Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Love and Lutefisk

In an exciting turn of events, this fall my maternal grandmother, known to one and all as GGB (Great-Grandma Barb), after years of snowbirding in Arizona, Las Vegas and Mexico, moved back to the Twin Cities to be closer to her family. 

Great-Grandma Barb is awesome. She has never really been your stereotypical, cookie-baking Grandma (although she actually does bake a mean batch of cookies). Growing up, she was my Vegas Grandma, with her sequined tennis shoes. The kind who goes hula dancing, gambling and deep sea fishing in Mexico. She has taken me RVing through the Canadian Rockies, helicoptering over Mount Rushmore and flying over glaciers in Alaska in a bush plane. She has played practical jokes on me in an outhouse in the Alaskan wilderness. She has had her domestic moments, to be sure. She once refused to go on safari with her world-traveler sister because she wanted to spend the money on drapes (which, if you call them curtains and buy them at Target, don't cost the same as a plane ticket to Africa), but overall, it's not been a quiet, elderly sort of life for my grandma. 

But, the reality is, at 89 years old, that it was getting hard to keep up her house. It was getting harder to drive at night. A lot of their friends, who were young retirees when they moved into their Las Vegas house, have now passed on. The only family member in Vegas is my cousin, who is awesome, but 20 years old, and has her own life. In, what I think was an epic, heroic move, Grandma decided to put her house up for sale and move into a much smaller senior condo here in the Twin Cities. In an even more stunning move, this woman who once encouraged my mother to try and outrun the cops when we were being pulled over, decided to give up her drivers license. 

And you know what? It's been a little hard. She is handling it, but it's a big change. After 24 years, the silverware is in a different spot. The oven has buttons she doesn't quite understand, and her neighbours are "old ladies." She is not sure she will fit in. She is at the mercy of other people's schedules whe she wants to go out. No more getting in the car and running to the store. To say nothing of moving to Minneapolis in winter, which is, in and of itself, an act of courage. Even with the help of her family, who have been awesome and supportive, it's going to take a little getting used to. 

The one thing, in addition to her family, that she was really looking forward to about being home was finally being able to eat lutefisk again. I do understand the desire for familiar foods when you live out of state. I used to live in L.A. I know the joys of asking a grocer where you might find the sauerkraut and not having them look at you like you invented a word. But Lutefisk? That, I am not so sure of. I have always felt that our ancestors moved here from Sweden precicely to give their descendents the sort of life where we didn't have to eat that sort of thing. 

For those of you who are not familiar, lutefisk is codfish that is soaked in lye until it is the consistency of snot, soaked again in salt water to draw out the caustic poison, and served boiled with butter or white sauce. The only reason I can come up with for its popularity is that Minnesotans like a challenge. We are hearty enough to hack -60F windchills and dangit, we are hearty enough to eat poison soaked snot-fish and like it. 

But what is a girl to do? This woman once waited with me in the Small World line at Disneyland, not once, but five times, and all she is asking for is lutefisk. It's my duty to provide. Luckily, I have connections. My neighbourhood has it's very own Lutefisk Support Group. Several times a year lutefisk lovers, and the people who love them, gather at Lutheran Church lutefisk suppers all over the city sampling the finest poison snot-fish in town. Thankfully, for those of us who aren't fans, there are also meatballs. I think it's time to join. My grandmother needs me. 

As we are heading towards Thanksgiving and advent, and I am reflecting often on love, I feel like there is some kind of lesson in all this. Something about love being about the other, about setting aside your own desires (or aversions) to bring joy to someone else. You know, that kind of thing. Or maybe I'm just overthinking this. Either way, I am grateful to God for the gift of my grandma, and grateful to God for the gift of Swedish meatballs. 

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