Oakwood owl counting
pilgrims at the Stryx end gate,
"Whooo passes this night?"

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Wake

Last week the mother of an old friend died unexpectedly...at age 101. The funeral was Saturday morning. As I am the only one still in Albert Lea our house became a meeting place. The first overnight guest rolled in Friday afternoon. Because things happened rather fast, I was caught unaware, with only one bottle of Akavit in the freezer. As soon as I realised my social faux pas, I slipped two more in beside it. (There has to be a more Scandinavian "faux pas", but it escapes me.) By evening when more people arrived after the visitation, I was able to offer them the choice of Danish, Norwegian or Swedish versions of "The Water of Life". The stemmed shot glasses were fetched from the high cupboard; beer taken from the fridge.There was much sincere eye contact... toasting and drinking with men I have known for 50 or 60 years, my best and longest friends, their wives and their grown children. The "Skal" is not taking lightly here. It is not a formality mindlessly uttered before you take a drink. It is a liege, a pledge of life loyalty, a willingness to die, to fall in battle while sacking an innocent English village. There was more after the funeral and burial on Saturday. I hate to say it was a wonderful time, after all Clara died, but then again she never approved of most of us anyway.

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