We were sorting through Dad’s things, as we recently sold his house, and I found a tape Dad had made of his father sharing stories of his life. Grandpa was about 79 at the time of the taping, and still spoke with a thick Swedish accent, though he’d been in America for over fifty years by then.
I love listening to the tape and hearing Grandpa’s voice and the stories of his life and his frequent chuckles. Grandpa was almost 26 years old when he left his family and homeland and came to Minnesota in 1922. He never saw his parents or Sweden again. But he spoke fondly of “the old country”. And he enjoyed visits from his brothers once or twice, letters and photos from friends and relatives, and singing Swedish folk songs to his grandchildren.
And I’ve been thinking lately, that I can relate to those warm feelings for “the old country”. It especially strikes me when I watch TV shows or movies and see people hugging and having big parties and shaking hands and eating in crowded restaurants. And I think, I used to live in a world where I could do all those things with no worries. I miss that old country.
I miss attending church and hugging people. I miss living in a land where hospitals were not worried about being at or over capacity and where people weren’t arguing vehemently about masks and how Covid is spread and how serious it is or isn’t.
I know our world and country has always had problems, but it feels like the problems are piling up now and overflowing. And it feels like so much of life is bristling with violence, strong political views and adamant rants, and people imply if you think differently than them you must be an idiot. And sometimes scrolling through posts on Facebook makes my head hurt and my heart ache.
And I miss our old country.
I miss a quieter, more gentle world. I know it was never a perfect place, and I’m probably seeing it through rose colored glasses to some extent. But it was never like this before in my life time. And I miss my old country.
I wonder if Grandpa missed his old country. I don’t remember him ever saying that. I don’t recall him ever complaining about about being in America.
Though on the tape he did say he bought a bag of beautiful red “apples” and that when he picked one up to eat it he threw it because it was soft. And the next one he picked up was soft too! His cousin, who had lived in Minnesota longer, came around the corner and asked him why he was throwing tomatoes and picked them off the ground and ate them “to beat the band” as Grandpa said.
But Grandpa did learn to drive in his new country, and he bought his first car for $25. He enjoyed driving around Mille Lacs Lake which “looked just like a lake in the old country”. He met Grandma at a dance and got married and had four children and built a home right down the road from that lake and planted gardens and raised his family.
And when Grandma packed a suitcase for him and threatened to throw him out of the house because of his drinking, he stopped drinking. And he started going to the little white church down the street and he came to know the Lord.
And when we stayed with them, Grandpa would always pray before meals. And I’d often see him sitting in the living room reading his Bible. And I enjoyed going to the little white church with him.
I wonder if we will ever get back to our old country here in America. Or in the world. Will life ever be the same? I hope so. But meanwhile, maybe there are things to learn in this new world…
Maybe things that seem like rotten apples could actually be delicious tomatoes… Maybe we will become stronger, more compassionate people for what we are going through now. Maybe we will be more aware of isolated and lonely people and reach out to them more faithfully. Maybe, maybe… I hope, we will learn to communicate with mercy and speak the truth in love.
I hope we will seek God more wholeheartedly. And share Jesus more faithfully. And maybe we will treasure church attendance and worship like never before. Maybe seeing a smile and feeling a strong handshake or hug will one day be more precious than we can imagine.
Maybe life itself will be priceless, just because we still have it.
I miss our old country. But God is still with us in this new one. And we can still trust Him. Always. In whatever country we are in.