I was well into my forties when, thanks to some good sleuthing by my youngest sister Pia, I found out that I had a brother.
Okay, so let’s step back a little.
I have two sisters. Lili-Ann, who is five years younger than I am, and Pia, who is eleven years younger. And for the longest time that was all she wrote when it came to siblings.
Well, come to fine out…
My parents vanished sometime during the summer of 1952. I was three and change at the time and not briefed on the details. However, now and then after their disappearance I must have asked grandma Olga about where Mom and Dad were because I remember being told—in somewhat evasive terms—that soon someone (Dad was mentioned most often) would come for me.
Would come for me soon.
Something important to look forward to, is how I seemed to have grasped these promises. It would not be long now. He’ll come for you, or she’ll come for you. By train. They’ll come for you. Not long now. But these odd (so I must have thought) promises never really explained my parents’ absence, and I never managed to wrap what wits I had at the time around precisely what was going on here.
What was going on here, precisely, was this: Lisbet, sometime in the spring of 1952 had an affair with one of Kjell’s friends. This affair (so it was assumed) produced offspring, and by early summer Lisbet had begun to show—at least, that’s what I gather in retrospect.
Two things here:
For one, Mellansel, that little clearing in the northern forest we called home, was a primitive and very religions village. It was one of those everybody-knows-all-about-everybody-else clearings in the forest. For Lisbet to be pregnant with a non-Kjell’s child spelled scandal and outrage with capital-S and capital-O respectively. Going-straight-to-Hell kind of scandal and outrage, to be exact.
For two, since this was not Kjell’s child (so it was assumed), it was decided between them (Lisbet and Kjell, I gather) that Lisbet would offer the child up for adoption upon birth.
So, Lisbet begins to show and she and Kjell board the next train out of a village replete with potential stern judgments and sterner damnations.
Ulf is left behind with grandmas Olga (80%) and Irene (20%).
And that is how I came to spend that fall and winter to the tune of someone would come for me soon. Truth be told, by late fall, I don’t think I asked much more about them. Not that I had forgotten them altogether, but I no longer really missed them for Olga did a great job pampering me, the Angel Child, and Irene (who took me in during that 1952-53 winter) was a decent pamperer as well, so life was ticking along quite nicely in my book, lack of parents notwithstanding.
In the end, no one ever came for me. Instead, one day in February (would be my guess) of 1953, Olga put a four-year old boy (me) on the train to do the catching up with his parents on his own. I’m told that the train conductor and other relevant railway personnel were asked to keep an eye on me, which they must have done since I’m still here, typing away.
Lisbet met me at the Stockholm Central Station and I guess there must have been some sort of joyful reunion, though I remember none of that.
Fast forward a whole bunch of years: Lisbet’s son, Dag, adopted just after birth by very nice Stockholm parents (I met his foster mother at one point, who told me about the handing-over of Dag—a very sad story, since, she said, Lisbet was really broken up about it), one day decided to track down his birth-mother, and he succeeds. My sister Pia (who lived next door to Lisbet at this time) meets Dag as well and cannot help but notice how much like daddy Kjell he looks. Some blood tests later: Yes, Dag was not Kjell’s friend’s son, Dag was Kjell’s son. Oops.
I met Dag in the 1980s. Yes, Kjell-features. Especially the nose and mouth.
Funny thing, that, discovering a brother this late in life. But perhaps I’m not wired correctly (it would possibly have been a huge deal for someone with more affectionate wiring), for it hardly impacted my life at all. Well, to be fair, I’m living in Los Angeles at the time and Dag in Sweden. Also, he was not an enthusiastic letter writer by any stretch and neither was I. Nor did we call each other on the phone—too expensive at the time, and with not too much in common (apart from parents) there was not much to talk about either.
Yes, we’d meet up during my occasional my visits to Sweden, spend an afternoon or so talking about this and that, but nothing earthshattering. Today, there’s an email a year, if that.
To my knowledge, Kjell never met Dag, his son. I understand that Pia gave him hell for abandoning his child and I don’t think Kjell was able to muster too much by way of a defense. Kjell is dead and gone now, so there’s no asking him about it today.
As a side note: There was never a maternal grandfather (morfar). Grandma Olga apparently had only one romantic adventure in her life, and the second party to said adventure did not stick around. Lisbet was born and raised fatherless, as it were, and she never knew or met her dad.
Dag, bolstered perhaps by his success in tracking down his birth mother Lisbet, now sets out to track down Lisbet’s father: and succeeds. Lisbet and her father even talked on the phone, at least once.
At one point Lisbet was going to go visit him in whatever little town he lived in, and even got on the train. But, she told me one day, she never got off that train. As the train pulled into the station, she sat by the train car windows, half-concealed by curtain, scanning the platform for potential fathers. By the description she had from Dag, and (I guess) from the man over the phone, she spotted him and then and there, still hiding behind the curtain, changed her mind. She never told me why, but in the end, she never met her dad.
Abandoning newborn children seems to run in the family, for in 1968 I followed suit. More of that later.