Strength is a curious thing. There’s all kinds of it, but you never really know how strong you are until you need it. That’s not what the man said, but that’s what he was telling me as he was packing his javelin into the 1998 Nissan that was parked next to our Volvo.
I’m one of those Dads who like to tell stories about the tough times of their childhoods. I’m the guy who tells his kids he didn’t have any toys as a kid, and when they challenge me, I tell them to ask Grandma. And when she laughs and says that I most definitely had toys, I challenge her, and make her list all of my toys, and when she only remembers three of four, I say, “ha!”
And when I then tell Son and Daughter how I had to make cows out of (used) matches and a pair of pine cones, they look at me like I’m crazy and then we have to go on Wikipedia to see what a “cow” is. (I’m kidding, Son and Daughter have seen cows in the wild.)
Now, if I may say so myself, Im a pretty youthful guy. I have a long hair, and I wear the same clothes I’ve worn since my twenties, and I understand if that creeps you out, dear reader, but that’s the way I am. At some point in my life, in my teens, I became a jeans and a T-shirt kind of guy, and that’s just what I’ve been ever since. (With one minor but important change about 17 years ago when I stopped using socks).
Last year, I spent a lot of time at the The National Library of Sweden in Stockholm, doing research for an article series I was working on, and almost every time I walked back to the train through the city tunnel comes out to Olof Palme’s Street. And every time I was there, I thought of my high school Swedish teacher because I think I remember her saying that it might be smart to read up on Olof Palme, because it was possible he was going to be an essay topic in our high school finals.
“Now that he got assassinated and all,” she said.
That may be a false memory because I can see on Wikipedia that by the time the Swedish Prime Minister was shot in downtown Stockholm, my and my classmates had already left school for our study period during which we were supposed to cram for the final exams.
Maybe she told us that during one of the visits back to school when we had our “pre-finals”, or maybe she never said it at all. All I know is that I did not brush up my knowledge on Sweden or Palme, and instead, focused on biology and history of Finland.
Sweden, Palme, and the prime suspect, Christer Pettersson of Sollentuna, seemed so far away.
I was never the captain of my hockey teams when I was a kid, which was fine with me, it was never a big deal for me – as long as I was the first line center. I always thought I wasn’t the captain because in the younger junior teams, the captain was named by the coach, and the coach was my father. I figured that Dad didn’t want to make me the captain to avoid talk of favoritism.
I also assumed that was the reason he expected me to be the hardest working player on the ice and why he though benching me was a good way to signal to the team that they should pick up the pace. (It only happened once, but I remember it well).
Also, I never wanted to be the captain.
Only two percent of financial transactions in Sweden are made in cash. Fitting then that King Gustav Vasa will be replaced by Dag Hammarsköjd in the new 1000-krona bill.
In their hit 2015 two-man comedy show Ägd, Swedish comedians Henrik Schyffert and Fredrik Lindström ran a bit about a Swede walking past a beggar and instead of giving him or her money, she just pats her pockets and shrugs her shoulders apologetically as if to say she’d give some money, if only she had some cash.
It always got a laugh because it was so easy to relate to. It felt true not only because the citizens of this Scandinavian welfare state have a hard time confronting underprivileged people in person to begin with, but also because nobody in Sweden carries cash with them anymore.
If they can’t pay with a debit or credit card, then surely the seller will accept Swish, an electronic payment solution that connects the users mobile phone number with a bank account and enables quick and secure transactions between consumers.
“Only about two percent of all payments in Sweden are made in cash,” says Jacob de Geer, CEO and co-founder of iZettle, a seven-year-old mobile payments company known for its payment card readers.
Now that Sweden made all kinds of news – fake and real – I’m sure the Stockholm Syndrome will also hit the headlines shortly. I first heard of the Stockholm Syndrome when I watched Die Hard. Now, the first Die Hard movie came out in 1988 so I probably watched it on video a year later because back then, it took at least a year for Hollywood movies to hit the video stores in Finland.
Also, what really made me pay attention to a weird psychological condition that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have cared about was that in the movie, they mistakenly called it the Helsinki Syndrome, a thing I had never heard of so I had to look into it. And that’s when I learned it was really called the Stockholm Syndrome.
When I was a kid, and Mom wanted me to behave well with my cousins, she always told me that she counted on my being nice because “you’re their idol”. I’ve never been a troublemaker to begin with, but the flattery worked, too. Whenever dealing with my younger cousins – or young kids in general – I always tried to be on my best behavior.
I wanted to be a good role model.
And I wanted my Mom to be proud. Still do.
Lately, Son’s gotten into politics. He’s dashing off to all kinds of meetings, and he’s arranging events and moderating debates, so much so that it’s hard for me to keep up. I do know, though, that he’s a smart and caring boy and that his politics are very warm and that he’s out to change the world for the better. He wants to help people, which is nice.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to me that he wants to get out there and make things happen. A few years ago, maybe around five or so, he ran a one-man one-cause campaign at school as he paraded the schoolyard with a sign that said, “BELIEVE IN SANTA – He is real.”
Now there’s a message I can get behind.
Today’s my birthday. It’s good day, a happy day, it makes me feel special. Today’s my day all day long, so there’s a little more spring to my step, and my posture’s a little better than usual.
Some time ago, about ten years ago, I decided that I’d never work on my birthday again. Since everybody else was always telling me how it was my day, why not then make it my day for real. On December 8, I don’t do work – writing this isn’t work, this is just me talking to you – and instead, I do whatever I want.
(Almost. I mean, I do have to run Daughter’s ringette practice, and those garbage cans don’t move themselves onto the curb, do they?)