Lessons From Denmark
My dad began his life in Denmark and probably hadn’t even heard of Canada until he was around 10 years old. He was born during the Great Depression in a place occupied by Nazi forces throughout the war. After the war he had to witness the horrible realities of refugee camps. Then, he was signed into an apprenticeship he had no choice over, and when he finally came of age he was drafted, and made to serve without pay.
I can’t imagine how he did it, how he left his home and family, but in 1960 he flew all the way around the world to Edmonton, in search of a better life, and had to start work at a new job the very next day.
My Dad worked hard, and soon met my mom and started a family. I came along in 1971 and was baptized right here in McCauley at the Ansgar Danish Lutheran church. Growing up in a Danish family meant I was automatically a Lutheran, and with that comes the Protestant work ethic. I was expected to work in our family business and share in the chores at home, and as soon as I could, I proudly made a few dollars shoveling walks or delivering newspapers.
But being Danish was all about the little things, like developing a love for classical music, or playing chess or cards with my dad. We had a beautiful cat who my dad named Lilleven, which was Danish for “little friend.” When I was 10 and my brother was 12, we boarded a British Airways flight with my dad and went for the adventure of a lifetime: to see Denmark for an entire month.
For the most part, we stayed in my dad’s home town, and there were so many interesting things and people there. There was the egg man, who delivered eggs each day well into his 60s on a bicycle who would often come in for a shot of liquor as he was good friends with my uncle. There was my grandfather, or Bestefa, who spoke no English but still found ways to show us kindness and love. We toured the whole country in my uncle’s Volvo that month – the only kind of car he would drive since he used to work in the factory in his younger days in Sweden.
Visiting Denmark made me really appreciate the vast open spaces we have here in Canada, the rewards for hard work, and the blue skies and clean air. Living in McCauley also makes me appreciate so many other nationalities. One of my closest friends is a popular Native writer. My barber, the sweetest guy I know, is Italian, and the people I see each day when I go for my swim are kind-hearted Chinese people who are teaching me their language. To me, diversity and a love of who you are and where you come from is one of the greatest things about this country.