Throughout my life, I have been hugely influenced by several people. I am fighting a serious illness and I therefore want to honour these people now.
When I started to write this piece, I wanted to put in everything. But it soon dawned on me that I would end up with another very long manuscript which would take me months to write. I do not have that luxury. I am therefore reigning in myself and making this short, sweet and poignant.
These are my words, my tears and my gratitude
My grandmother Thea Fuglesteg
Thea died in 1981. But my memories of her lives on. I remember her for a lot of things. The case of cherry lemonade bottles she always bought when my family (at time myself, my sister and my parents) came on a summer holiday. That was a luxury back then. I am not able to drink cherry lemonade without sending Thea some grateful thoughts.
It was almost a tradition that she and her sister Olga met up with my father in the kitchen the day after we had arrived from this seven hours long drive and gave him all the news, gossips and their take on the ongoings in the valley (Fortun). The discussion lasted for hours. It was a funny conversation and I mean that in the most respectful way possible.
My grandmother became a widow back in 1953 when my grandfather Ola died. She reached the grand age of around 80. Most of her life, if not all of it, she lived and run a small farm in Fortun, Sogn. She had her strong moral views. Views I very much understand, appreciate and agree with. She gave me a lot and got very little in return. I regret that very much.
I can only imagine how the loss of her oldest son Alfred impacted her last years. I overheard a conversation between her and my father which I have thought a lot about in latter years. That conversation has formed my views on some aspects of life.
I remember Thea waving us goodbye before we were setting off for the two hours long drive to my other grandparents in Sogndal. During my darkest hours in my own solitude, I think I know what she felt then. Being alone is a hard, hard life.
I vividly remember her funeral. A sad, but also a glad occasion because she passed away in dignity after a couple of days in hospital after breaking her leg after a fall in her house. God had mercy with her the day she passed away. Thea was very independent woman and a life in a care-home would not had suited her at all. I cannot help thinking that I inherited that part of her personality. Which I am grateful for. She is in my thoughts every day and I could not be more grateful for what Thea gave me.
My uncle Alfred Fuglesteg
My memories of Alfred is hazy due to my young age when he passed away.
Alfred passed away at the end of the 1970s. I believe he died of cancer. He and his family was involved in a nasty car accident five years before he passed away. In this car-crash, his wife & my aunt Randi Fuglesteg sadly passed away. Alfred also got serious injuries and so did my cousins Ola, Arne and Jon. All of them are still alive and well. I still remember the night of the car-crash because it changed the lives of my parents. Perhaps it changed my life too. Life is full of “if”s and this car-crash is one of those big “if”s in life. If only....
Alfred bought a house at Nakkerud just besides of Tyrifjorden some years before he passed away. Many years later, I cycled past that house many times on a 130 km ride around Tyrifjorden. When I passed that house, I always remembered Alfred with a minute silence.
He and his three children also lived in Leira for a while where he was the caretaker at the school. I remember that place very well.
Alfred was a funny character and there was always a lot of life around him. His passing was a tragedy. He will always remain in my thoughts.
Arne & Selma Borgen
My aunt Randi Fuglesteg's parents. Unfortunate, I have no memories of Randi Fuglesteg whatsoever.
We spent many nights and Saturdays at Arne & Selma's house in Mjondalen outside Drammen. This elderly pair was very nice and friendly. They were true family friends. Arne had spent some time in German captivity during WW2 as a hostage after a local resistance group blew up a train. His brother, which I met several times, had spent some years in Germany before WW2 and had seen the rise of Adolf Hitler. He told me about his experiences and they have had a positive influence on my political views. Arne was a good chess player (county-champion) and his infectious passion for this game spilled over to me on a permanent basis. I was never smart enough to play chess on his level or any decent level at all. But I am still trying my best and I think of Arne every time I play this game.
Selma was a gentle lady which balanced out the brash and outgoing Arne. She was always there, running the ship. Her cakes was good too and her encouraging words helped me a lot.
I will forever remember both of them with a lot of fondness and gratitude. Both of them passed away within month of each other some twenty years ago.
My grand-grandmother Olina Leirdal
There is a picture of myself as a newborn baby, my mother, my grandmother Karen and her mother Olina somewhere in Norway. That picture shows the four generations of the Gunvordal part of my family. I am the oldest of her grand-grand children.
Olina lived in Leirdal just across the small lake from Gunvordal. She was a soft-spoken small lady, but still very lively. I was not old enough to spend some time on my own with her due to being in that age when children never sit still. When I got the chance, my lack of social skills (and my narcissism) meant that I was not able to communicate with her. Something I will always regret. Unfortunate; I cannot turn the clock back. I did not attend her funeral for reasons I do not remember. I noticed her death with a shrug of my shoulders and that was that. Shameful, I am.
Olina was one of these persons whose influences over me is not immediate obvious. But I remember her telling me that she preferred to stagger the opening of the Christmas presents throughout the whole Christmas period. At the time she told me that, I did not understand what she meant. But after the resent experiences, I think I understand what she meant. Thank you, Olina.
Ola På Steig (Ola Bergum)
The farmer on Steig farm, Fortun. Steig was our neighbours in Fortun and Ola quite a colourful character. He was always a joker and always cheerful, whatever happened. His wife Petra, which I still think is alive, steadied the ship while Ola went out on a tangent. Ola was my link back to my grandfather Ola Fuglesteg and he told me a lot of stories about my long gone relatives. Ola Bergum was good fun and I immensely enjoyed his company. He sadly passed away ten years ago.
My grandmother Thea's sister and a very beloved relative of us until she passed away back in 1996. She became our emotional link back to my grandmother Thea after she passed away in 1981 and she took well care of us when we were in Fortun. She lived in Bondoy, besides the river. I was a keen angler at that time and did some fishing at Bondoy. She also had a fat cat. I learned that even fat cats are faster than the speed of light when throwing a small rock in it's direction (naughty boy !!). Her and her husband Martin's house was idyllic and we had some good time there. A very lovely lady and very much missed. I am forever grateful.
My uncle Knut Gunvordal
Cancer is a terrible disease which very often strikes down the most healthy of us all. Knut was one of those very healthy men who succumbed to cancer. I remember when he was diagnosed with cancer and his ten years long fight against this horrible disease. I always believed he would survive, but that was not to be and he finally passed away one and a half years ago. His passing came on the top of my serious health problems and these months was the darkest days of my life.
Knut and I had some very different lifestyles and views. But despite of that; I always regarded him as someone I had to live up to. Most because of our shared love for the outdoors. Fishing and walking in the mountains. I fell in love with cycling though instead of days in the mountains. Through my suffering on the bike, I was both seeking his approval and admiration. In particular when I did the two days/370 km long Drammen to Sogndal ride in 1994. His acknowledgement of what I had achieved meant a lot to me. This is one of the reasons I regard that tour as one of my finest moments in life. His passing has meant that I have lost a lot of motivation for putting myself through all the suffering on long cycling tours. That is how much Knut meant to me.
Knut and I had a lot of fishing trips and it was always a source of pride when I got more fish than him. That did not happened often though. He was a far better angler than I was.
It will always be one of my main regrets in life that Knut was not able to visit me in Scotland. I think he would had loved the islands of the west coast of Scotland. I think he would understand why I love this area so much.
Knut always made things happen and he was the centre and focal point in my family. His passing created a vacuum which will never be filled again. I think it is safe to say that my lifespan will be divided into two parts: Before and after his & my grandparents death.
Knut will always remain in my thoughts.
My grandmother Karen Gunvordal
I could not had wished for a more wonderful grandmother and her passing six months ago has not sunk in yet. She was always there for me. She too was a colourful person with some colourful views. It was always the highlight of the year to visit Gunvordal and enjoying her food and hospitality.
I have a lot of memories of her....... but I am speechless at the moment. Her passing is still so unreal and my grief is so raw.
Karen slipped peacefully away due to some bad health, 87 years old. She had been ill for a time and her passing was not unexpected. The finality of it all was still a shock. Karen will be missed for her fussing around and just being the most important ingredient in a household: The one who keeps everything together. She also loved children and was a fantastic grandmother and grand-grandmother. I loved her to bits. But due to my illness; I was never able to express my appreciation and love for her. That will forever remain one of my life biggest regrets. Thank you for everything, Karen.
My grandfather Johannes Flatland Gunvordal
One of the focal points in life and his passing some months ago has not sunk in yet. I am therefore pretty speechless because I am not able to fully recognise his passing as fact.
Johannes passed away four months ago after a short illness at the age of almost 95 years old. I think his 95th years birthday was last week.
Johannes was the best grandfather I could had wished for. He, my father and Knut teached me everything about trekking and fishing. We went on many long walks together. First together with my sister and then together with Knut and my father. Our first ever walk was when I was four years old and we walked around Gunvordal together with my sister. It was a proper mountain walk for a four years old boy, although it was “only” a two kilometres trek. I still remember this walk so it must have been good. Fifteen years later, I was observing my grandfather from across a river. He was walking very strange for some minutes. Then he started to jump up and down. I was certain he had lost it and was heading for a mental asylum. When I in a state of alarm arrived back to Gunvordal, my laughing grandfather told me that he had been sneaking up on a fox and he had been jumping up and down on some metal sheets to wake him up. Which caused the fox to leg it faster than the speed of light. Poor fox.. I see foxes every day where I live and cannot help myself thinking about my grandfather.
I last saw Johannes some years ago on my final visit to Gunvordal. He was old, but in good health. The deterioration of his health during the last year profoundly shocked me. I thought he would live to well past 100 years. Johannes was an independent soul throughout and I think he loved Gunvordal and the surrounding mountains. His passing was very sad and created a vacuum none can fill.
As with Karen; I loved my grandfather Johannes to bits. But due to my illness; I was never able to express my appreciation and love for him. That will forever remain one of my life biggest regrets. I sent them chocolate from Scotland and I hope they appreciated that. It was the only thing I could do and I observed the end, unable to express my loss and appreciation for his life.
Knut, Karen and Johannes died within 14 months of each other. I was unable to attend any of their funerals due to long travelling distances, work and lack of funds. I will regret this to the end of my life. While my nearest family has now got a closure; I have not got any closure. And my solitude through this grief has made my situation worse than if I did attend the funerals. My grief is combined with guilt over not attending these funerals. It is probably one of my life's biggest mistakes.
On a final note
My life has been turned upside down over the last two years. Among the upheavals, I have lost two places where I spent some of my happiest times during my childhood and teenage years. To a lesser extent, I also grieve over these losses.
My father originated from Fortun. My grandfather married my grandmother and they moved to a small farm called Larsplassen. This small farm consisted of some small buildings and a farmhouse. I loved the place. Due to the farmhouse falling into disrepair, my family sold it ten years ago. I never had any issues with this. But I always wanted to go back to see the place again. It was with considerable sadness I recently learnt that Larsplassen had been raised to the ground and nothing whatsoever was left of the place.
The new owners was off course free to whatever they like. But I still feel that a part of me has been erased from the face of the earth. I also feel guilty because my grandmother Thea died in the belief that I would eventually take over the place. That was not meant to be and I feel responsible for this.
I believe I spent almost nine months in Gunvordal between the age of 3 and 4 years old in the care of my grandparents. My parents were building a house and had no choice than to leave me in my grandparents care. It was the right thing to do.
I have read somewhere that the subliminal impressions gathered in that age will live with you forever. That explains my emotional attachment to Gunvordal. I have no other good explanations why I am feeling attached to that farm.
Due to reasons I am not able to divulge here, it is not possible for me to ever visit Gunvordal again. I also have my opinions about certain things, but that is sentiments I will now take with me to my grave.
However...... I had a wonderful time in both Fortun and Gunvordal. The losses of both places saddens me though and it feels like a grieving process.
Thank you for reading this piece and may God bless you all.