When I first broached the idea of meeting my Swedish relatives, neither my dad nor aunt (both of whom had made their own trips to Sweden to visit relatives many years before) thought it would be worthwhile.
“They are all old now and most of them don’t speak English.”
“But,” I protested, “There must be some who are younger. Didn’t any of them have kids?”
“Their kids were all little.”
“But that was in 1960 something. Wouldn’t that mean that those kids are my age?”
My aunt considered that for a while and, from that point forward, was all supportive helpfulness. The contact information she gave me (in those years before email and facebook) eventually yielded a response – in English – from a pair of female cousins almost exactly my age.
So I left my group behind in Copenhagen and boarded the hydrofoil for Malmo to meet my Swedish cousins. That visit was a whirlwind of meals with what seemed like a multitude of relatives of all ages, including an elderly aunt who gave me a wedding picture from my grandfather’s wedding. It also included time spent with just the two girls my own age – girls with lives that were both similar and vastly different from my own. Had my grandfather never left, I would have grown up with these girls and their lives might be mine as well.
Besides meeting family, I got to see the landscape and architecture associated with his life here, including a house he lived in while growing up. I wandered through the same fields where he worked, in a place little changed from when he had been there 60 years before.
I felt an almost physical connection to this land, not a sensation I was expecting.
Among the most memorable moments was a visit to the ocean, where I immediately recognized the rocky headland and ancient beach shack from my father’s pictures of the same spot during his own visit many years earlier. It was as if I had been here before.
Long Sand (Långasand) Beach is the favorite place of one of my cousins. For me, it has become a touchstone of sorts, a place I try to visit whenever I return to Sweden in order to wander the shore with my Swedish family, to live again, for a few moments, the life I might have lived if my grandfather had not left this place all those years ago.