A Pal And Her Daddy-o
In this day and age of television discourse, when political opinionators are either superheroes or archcriminals, depending on whether the viewer agrees with them or not, I’d hope The Pencil can be a respite from that. Oh sure, I bash certain cementheads — the names Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, and Sarah Palin spring to mind — but I don’t issue blanket condemnations of all Republicans. Guys like Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Lindsay Graham all are fairly reasonable, serious pols, even if I’d tend to disagree with them should they announce tonight that the sun will rise in the east in the morning.
And I’m friendly with right-leaning civilians like the Lake County Republican and the cousin-in-law from Wisconsin. I don’t need to agree with a person on a checklist of global, national, and local issues in order for us to be cozy.
The anti-sex league that has taken over the GOP and is trying to destroy, for instance, Planned Parenthood is a menace in my book. The folks who endorse police gunning down people for being snotty to them frighten me. Those who see Barack Obama as the second coming of Hitler and Hillary Clinton as a murderous castrator are delusional — and scary as well. Anti-Muslims, anti-brown people, and anti-black people are suffering from the disease of hatred. Their poison words should be seen as contagious symptoms rather than valid points of view.
Conversely, I suffer the fools on my side of the fence almost as badly. The anti-GMO crowd is as clueless as climate change deniers when it comes to the scientific evidence. The woo bunch that talks of “healing,” “energy,” and past lives, the anti-vaxxers and paleo-dieters, the idolators of “The Secret” and of doctors Oz and Chopra all give me a headache.
Still, I won’t necessarily wash my hands of someone who’s four-square against abortion and I count among my closest pals people who believe gluten and arsenic are virtually interchangeable toxins.
Yet it’s comforting to know someone — anyone — with whom I share a preponderance of views. The Loved One, for instance. (And even she entertains a notion or two that cause me to glance sideways at her.) It’s one thing to be broadminded and equanimous with one’s debate opponents but even this petit diplomat needs to know on occasion that there are a few folks in this mad, mad, mad, mad world who think as I do. They make me feel safe and warm and not so outré. One such kindred spirit in the Bloomington public sphere is Susan Sandberg.
S-squared has been a loyal reader and long-time supporter of The Pencil almost from its inception. The city council maven and social media soap-boxer is fearless when it comes to calling for a right, a just, a decent society. And she reads books like nobody’s business, a trait that elevates anybody a notch or two in my pantheon.
Sandberg lost her Daddy-o, Eugene Edward Sandberg, three Saturdays ago. She and her equally dynamic dame sis, Sarah, labored mightily to keep the old bird comfortable in his last few months. They tilted against our bizarre wealthcare system as well as that most fascist of all dictators, time, with all the ferocity of mother bears defending their cubs.
For Old Man Sandberg, though, 93 years was enough. He closed his eyes on the 13th of July for the last time. The Sandbergs and all their friends, colleagues, and loved ones gathered this past Sunday to remember him. Susan and Sarah delivered two of the eulogies, natch. In recognition of her loyalty to this communications colossus and because, well, she’s spot-on on just about every issue there is, I present her words, as spoken Sunday, in memory of E. E. Sandberg. Sarah Sandberg’s tribute fallows Susan’s.
It has been a wonderful time of remembrance, talking with so many of you who have come today to help Mom, Sarah, Katy and I celebrate the life of Eugene Sandberg. We hope you have enjoyed looking at the photos and reviewing the Remembrances of a Life that I’d urged Dad to write in 2005 to help us understand his early years leading up to his memories of serving in World War II. Known as Gene to most of you, he was a great father to me and Sarah, husband of 63 years to our mother, Jane, kindly grandfather to my daughter Katy, and second Dad to our honorary brother, Steve. Dad was born in 1921 to Henry and Blanche, brother to our Aunt Norma, brother-in-law to Uncle Al, uncle to our cousins, Becky, Jim and Phil. He was a veteran, a teacher, a gardener, a reader, an intelligent introvert, a fixer of things, and an overall good man.
The Sandbergs, with both Dad and our teacher/librarian Mom at the helm, have always been a bookish clan, and last week Sarah was busy building and painting another book shelf to help organize the many random stacks of books that have been accruing around the house over the past several years.
Dad was a thoughtful man who loved books, poetry and words. He liked how books make us think, laugh, and certainly make life more interesting. I will remember Dad for so many wonderful things, but I will focus my remarks today on those literary gifts he gave to me and to so many of us as our teacher. No surprise that Dad was also a diligent student who loved reading, but according to his 2005 memoir, he really liked algebra too! In listing his freshman class schedule from 1935-36, he’d written that he had algebra class from 1:25 – 2:20, and then noted in the margin “Miss Moore was so pretty – I loved algebra!” Hmmm.
Here’s one of my first memories of being close to Dad as he would read to me as a kid, this poem by Lewis Carrol. The words are pure zany nonsense, but I loved the silliness that made me and Dad giggle together as he read Jabberwocky. Just an excerpt:
Jabberwocky by Lewis Carrol [Here, Susan recites from memory.]
Later on both Sarah and I would love to watch Dad read to his granddaughter, Katy, especially the Christmas Eve tradition of the reading of “The night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”
As one of Dad’s students in Junior and Senior English at Bloomfield High School, I remember having to memorize things, along with many of you, and for some strange reason here’s one that stays with me…
Invictus by William Ernest Henley [Again, Susan recites from memory.]
Say those words out loud sometime, I think it will do you good. Repeat after me: ”I am the Master of my fate, I am the Captain of my soul!”
While I was his daughter and not his son, I loved Dad’s tough guy stuff, the literature of the lost generation — Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, the enigmatic Gatsby of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the poetry of stoicism, bravery, overcoming adversity and becoming a man. Here’s a favorite poem that I still go back to read when I need a little kick in the big girl pants:
If by Rudyard Kipling [From memory.]
Our family love of books and poetry also led us to appreciate beauty and romance and lyricism and impressionism, and the bravery of strong women. Emily Dickinson, Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, the brooding Heathcliff, that splendid Mr. Darcy and — oh how even more delicious to me — snark and satire. That droll, sarcastic wit and wisdom of so many great writers and humorists like Mark Twain, Will Rogers, one of my favorite dames from the Algonquin Round Table, Dorothy Parker and then later on, my appreciation for the witty Texas political writer, Molly Ivins.
From Dad’s memoir, here’s what he wrote about Will Rogers:
“On August 15, 1935 the family had just gathered around the kitchen table for dinner when the news came over the radio that Will Rogers and Wiley Post had died in a crash of their Lockheed Vega plane at Point Barrow, Alaska. Our meal was finished that noon in silence and sorrow for their passing. Rogers was a national idol known especially for his critique of Congress. It was he who claimed it was ‘the best Congress money could buy.’ Not much has changed, has it?”
No, Dad, not much has changed.
To Kill a Mockingbird. And while my Dad was not Gregory Peck, how privileged Sarah and I both were to have been raised by a good and decent man, Eugene Sandberg, who introduced us to so many literary characters like Scout, Tom Robinson, Boo Radley, and our Atticus Finch, a hero in our young eyes, brought to life in the timeless classic by Harper Lee — to this day my all-time favorite book and movie.
And another gift from Dad — the love of biographies of great men and women of history. Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy, FDR and Eleanor, Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh. The great appreciation for the great experiment that is America. Its founding, its struggles, its promise for a better day. Reading great speeches by great orators — Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy. Others who loved words and knew how to use them to inspire, to persuade, to lead us to a better place, to listen to our better angels.
Which finally brings me to the literature of peace, comfort, the quiet reflections of Henry David Thoreau, Walden Pond, Dad’s introverted love of nature and solitude. While thinking about appropriate material to honor Dad I happened upon this poem quite by accident, but it’s a suitable end to my remembrances of the gifts he gave us and the good work that he loved to do in life. It’s about the hard work of the day that gives way to the easy peace of the night.
Let Evening Come by Jane Kenyon
Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.
Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn, Let evening come.
Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.
Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.
To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.
Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.
Thank you, Dad, for everything you’ve given us. And thank you, Mom, for having the good sense to meet and marry Dad. Good call!
Now, Sarah Sandberg’s words:
As you know Dad isn’t with us today. He has come out of retirement and is back at work teaching and will be for another couple of years. He wanted to be a teaching cadaver and I remember talking about this with him many years ago. I teased him about his proclivity toward recycling but I thought this was a very cool thing to do. Dad was cool. He would not have wanted us to make a fuss like this today and I’m sure he would turn over in his Petri dish if he knew how much all this costs. Sorry dad but just like always the Sandberg women are in charge.
My sister mentioned how our Dad would read to us as kids, a lot. So much so that when I had him as a teacher in high school, every time he would read aloud in class or lecture I would tend to fall asleep like Pavlov’s dogs. He adapted his teaching style for me.
Dad could build things and he taught me a lot in his workshop. I still use his tools and many are much older than I am but dad knew how to take care of stuff. I am not sure how much of my creativity is genetic or a product of nurturing but both mom and dad made sure I was allowed to make things and play. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to let me play with the liquid mercury but….
Dad was really smart — really smart. I think the reason I have never embraced computer technology is because no Ask Jeeves or Google search engine was faster than dad’s memory. You could ask dad anything about history, art, music — you know, the important stuff — and dad would give you an answer instantly. He was a living encyclopedia.
With only a few exceptions, he loved music. The opera Turandot was one of his favorites. His favorite song was The Class of ’57 by the Statler Brothers. We will not be playing that one here today. Dad could play a mean harmonica but like his favorite comedian, Don Knotts, he could not sing, not a lick. According to mom he could not dance either.
As a child dad used to tell me television was not something I should waste time watching especially game shows and soap operas. He did love All in the Family; Upstairs, Downstairs; The Woodwright’s Shop; and any World War II program on the History Channel. Both he and mom did become addicted to The Young and the Restless, however, and he never missed Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy.
Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday.
His favorite movies to watch over and over were Alan Arkin’s A Matter of Principal, and A Christmas Story.
Last year we gave dad the full size leg lamp and he really enjoyed that.
The day before he passed he had been watching shows about the fall of Nazi Germany and when he said he had had enough of Hitler, I switched over to the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I don’t know who he liked better, Marilyn Monroe or Jane Russell, but he had a big smile on his face during the whole movie.
The day he died I was glad the last movie we had on for him was the Marx Brother’s Duck Soup. Susie and Steve have quoted many beautiful things today so not to be remiss I will leave you what I think dad might quote from Groucho Marx — “Hello, I must be going.”
Well said, Susan, Sarah, and Gene.