Monday morning. Yes, Monday mornings are “a luxurious novelty” too, but I guess we’ve already established this.
I don’t know why, perhaps I dreamt something last night that had me travelling through the night sky above the choppy waters of the North Sea, and whilst I can remember no such journey, left with me is a strong sense of Falla this morning. Falla is the little old farmstead at the foot of a little mountain by lake Fryken that belongs to my father. It used to be home to his grandmother and her two brothers. From the age of seven, Dad lived with them there. Not because anything had happened to his own parents, my grandparents, but simply because he felt more at home there and was more attached to his grandmother than his own mother. They lived only a short distance away, at a bigger farm called Myra, which sits majestically at the edge of the deep forests and from the west wall of Falla you can see it in the distance. Dad never felt at home there. All of this is somewhat out of reach for me, no one except Mum has ever really offered me any insight and of course for Mum it’s still a bit of guess work. One of her guesses is that Grandma was perhaps a bit young and never really bonded with her eldest son, another that Grandma couldn’t handle Dad’s boisterous nature, and yet another that he just liked it better at Falla.
As do I.
I’ve thought about this a lot. I have a real attachment to the place, much more so than to Mum’s house or Dad’s house where we grew up. Sure, I look back at both with fond memories but there’s something about Falla that touches something deep in my heart that I can’t explain. Or can I? On this journey of figuring things out, some things have been harder to understand than others. For example, something I did know deep down but always refused to acknowledge was something dark that I just didn’t want to accept. Now I have. There are no clear memories, but there is emotion and there is muscle memory. I know what it was, just not exactly how or when. Or who. However, my relationship to Dad was always at the surface and therefore easier to reach and process.
At one point I lost him. Life came between us and any time with him was limited and emotionally he was ripped away by a new wife who couldn’t make room for the two children that came with the package. But I can’t put all the blame on her, besides I don’t think she’s inherently evil or anything – she’s just cold and unfeeling, most likely a product of her own upbringing and what little I know of that isn’t a nice story at all. And either way, it was up to Dad to stand up for us – the responsibility in that regard must fall to him. My whole life, it seems, I’ve wanted his attention and his approval. Whenever we do speak, on the phone or when we’re in Sweden, I speak as fast as I can and desperately try to keep him in the moment for as long as I can. I try to hold on to him, but it’s impossible. You can’t get a grip and if you do, he wriggles free. Like a slippery eel in murky water.
So perhaps for me, Falla for me is where I get to be close to Dad. It’s his favourite place, his sanctuary. It’s where his restless soul finds at least a little bit of peace. And so when I’m there, he may not sit down for long to talk to me, but I get to be close to him.
It’s become even dearer to me since Hubby came along. Before then, I always used to stay at Mum’s when we were in Sweden – I’m a scaredy-cat and no way would I stay alone at Falla. It’s a little remote, it’s quiet and, well, I’m scared of the dark. With Hubby, it’s become our place. It’s with Hubby that I’ve sat by the west wall on summer nights when it’s still light as day at midnight and gazed out over the fields, talking about life and felt at home. Dad’s attachment to Falla I guess can be explained in that for all intents and purposes it was his childhood home and where he was his happiest. When my grandparents sold Myra, the huge farm on the edge of the forest, there was never any talk of Dad buying it. When his grandmother and her two brothers were all gone, there was never any question though – Falla was his.
At my christening, Dad laughed and told his grandmother that she’d be known as “Ida” from that point onward. Her name was Anna and now there was also his daughter Anna. Me. I guess it makes sense that he insisted on naming me after the woman who raised him. Gosh, that must have stung Grandma. I do wonder what was underneath all of that. Grandma is a character and at 92 she is still sprightly, tells lots of dirty jokes and is as energetic as she always was. She lives independently on her own, goes for her walks still and doesn’t need much help except cleaning on top of the cupboards and changing curtains as her balance is dodgy and she can’t get on a stepladder anymore. The last time she did was two or three years ago, and she took a fall and injured her ribs. She was really irritated that she had to go to the hospital and when I spoke with her on the phone she was huffing and puffing and angry over all the fuss. Then she broke out in a loud cackle, that hearty and quite dirty laugh of hers.
“This is the third time I’ve ever had to go to hospital. The other two they sent me home with a baby!”
She’s always been a wonderful grandmother but beneath all the jokes, you can sense the tension. Grandma speaks so highly of my uncle, the younger of her two sons. With Dad she makes quite cruel jokes and will shake her head at him. She’ll say how he’s a rascal and then talk about my uncle and how kind and reliable he is. Still, they seem so close, Dad and his mother. He’s there to see her at least once a week either to have lunch or coffee. Maybe he has always tried to hold on to her the way I’ve tried to hold on to him? Maybe she’s always wriggled free? Mum has always said how Grandma never “took to” Dad, that she either wasn’t ready for motherhood or simply didn’t bond with the baby. Maybe it wasn’t just that Dad liked it better at Falla. Maybe it was just that it was there he received the unconditional love his own mother perhaps couldn’t give him? Maybe history repeats itself for reasons we can’t control. Maybe we become slippery in turn.
I really don’t know why that little red house at the foot of the mountain was on my mind this morning, but the feeling was so strong. I can conjure it all up so readily – the sound of the wind as it caresses the trees and makes the leaves tremble and that lovely and strong yet inexplicable smell of berries in the larder where no berries are ever kept. Maybe we hold on to places or things when the people we really need wriggle free and escape our grip.
Today I’m not going to drink.