Thursday, September 20, 2018


                                                            AFI  (Grandpa Bjorn).

Just musing, and thinking back on growing up in Iceland. Of all my family, my grandpa (Afi) in Vopnafjordur was my favorite person. He had the most wonderful attic room full of books, stacked on the floor, on the window sill as all the shelves were full. On the floor were newspapers from Canada called The Heimskringla. In all that chaos his desk had amazing free space where he spread out his papers.

 He didn't mind when I came in and watched him as he was working on intricate  math problems that covered his pages. He didn't say I was to "curious" and "asked to many questions." He hadn't even scolded when I had tinkered with his motorboat, got it started and, un-expectantly, took it for a short spin in the fjord (I'd forgotten all about this when I wrote my memoir!). Fortunately it was just a big curve on a smooth ocean and I was able to bring it back and ease it up to the pier as my uncle Bjossi and Afi came running; Bjossi hollering, waving his arms about and yelling "girl, don't you EVER learn!?" While Grandpa gave me a slow wink as he stroked his graying mustache, hiding a grin.

Afi owned a farm called Hamundarstadir. The house was three-gabled and turf covered the roof, where I had to constantly chase sheep off, although most of them wandered out into the foothills where we had to find them in the Fall for the sheep-roundup (great festive days!)  He also had a few milk-cows, one that was called Red, I was sure she was the meanest cow in all of Iceland. Afi was also a good fisherman and frequently took his motorboat out into the fjord bringing back large cache of fresh fish, our main food.

My Father, Jonas, Afi's first-born, didn't take to farm life and left for Reykjavik where he entered the Marine Navigation school, graduating in 1924, after which he was pretty much on the ocean the rest of his life. As I was growing up, I didn't see much of him. Afi was quite proud of him and told me how tough Jonas was " a true Viking kid that didn't cry" as he, Afi, would tell me if I got to whimpering and missing my siblings he would remind me "Diddamin, Viking kids don't cry..." I learned early on to "tough it out." But I seemed to have this curiosity..."But Afi, I am not a Viking kid, they are long gone,"  besides what exactly WAS a Viking, what kind of word is that anyway...?"

Oh boy, did I get a lesson when he so grandly proclaimed that my ancestors - Starting with Hrolfur Redbeard in 860 - were great navigators and shipbuilders. Brave men and women that followed their hearts for adventures. For years many Icelandic men, women and children were challenged to overcome harsh weather, long winter nights - by grit and determination - "and this shows up even yet in the independent spirit of most of us Icelanders".. Afi twirled the ends of his short, handlebar, mustache."And the word Viking? Well, Diddamin, that is actually an Icelandic word -VIKINGUR - and means he who comes from the fjord. Yes those were cruel days in many ways, but he Vikings were not any meaner than other groups that roamed the world."

I grew up following Afi's words "Don't let fear rule your life, enjoy it!"
Hmm, maybe that is why, when a United States Navy man proposed at a second dance and I said "yes" and came to America in 1945 - by myself. Of course I didn't know his family, I'd never been out of Iceland. I spoke limited English and he spoke no Icelandic...but that is another story...

I want to share my grandfather's tenacity and great outlook on life.

Live while you're alive!