I don't have a lot of memories of my Swedish grandfather because he divorced my grandmother when my mother was just five years old. My grandfather lived half the year in Sweden and the other half in St. Petersburg, Florida. Although I didn't see much of him growing up, I do recall that occasionally he'd write my mother letters asking how we were all doing. He didn't completely disappear from our lives, but we weren't close either. I don't know many of the details about why he left my grandmother other than that he went to Sweden on a vacation and never came back. He sent my grandmother a letter saying he no longer wanted to be married. Nana was a very proud woman. She refused to take any child support or alimony from him. Instead, she chose to play the piano, supporting herself and three children all on her own. She was a very good piano player. She started an orchestra and played piano in the local hotels in the Pocono Mountains near the small Swedish-German communities where they lived. She often accompanied the old silent movies that were shown in their local movie house as well. The Milford Opera House, which looks more like a quintessential Andrew Wyeth barn than a classic opera house, was a favorite spot for my grandmother to play her piano, too. I have always been very proud of my grandmother for how she persevered and managed to take care of her children as a single mother. She was so ahead of her time. She chose to take her talent and do something with it rather than sit around and wallow in her sadness. Divorce wasn't common back in those days. I am sure it was a challenge for the whole family because there weren't a lot of single-women role models then for my grandmother to look up to or emulate. Hearing these stories as a young girl gave me the eyes to see and the ears to hear so that I could relate to all sorts of situations growing up. These weren't my experiences, but they were poignant and important to the person I would later become.
I was eleven years old when my Nana suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. I didn't like to sleep much when I was a little girl. I seemed to always have lots of thoughts dancing around in my head, especially at night. Sometimes I'd fall asleep then awaken for one reason or another. I didn't have nightmares very often or anything like that. I'd just wake up and was unable to fall back to sleep. The night Nana died was one of those nights.
I had just awakened when I heard a strange sound. It was a scary noise, unlike anything I had ever heard. I was in my bedroom on the third floor and the noise sounded like it was coming from our basement, where Nana lived. My father had finished our basement for her so she could have her own private quarters. He did a beautiful job on the space, making it very comfortable and beautiful for both Nana and Snookie.
I heard some sort of faint moaning. At first, I didn't know what it was until I was finally able to make out that it was somebody calling my mother's name.