Saturday, February 8, 2014


“So, it is you then, Andri!”
          Anders laughed out loud when he heard Nyman say these words. Nyman laughed as well, as did his wife. Both he and Mrs. Nyman were sitting outside of their home when they saw Anders walking up the path. Nyman had heard the day before that Anders had arrived back at Stöllet, and was expecting his visit at any time. 
          The two old friends shook hands heartily, as did Anders with Mrs. Nyman. Mrs. Nyman motioned toward a vacant chair on their porch as a way of inviting Anders to sit down. Anders could tell that the Nymans had settled themselves down comfortably in their chairs and were ready for a long visit. This was not to be a quick “hello.”
          The boyhood years when Anders mostly came to see Nyman was when Anders was about ten and eleven years old. This was between the time when Anders’ next oldest brother Emil had turned twelve years old and left home to find some work, and before Anders himself left to find work. These were the years when Anders was the only boy in their house, and this was when the Nymans got to know him the best. It was also concerning these years that Herr Nyman had the most stories about Anders. He brought up some of these stories with Anders, and they all got some hearty laughter out of them, all at the expense of Anders.
          Nyman told Anders about the time when Anders came over, steamingly angry at his mother Anna Kristina about something at home; Nyman never found out exactly what the problem had been. Nyman happened to be making something out of lumber at the moment and had a folding measure ruler in his pocket.
          When he saw how mad Anders was, on a whim Nyman said to him, “Come here, Andri. Let me measure how angry you are.” 
          Anders, not exactly knowing what to expect, walked over to Nyman and stood in front of him. The old neighbor unfolded his ruler and stretched it out alongside of Anders.
          “Why Andri!” he said, “You are only forty-eight angry. That’s nothing! I once was one hundred angry!”
          Anders did not know at all what Nyman meant, and to be fair, neither did Nyman. But having his anger “measured” made Anders realize that perhaps he was not so angry after all. He quickly forgot that he was even mad.
          After that, sometimes Anders would come over when he was mad about something to get himself measured. Once he got as high as sixty-five angry, but never did he approach the ultimate of one-hundred angry.
          The whole porch roared with laughter as Nyman was telling the story. When Anders was finally able to control his laughter, as he wiped the tears of hilarity from his eyes, he confessed to Nyman that sometimes he had been so mad at home that he was sure that he would have made it to one-hundred. But he was even too angry to come over to be measured.

          But the visit was not all old time reminiscing. The Nymans sincerely wanted to know how Anders was doing. They were both very glad for his work and listened with great interest as Anders explained many of the finer points of cutting and laying stone.
          Anders also learned about the Nymans’ two daughters. They were both married now. One lived in Göteborg with her husband. They had two children who were the joy of their grandpa and grandma, called morfar and mormor in Swedish. The young family came to visit whenever they could, but of course, it was never enough.
          The younger daughter had just been recently married. Her husband worked in the mining industry in Värmland. They were actually talking about building a small house on the Nyman’s farm. This was very exciting for Herr Nyman and his wife. The farm, they knew, could no longer support a family, but with an outside job, their daughter and her husband could have a nice life here.
          After Anders and the Nymans had pretty much caught up on the family news, Mrs. Nyman rose from her chair and announced that she had been saving some coffee for this visit. She excused herself and said that she would return soon with some fika, which is a word that they used for a small snack with coffee. With that, she disappeared into the house and could soon be heard pouring water and clanking some dishes.

          Anders enjoyed Mrs. Nyman’s company, but now he was glad to be left alone with his friend. Despite all the news that Anders had told the Nymans about how well things had been going in his life, there were some things that were troubling him. Anders brought up to Nyman the disturbing memories that he had had during this past winter, remembrances of difficulties that happened years ago.
          He told Nyman that the thoughts that mostly came back to him were those of the death of his father, about which he really knew very little. Anders was so young at the time. Also, the remembrances of the struggles of his mother repeatedly came back to him, as well as those of the hunger years.
          “Why am I thinking so much of these things now?” Anders asked Nyman. “I have not thought of them for years.”
          Nyman sat in silence for a few moments. For some reason, it seemed to Anders that his question to Nyman had not taken him completely by surprise. When Nyman finally began to speak, his first words dealt with the practical.
          “I don’t know, Andri,” Nyman began, “But this is probably the first time since those years that you have had time to think. From the time when you first left home, you have been working for someone else and trying to learn the skills necessary to do your job. Perhaps now you have reached a skill level where you can do your work without having to concentrate so much on the task. Your mind is free to contemplate other things.
          Nyman continued, “But maybe there is also something else. Perhaps there is something about those times that is keeping you from letting them rest completely with you. You are still trying to resolve some things.”
          The two friends both sat silent again for a few moments. All of the visiting about the old days that they had done on the porch that morning had reminded Anders of another story. He repeated it now to Nyman. It was about the time when the two of them, Nyman and Anders, sat with their backs leaning against the drying hay. It was the time that Nyman had almost sighed the words, “God is so good.”
          Nyman did not remember that specific day, but Anders did. In fact, the memory was so vivid to him that if Nyman had asked him, Anders could have described to him perfectly how the sunset looked that evening and also the taste of the grass stem that he had put in his mouth.
          “When you said that God was so good,” Anders continued, “I knew what you said was the truth, and yet I also knew that I would not be able to say it with the same confidence. I think I did not understand why God had taken my father away when I was so young. To tell the truth, I am not sure that I understand it yet.”
          “Do we ever understand the ways of God?” Nyman responded slowly. “The best that we can do is to know that he always has our well-being in mind, and only the very best for us. If we have our confidence in this, then no matter what comes to us in our lives, we can have the courage to continue on.”
          Nyman turned his head to look directly at his friend. “It most often does take courage, Andri.”

Just at that moment the door of the house opened and Nyman’s wife appeared at the doorway, carrying a large tray. She held the door open with her elbow as she began to step out onto the porch. When Anders saw her with her load, he jumped to his feet.
          “Here, let me help you with that tray, Mrs. Nyman.”
          Anders set the tray on a small table and Mrs. Nyman began to serve the fika. The friends sat and chatted for another good, long time. It was good for Anders to spend this relaxed time on the porch with these friends.
          After a while Anders set his cup back on the tray and made some indication that he should be getting back home. He did not leave immediately, however. That was not the way it was done. A person does not announce that he should depart and then actually leave. Among friends, a farewell was something that one eases into. It was not as if this was something necessarily done by design or is fore-planned; but simply was the natural way among those folks.
          The cup on the tray was a good start. That was an indication that Anders was finished with the fika and would have no more coffee just now. He turned the conversation around to what was going on at his mother’s home at that moment and how he was expecting to soon see his brother Emil. It was only after the friends talked about and explored how that reunion was likely to be that Anders finally rose to his feet. Even after that, they all talked for some time more before Anders again shook the hands of his two friends and stepped off of the porch.
          With another wave of the hand and a promise of another visit soon, Anders then turned to walk back to their little torp.
     It indeed would be good to see Emil again.

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