My dad's 82nd birthday was actually on Friday, March 11 of this year, but we moved the big celebration forward a few days to yesterday --- the first day of Spring, March 20. My brother was gone the weekend before, and my mom had time to put together a special afternoon. She reserved the community room where she lives, and brought my dad home from the nursing home for the afternoon. We had crackers, meat and cheese, potato salad and pasta salad, chips and other snacks, and of course, cake and punch and coffee. If you're Scandinavian, you have to have coffee.
My mom invited a few family members -- my dad's sister and her family, my mom's sister and brother and a couple of my cousins. Their pastor showed up at some point, which I thought was really sweet. He had his "Gustavus Adolphus College" sweatshirt on. He's Swedish, too.
Also, my mom invited the Swedish Male Chorus to come and give a little mini concert for my dad.
My dad sang with the chorus for several years. Of course, he had to be egged on for a few years by his friend, Ralf. My dad has always loved music and singing. I'm prejudiced, but I thought he sounded a little big like Bing Crosby. He didn't sing in choirs much, though, until he finally broke down and joined the Chorus.
My grandparents emigrated from Sweden back in the early 1900s. My dad grew up in the Cedar Riverside and Seward neighborhoods of Minneapolis, both enclaves of Swedish immigrants back then. In fact, it was either Cedar or Riverside which was nicknamed "Snoose Boulevard" because of the cheap tobacco that the immigrants chewed.
So the men came, in their suit jackets and all wearing their blue and yellow ties, and they sang for my dad, there in the foyer. They sang "They Shall Have Music" and "Sverige" and other songs in Swedish and in English. And, sitting in his wheelchair in the front row, my dad sang along.
The chorus invited everyone to sing along on the last song, "Halsa Dem Darhemma." (Greet those at home.) I remember learning and singing this song as a little girl. It is supposed to be sung by a girl as she is leaving her home in Sweden to go to America. She sees a swallow, and asks the swallow to take a message to her family back in Sweden for her.
I remember singing this song with my sister, singing for my grandmother, and seeing her cry when she heard it. I remember once that my sister and I sang the song into the phone to her, though I don't remember why. We lived in town, not far away. Maybe she was sick, and we just wanted to cheer her up.
On Sunday the Chorus invited us all to sing along, and my dad sang, and I sang. And we all cried.
We have all come a long way. But may we never forget where we came from.
Happy birthday, Dad.