The first thing I remember was getting “hoofed” in the head by a cow in Norway. I was a wee lad, and I’ve always held that moment somewhat responsible for the occasional birthmark between my eyebrows … that, and the time my girlfriend in 6th grade, Jennifer Dzurus, tried to kick me but had clogs on and so it flew off her foot and landed squarely there, the forehead, and oh the zing. The 2nd time I went to Norway was with Mormor and Affar, and I embarrassed them as we boarded the KLM flight to Oslo by telling the pilot, who had just asked me if I could speak any Norwegian, “Dra hjem og ligg ned,” which is roughly translated as ”Go home and lie down,” which, innocuous as it sounds, was a little bit of a diss back there in mid-70s Scandanavia.
Affar used to walk me down to Shore Road in Bay Ridge and we’d sit on one of the benches there and have a vantage point of the Verrazano Narrows and the mouth of NY Harbor, and he’d point to giant tankers and cargo chips with his burly Norwegian finger and tell me this and tell me that. He died when I was 11 or so, and I was home alone when Tante Lillian called and told me that “Morfar has gone to be with the Lord.” I was aware of my lack of tears and sorrow … mostly, just confused, really … huh … and when my parents pulled up in the green Datsun 210, hatchback open for some lumber they had lugged from wherever, I jumped into the back and made them stop their slow and short journey backing up the driveway and feigned some good tears for my mother’s sake, I think. I remember my skin feeling weird and numb, like plastic.
There was never a shortage of milk at Mormor’s. Always pouring me glass after glass, tall thick glasses with diamond shaped etchings in them. Nice silverware on a cold white metal table, a small radio on a shelf above the salt and pepper, and a Lord’s Prayer plaque beside it. I would always play with her fancy cutglass perfume atomizer with the silky pump ball with fraying tassles, not really spraying perfume around, but just checking it out, so strange and foreign to me … mostly I remember the ring she stopped wearing, laying on the mirror counter beside the perfumes and powders … 4 square stones set in a thin gold band, different colors, pastely … pink, green, blue, and yellow … one for each of her children. When she died I was “living” at the Glenwood on Broadway and Marcy in Williamsburg, a $7 a night hotel for junkies, like myself, or for forlorn old men to die in … my brother found me there– I think I left a phone number with him once– and picked me up to go to her wake, and I made him stop at a Dunkin Donuts to use the bathroom, and I shot a good speedball into my neck and got back into the car and we continued on, and just before we got to the funeral parlor I looked at myself in the visor mirror and noticed the small bit of blood staining the collar of my dirty shirt.