Editor’s Desk

Posted 4/12/22

FROM THE The asphalt ribbon As I sit next to my grandma’s hospice bed this Sunday evening, I turn to what comforts me: Writing. We’ve had a hard couple of days in our family as our beloved …

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Editor’s Desk



The asphalt ribbon

As I sit next to my grandma’s hospice bed this Sunday evening, I turn to what comforts me: Writing. We’ve had a hard couple of days in our family as our beloved matriarch was admitted to hospice on Tuesday, April 5. A fighter until the end, this 96-year-old feisty Norwegian has to be sedated to keep her calm. I believe she hears us, but is holding on so tightly to the thin thread of life. We’ve assured her it’s okay to take Grandpa’s hand, to let him take her dancing toward the stars, but so far, she’s not taken him up on his offer. We’re convinced she’s just too worried about leaving us behind.

It's fitting for her to be at Spring Valley as her childhood farm is just over the hill on County Road I. As we leave the care center at night and head toward River Falls, we can see the lamplight glowing from the windows of the old farmhouse she once called home with her parents and brother. When she could still speak, she even told us that she had “come home.”

I spend a lot of my life on Highway 29 and as I traveled the familiar route, I realized that Highway 29 is like a ribbon rippling through Grandma’s life, with significant places along the way strung like beads on a necklace. Who knew a stretch of cracked asphalt could “see” so much?

She and my grandpa moved to rural River Falls, just off Highway 29, when they retired from dairy farming near Nugget Lake. The route they took from Nugget Lake to their new home took them past Gilman Lutheran Church, where they united in marriage on May 27, 1947. Grandma wore a beautiful ivory gown and held the biggest bouquet of deep red roses I’ve ever seen. She recalled how it snowed that day (yes, snowed) and was pretty cold. I guess Spring was confused in 1947 as well. It was quite something too, for a Norwegian to be marrying a Swede. Her parents weren’t quite on board with that one at first, but love won.

As they went west on Highway 29, they passed the intersection where Grandma’s grandpa had once had his buttermaking shop (near Highway 29 and County Road BB). Further down the line, just south of the Highway 63/29 intersection at the former Red Barn, Grandma was born in a little house (no longer standing) on a dirt road near Martell. If you head north on Highway 63, just before you turn west again on 29, she and her family moved to a little farm there (now long gone, but replaced by a beautiful house) when she was small. They eventually moved to County Road I, and she graduated from high school in Spring Valley.

Further west over the Rush River bridge stands the Kay School where Grandma and her brother attended grade school for the first time. They didn’t speak English when they first entered Kay School, since they spoke their native Norwegian at home. Grandma recalled how they would ski to school in winter (without poles) and what it felt like to fly over the snow, how good the woodstove felt on wet, woolen mittens, and how scared she was to speak in front of the other students. Never a star pupil, she would find her niche later by becoming an excellent housekeeper, baker, cook and farm wife.

As hard as it is for me to let go of her, every time I drive Highway 29 from River Falls to my home east of Spring Valley, I will be reminded of her and her stories, her love and her legacy. Past Saddle Club Road, that leads to where I grew up with her and Grandpa; past Kay School, where a scared little Norwegian girl clung tightly to her brother’s hand, her big green eyes taking it all in; past the Highway 63/29 corner, picturing a little farmhouse and barn, and a little girl swinging a milk bucket as she runs to the house; past the dirt road leading to her birthplace and our history; past the historic brick church, envisioning her and my grandpa stepping down the stairs, beaming as congratulations drifted in the wind; past County Road I, where the lamplight is burning in her old bedroom window, where we spent Thanksgiving with her brother and his wife every year; past the care center, where we are spending our final hours with her and reminiscing.

I love you, Grandma.