Today would have been my Dad’s 100th birthday. Sadly he died back in 2007 and didn’t live to see this day. He had a stroke close to Memorial Day in 2007 and struggle for two months before he died at the end of July after days and weeks in and out of the hospital and back to the nursing home.
My Dad was born in Iowa and when he was still a babe his parents moved to a farm outside of New Richland, Minnesota. Dad’s parents were immigrants from Sweden. He grew up speaking Swedish and didn’t learn a lot of English until he went to first grade at the country school a mile or so from the farm. Dad told wonderful stories about his days in the country school.
My Grandpa Johnson built all the buildings at the farm. My parents later bought the farm from my Grandpa when Grandpa retired from farming and moved to town. This all happened before I was born so the farm was my home for my entire growing up years.
It might seem a little odd that I talk about the farm in relationship to my Dad..but seriously, my Dad was the farm and the farm was my Dad. It might sound silly but Dad practiced social distancing long before it was today’s norm. My Dad rarely left the farm…Rarely. I can honestly say he didn’t leave more than once a month. Mom did the errands. Mom went to the vet. Mom went to the feed store. Dad stayed home and managed the farm. All of us kids knew that if we wanted to see Dad, we’d have to find him outside.
Dad was born 4th in a family of five and later went on to have five kids of his own with my mom.
Here’s a picture from when Mom and Dad were dating.
My Dad was the a patient guy, contemplative and reserved. He didn’t raise his voice very often and when he did, we knew it was serious.
Dad loved puzzles. Many of us remember doing puzzles at the table with him in the winter. He loved doing the TV Guide crossword puzzle each week. He enjoyed playing cards and had a stash of twist it type interlocking puzzles. He loved when the Rubik’s Cube came out. He spent many hours twisting and turning trying to solve the puzzle. He loved playing pool and there was a pool table at the farm house for many of my growing up years. For quite awhile, it was in the dining room.
Dad wasn’t a traditional farmer that was up at the crack of dawn to milk cows. He was happy to milk at 7am and again at 8pm. Most other farmers around us were done milking by the time we started. But, when your Dad is a night owl, that’s how the milking schedule works. He had a goal to always be done with milking and chores by 10:30pm because that’s when Johnny Carson and the Tonight Show came on. Johnny was his favorite. Dad often didn’t head to bed until midnight. If I could choose, I’d prefer the same type of schedule.
In our barn the cows stanchions were what they call “butt to butt”. There was an alley down the center of the barn and the cows butts faced the alley. Dad hung a swing in the alley and while he milked cows I would often swing. I can vividly remember him singing, Blood, Sweat and Tears song “Spinning Wheel”, Lynn Andersen’s “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden”, and John Conlee’s “Rose Colored Glasses”. Dad always had music or a ball game playing on the radio in the barn…or on Sunday mornings, it was a church service.
Dad loved going to the county fair and other ag events like Farm Fest. When he got older and rented out the farm, my brother Jay took dad to all sorts of places catching baseball games at many different stadiums as Dad was true Minnesota Twins baseball fan. If Jay was taking him somewhere he was ready to go.
As a kid I remember some Sunday afternoons in the summer Dad would hit baseballs to my two older brothers and me playing 500. I loved it.
Dad loved things to follow a schedule. He didn’t like change. He ate breakfast, lunch, dinner, lunch and then supper…ALWAYS. It was the way in was for farmers back then. He changed very little on the farm during his tenure. Mom made remodels in the house but the farm stayed much the same.
Dad was a dog man. He loved dogs. This was his likely his favorite dog of all…Julio. In fact, many of the grandkids called my Dad, Grandpa Julio. Dad loved the dog so much that he didn’t mind that they did.
So many people said my Dad looked like country singer Kenny Rogers. I think it’s all the beard. He was clean shaven in my younger years but in 1976 with the bicentennial he grew a beard and he had it until a few years before he died.
Dad love all things Swedish and held tightly to his heritage. As a kid my parents would take me to the Minnesota State Fair. There was a vender there that sold Swedish merchandise. I always got to buy something there. Dad didn’t blink an eye if I wanted something from there. One year a button with a Swedish flag…another year a pair of Swedish manufactured clogs. He would teach me Swedish phrases and I always thought I was the coolest kids as I could say a few things.
Later in life my cousins took my Dad and Aunt to Sweden to visit old relatives there. I can’t thank my cousins enough for that. Dad talked about it often. At the time, Dad couldn’t walk well enough in an airport so they had to take him in a wheelchair. I’m sure it was tough travels but the Dad really appreciated it.
As I said… my parents had five kids…I’m the youngest. My sister the oldest with three boys sandwiched in between. I’m the little one in the blue dress that my mom is holding.
That picture was taken in 1967 I think. Dad was 45 when I was born…Mom 37.
Back in 1988 at my parents 40th wedding anniversary, this picture was taken.
The little boy standing in the front left with a blue-ish shirt on is my nephew, Trevor, who now lives at the farm.
Kramer and I are way to the right. I’m holding Kelli. He’s holding Kayla. We only had two kids back then.
We all thought we were a big family then…oh my. How we have grown. My parents went to have 22 grandchildren and to date, 61 great grandchildren. There’s at least one more great grandchild on the way.
My Dad was a good Dad…quiet, not super affectionate, but a good Dad. My Mom was the fire, do-er and changer in their relationship. Dad was happy to be the co-pilot. That doesn’t mean Dad didn’t make decisions. It just meant that Dad was easy going and wasn’t easily shaken. He was the anchor- Mom was the flier. I think there needs to be one of each to have a good relationship.
I’ve found that in my younger days, I was more like mom. I was out to seek justice and do the right thing no matter the cost…now as I’ve aged, I see myself becoming a little more and more like my Dad. I do things more quietly without the fanfare I once craved. I’m content to be home. I don’t need a lot of change in my life to be content.
So on what would have been my Dad’s 100th birthday I’d like to tell him this:
I wish you’d have made it to 100 Dad. It would have been a wonderful milestone. You’d be amazed to see how your family has grown. Just know that your influence lives on…and if I could say one thing to you, it would be jag älskar dig. (I love you in Swedish).