Category Archives: Personal

“If you haven’t learned to drive by the time you are 7 years old, you are not a real man!”

Second grade school picture

Those were my dad’s words to me in the spring of 1964, about three months before I turned seven. Dad was fascinated by anything with a motor and was happiest sitting on a motorcycle or in a car. He often told us stories about his experiences growing up. Back then if you answered, ”Yes”, to the question, ”Can you drive a car, young man?” you were given a driver’s license. Then it was up to you to learn how to drive. I think my dad drove a few hundred yards for his driver’s test. It was that easy, but he became a good driver. He drove fast and every time he went over 100 km/h mom opened the door and threatened to jump out. She was only joking, of course, but it scared us when we were young. Most exciting was when dad showed us how to turn the car around on a narrow paved road by pulling the handbrake. We burned a lot of rubber, but no one considered the environment back then. (Being able to use the handbrake to quickly turn the car around later saved my life. Read about that on my blog from June 12, 2017)

So, in the spring of 1964 I was nearly seven and if I didn’t know how to drive a car by my birthday, I was not a real man. Before letting me start the car and drive, dad wanted to be sure I knew how to steer and stop. He sat me in the driver’s seat and showed me which pedals were the gas, brake and clutch. Then he pushed the car down a hill about 100 meters and I was to stop the car at a precise spot. I was too little to reach the pedals sitting on the seat so I had to stand up behind the wheel.

I steered the car to the correct place and found the right pedal and, stepping on the brake a little too enthusiastically, rammed my chin into the wheel. But I had stopped the car in the right place. “Now we can try driving with the engine on,” my dad said, laughing. I drove back and forth in our yard, out past my dad’s workshop and into a small forest glen where I had to turn around. I had to learn how to use the clutch, shift into reverse and back up a few yards, and then shift back into first gear to go forward. My dad didn’t give up until I was proficient at using the pedals and the gears.

It was no easy task for a small boy to drive a real car since I couldn’t sit down on the seat. Standing up to drive was tiring and sometimes I banged against the door, or worse, in a tight curve sometimes lost my balance and was thrown to the floor. Falling on the floor was problematic. But, to my dad’s relief, I was able to drive a car by my seventh birthday. He was proud of me and I could call my self a “real man:”

When I was eight years old he gave me my first car, a Dodge. My brother, who was two years older, got a Ford. They were big, 3-geared American cars that we were given to play with. We drove on a small road that went through a forest glade and over a creek, bouncing around as we raced each other.

The cars were gas-guzzlers so we often had to scramble for money. Dad had given us the cars but it was up to us to pay for the gas. We’d bicycle along the highway looking for bottles we could take to the store and collect the deposit. Then we’d bicycle to the gas station and fill a milk bottles with gas. With a liter of gas in the tank we could drive a few more laps.

Before long I was driving on the highway when dad wanted a break. My dad was a bit nuts, but as a boy I thought it was fun and exciting.

Choice of a Lifetime

June 19, 1982
June 19, 1982

Many of the choices we make through life can be changed or revoked without very much difficulty, but some ought to be thoroughly thought through before they are made. One of the more difficult of these would be the choice of a life partner or spouse – a choice that can be a great blessing or devastating for the rest of your life.

Today, June 19, LaVonne and I are celebrating 35 years of marriage. 35 years!    It’s unbelievable that time has passed so quickly. When we were newlyweds we met a couple that had just celebrated their 5th anniversary. WOW! We thought that sounded like a very long time.

In 1979 I was working in California and renting a few rooms in the house of a Swedish woman. One day, when I came home, she said that we were invited for dinner at the home of her friend who was also from Sweden. That sounded nice so I accompanied her to dinner. Of course I couldn’t imagine that May-Britt, the Swedish woman who had invited us, would soon be my mother-in-law. We drove to the house in Arcadia, about an hour from where I was living, and it was here that I first met LaVonne. It wasn’t, perhaps, love at first sight, but it was memorable. I saw LaVonne a few more times before I returned to Sweden in the spring of 1980.

In the spring of 1980 I was filming a documentary about the mission sailboat, Elida, and their orphanage in India. In the summer I was going to film on the boat in Sweden. LaVonne was in Sweden visiting relatives and had, a bit reluctantly, stayed to sail with Elida along the west coast for a week. It happened to be the same week that I was filming onboard the boat. It didn’t take very long before LaVonne was glad that she had stayed behind when her mother went home to the USA. A few days after we left Elida, I invited LaVonne to go with me to Liseberg, an amusement park in Gothenburg. Liseberg can be a dangerous place for a bachelor who wishes to remain single. That’s where it said, “click.”

LaVonne returned to her aunt’s house in Småland where she would stay for a few days before going back to the states. While there she called her mother. LaVonne, who hadn’t spoken many words in Swedish earlier, began babbling in Swedish about this man she had met. May-Britt was surprised and shocked, something BIG had happened.

In 1981 I was again working in California and was able to spend a lot of time with LaVonne and her family. The following winter I was working on Sri Lanka and could only talk to her briefly by telephone. At that time you had to order your call through the post office on Sri Lanka and then wait for a couple hours to be connected. But LaVonne wrote to me every day, making the other members of my team a bit jealous over the amount of letters I received.

The wedding was set for June 19, 1982. I returned to Sweden from Sri Lanka and one week later flew to California. Luckily LaVonne and her mother had made all the plans and everything worked wonderfully. My father and brothers and their wives all came to the wedding. We had over 400 guests and it was a celebration we’ll never forget.

I got an amazingly beautiful, intelligent and loving woman for a wife. It’s now been 35 years and I want to say in all honesty and with all my heart that I love you more now then ever, you, my best friend and wife.