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The Long Way Home

Here it is, 24 hours before the deadline for this column, and I’m setting aside the one near­ly completed to bare a bit of my soul with this.

I have a Facebook habit that rivals the one with pipe tobacco. So this morning, July 3, I was doing my routine browsing through what the Meta monster’s algorithms thought I should see. Up popped a video of recent American Idol winner Iam Tongi performing with singer/ songwriter James Blunt. The song, “Monsters,” was written by Blunt, and Tongi performed it in his Idol audition. Blunt wrote this haunting song after being at the bedside of his dad who was near death (spoiler alert, he survived but that outcome wasn’t clear at the time.)

If you’ve never heard it, it is quite a tear jerk­er. The chorus:

I’m not your son, your not my father

We’re just two grown men saying goodbye

No need to forgive, no need to forget

I know your mistakes and you know mine

I’ve listened to this song several times since young Iam’s audition. He dedicated the song to his recently deceased father and the judges on the show were moved to tears. I usually mist up each time too, but it’s been many weeks since I’ve listened to it.

So why did it pop up on my phone today?

I’ve been thinking a great deal about my dad the last week or so as I’ve been preparing a blog post for a client about parent/child fishing. My dad was my first and favorite fishing bud­dy and some of the experiences we had back then fit perfectly with the theme of this post.

But it was only after hearing the song this morning, when I had the dogs outside for a morning constitutional, that I remembered that today, July 3, is my dad’s 101st birthday. It’s also the day we buried him 28 years ago.

I confess I was thunderstruck and broke down crying out there on our “old road.” I agi­tated the dogs a bit and I wasn’t able to tell the Bohunk about all this without blubbering.

My dad struggled his last few years with the devil emphysema. He was tethered to an oxy­gen machine that sat in the living room of their house for three years. When he left the house it was with a green tank full of oxygen on a two wheel cart attached to his nasal cannula.

Hearing “Monsters” today brought back with surprising force Dad’s last days at Fair­view Southdale Hospital. His doctor told us they’d tried taking him off the ventilator sev­eral times to get him breathing on his own, without success.

Since Fats would never breathe freely again, and with his advance directive in hand, we made the gut wrenching decision as a family to end all aggressive care. With the ventilator shut off, it wasn’t long until he died. We were all with him then.

And while you’re sleeping I’ll try to make you proud

So, daddy, won’t you just close your eyes?

Don’t be afraid, it’s my turn

To chase the monsters away

Becky, being of Bohemian and Catholic de­scent, firmly believes in the afterlife and the occasional parting of the veil. She’s wondering what sign I might get from my mother on Fri­day, which would be her 96th birthday.

I just hope they know of the monsters I’ve chased away and that I’ve made them both proud.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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