November 28, 1985


Backstage pass for Motley Crue show - "Theatre of Pain" is an apt name indeed!
Backstage pass for Motley Crue show – “Theatre of Pain” is an apt name indeed!


This take-away lesson is a good one; unfortunately, I still haven’t mastered it. Maybe my need to be a martyr is just too ingrained. Maybe I harbor an unnatural fear of doctors and hospitals. For whatever reason, I still delay dealing with potential health issues as long as possible.

Much like I minimize my own pain or maladies, I tend to discredit health problems in those nearest and dearest to me. I used to tell my children, don’t even try to tell me you’re sick unless I see blood or vomit.  In hindsight, perhaps this was not the healthiest atmosphere.

My mother was the best when I was sick - the opposite of me! She treated me like a princess. It's a wonder I didn't get addicted to being ill.
My mother was the best when I was sick – the opposite of me! She treated me like a princess. It’s a wonder I didn’t get addicted to being ill.

At the time, of course, I was absolutely convinced I was right.  Now I wonder if that was something I told myself because I was so terrified of the alternative. The possibility something serious might actually be wrong paralyzed me with fear. In order to stay calm and keep going, I had to convince myself my loved one’s complaints were only in their heads – no serious threat at all.

The Theatre of Pain concert program
The “Theatre of Pain” concert program

Of course, pretending serious threats don’t exist in no way minimizes or eliminates those threats. On several occasions – Sam’s surgery when she was six, J’s hospitalizations in the late 80s to name two – I felt the full force of the fear. Fortunately, my skepticism hadn’t caused a delay that jeopardized their health.

A rare photo of me exercising. I avoid doing anything pro-active for my health as much as I avoid going to the doctor.
A rare photo of me exercising. I avoid doing anything pro-active for my health as much as I avoid going to the doctor.

Maybe writing all of this down will get the lesson through my thick head at last. Don’t play games with your health – you only get one body. If there’s the slightest doubt about whether it’s serious, make time to see a doctor.

Losing You


Losing You_edited-1
Randy Newman “Losing You”

Introducing his brilliant song “Losing You”, Randy Newman explains it was inspired by parental grief at losing a son.  While it’s far more typical and expected for children to lose their parents, the lyric speaks to me. My mother was ninety years and four months old when she died on Saturday, March 12th. Assuming I live as long, there still won’t be enough time to get over losing Geneva Alayne Knutsen.

This is not to imply she was a saint or that our relationship was perfect. If anything, as the eldest daughter – and the one who most clearly carries her genetic profile – I was a miniature version of her and her expectations of herself were high. I know because she shared every one of them with me – a lot.

As a rebellious adolescent, I fought to quiet her voice. Smile. Be friendlier. Ugh, look at those fingernails! You’ve gained weight. You’d look so much prettier with a little make-up. Is that what you’re wearing to church? Nobody likes to vacuum, Kathleen, but we all have to do things we don’t like to do. You’d better get rich or marry rich because you’re going to need a maid. Straighten your shoulders. Smile.

It was enough to drive a sensitive soul crazy. It was more than enough to obscure the motivation behind these advisory bulletins. I heard a meddling mother picking on me, I didn’t see it was her love for me overflowing – far too much love to maintain a respectful distance.

She got too close; we bruised each other. We disappointed. I said things I regret; I carelessly broke a few of her dreams because they weren’t mine. We hurt each other. You’d think I couldn’t wait to escape her voice but it was never an option. Her voice is my voice as my face holds her face.

Beneath the admonitions – Smile. Be friendlier. Straighten your shoulders – lives the real message, flowing like a river. I love you, I love you, I love you. I want the world for you. You’re my world. She’s the enduring voice and breath in my world. How could I ever get over losing her?

About Scandinavians

In a few days, I’m leaving on a trip through Scandinavia. I’ve never been there, even though I’m half Danish and almost half Norwegian (there’s a smidge of Swedish on the Norwegian side).  I have my own stereotypes about Scandinavians based on my extended family but in the interests of objective research, I skimmed two recent books on the topic – The Almost Nearly Perfect People (Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia) by Michael Booth and How to be Danish (A Journey to the Cultural Heart of Denmark) by Patrick Kingsley. The following bullet points are culled from these books.

  • Danes are joiners; they belong to more clubs than most nationalities.
  • Clubs include choirs, in which the blending of all voices is more important than any one voice – a perfect illustration of the Dane’s flock instinct.
  • Danes have the highest level of trust (in other people) in the world.
  • In the 90s, someone did an experiment in which they left 40 wallets unattended in forty cities. All 40 wallets were returned in only two countries – Denmark and Norway. So apparently some of that trust is warranted.
  • All of the Scandinavian countries talk smack about their neighboring Scandinavian countries. Danes are knocked for deteriorating language skills. Norwegians, resented because of their oil wealth, are knocked for being stupid country bumpkins. However, Sweden is the most intensely despised by its neighbors.
  • Swedes have a heightened fear of appearing foolish “reflected by one of the key words by which the Swedes define themselves – duktig. It literally translates as clever, but this is a specific type of Swedish cleverness; a diligent, responsible kind of clever; punctual, law-abiding, industrious clever.” (Booth)
  • In Sweden, it’s a major faux pas to touch wine glasses after a toast.
  • Swedes don’t converse with each other on buses.
  • Swedes are considered shy and self-effacing.
  • Ake Daun, author of The Swedish Mentality, describes Swedes as “a race of wallflowers racked with insecurities; they would rather take the stairs than share a lift.”
  • Norwegians dress in extravagant national costumes on May 17 (Norwegian Constitution Day) – heavily embroidered dirndls, hobnail shoes, shawls, bright-buttoned breeches, etc.
  • Oslo residents are the second richest in the world, right behind Hartford, Connecticut citizens.
  • Oslo is extremely expensive! Taxi drivers apologize for the fares. “Sorry. It’s Norway.”

More to come in future posts!