bradford and as I nodded yes, he told me he saved and constantly carries one of my columns in his wallet. I didn’t ask which one, for that was his own private business, but quietly and with unspoken emotions, we looked deeply into each other’s eyes, shook hands and then went our ways. Money can’t buy moments like that.

I imagine the books I’ve written about the early days of this valley and specifically Murray itself, were also considered for such an award. Gathering the old, mostly verbal tales of the people who made Murray the City it is, has been a joy for I found those people were pretty much the same as we are, very human, and how they coped in such an undeveloped area, should not be forgotten. The Frank Mash, Felix DeNiro and Rawsell Bradford families have been here for over 100 to 150 years, and still have our homes on land that no one but we and Indians have ever used.

Probably my years of teaching at the men’s medium security section of Utah State Prison were mentioned, The title of my ‘classes’ was “Change Your Thinking and You’ll Change Your Life”, and, aware that the outer life of most of those men could never change, I hoped some words or ideas might possibly spark them to seek an Inner change.

And then, I was accepted to be one of an extremely limited few witnesses to an execution. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience and the first shock came when they took away my Driver’s License, and gave me another card, stating I was to be a witness to the execution. For about ten or so days I was without that legally demanded License, and I actually wished that I’d  be stopped for a minor traffic violation so I could surprise the Officer with my substitute card and watch his reaction. Oh well.

My work there and viewing an execution left me with great respect for all Priests and Elders of any religion who make a life-time commitment to be there when called or needed. It isn’t a fun way to spend a day or evening.

I don’t know if it were mentioned, but for many years I represented, for Utah’s AA groups, a non-alcoholic’s viewpoint in an alcoholic environment, as well as asked to several UofU classes, where questions were asked and answered.

I can only guess at how they described my life, but if anyone lives long enough, they, as I, gather many experiences and so, again I say Thank You to Mayor Eyre and his staff and also sincere thanks go to James M. Cornwell, and his lovely wife Bette, who is now deceased, but the two of them together, opened many doors for me. Gratias tibi ago.