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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Your Mustache Will Not Protect You! Or, Swine Flu and My Dead Norwegian Relatives

Posted by on Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 3:38 PM

This morning, I received an e-mail from my mother, Ingrid (a nurse and a wonderfully level-headed person), entitled "GERMS!" The e-mail reads:

Hey, this is getting worse. My rules are: Wash your hands as soon as you get home. Then go around with a clorox wipe and clean the door knobs, light switches, and faucets. Of course, wash before you eat and keep your hands away from your mucous membranes, including eyes. I wish I could quarantine you until this thing settles down, but I will trust you to keep yourself safe. If everybody in your house does the same, then you can feel safe at home...unless you accidently let a sick person inside.

Love you. Mom.

I love you too, mom! And thank you for recognizing that motherly quarantine is not an option (who would go to the Angels & Demons press screening, I ask you?).

My mother, like a lot of people and their mothers, is somewhat concerned about this swine flu situation, and would prefer that her daughter not die of it. e322/1240955369-greatgrandpaskaugerud.jpeg

Her concern, it turns out, is for distantly personal reasons: My great-grandfather (her father's father), like a lot of people's great-grandfathers, died in the flu pandemic of 1918, in Norway:

Grandpa Ole's father, Anton Mattiassen Skaugerud, was born in 1881 on the farm "Gunnersveen" in Søndre Land near Hov. He and your great-grandmother Anne married in April 1908 and lived on the little farm "Skaugerud" where cousin Mikk lives today. Grandpa Ole was born in October 1909 and his brother Arne in 1914, I think. Their father died in 1918 when Dad was nine and his brother was five. Grandma took in washing and worked on surrounding farms to support the family. Life was hard, but the community did what they could to help the young widow. The boys didn't have much of a childhood. I don't know how that pesky virus found its way to such a remote place, but it did.

That's great-grandpa Anton in the picture above, behind the giant mustache.

Preparing to write this post, I Googled "søndre land," and arrived at its Wikipedia page, where I discovered this photo:


"That looks like the Odnes Hotel," I thought. Then I noticed the caption, which reads, "Odnes Hotel (c.1880-1890)." Then I freaked out a little bit. The white building on the left is the Odnes Hotel. The brown building next to it is my great-aunt Eleanor's house. She owned the little old hotel until a few years ago, when it became too much to keep up with.

This photograph was taken around the time when great-grandfather Anton was born. A few decades later, he would marry and have a son, Ole, and then he would die. Ole Skaugerud would, in turn, grow up and marry Clara Odnes, the eldest of nine daughters (Clara, Eleanor, Borghild, Signe, Ingeborg, Ruth, Margaret, and three I can't remember right now—forgive me, great-aunties!) from the tiny village with the little hotel at the north end of the lake. And eventually, of course, Grandpa Ole, who lost his father to the flu when he was only nine, moved to Seattle where he raised seven children, smoked a pipe, ate licorice, didn't talk much, built things, and never stopped feeling homesick.

And THAT is why I have washed my hands twelve times today. Bring it, swine flu.


Comments (20) RSS

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Great story Lindy. I love it when people take the time to know some of their genealogy. I, on the other hand (even though raised a Mormon) know practically none of mine outside of West Seattle where I was raised.
Posted by mjanet on April 28, 2009 at 3:45 PM · Report this
My grandma used to tell me how kids would play in the coffins during the 1918 pandemic.

Seriously, though, just wash your hands with hot water and NON-antibiotic soap and mellow out.
Posted by Will in Seattle on April 28, 2009 at 3:46 PM · Report this
get a livejournal! lol jk
Posted by Heee on April 28, 2009 at 3:52 PM · Report this
Thanks, Lindy, that was a swell story.
Posted by Fnarf on April 28, 2009 at 3:54 PM · Report this
Great post! I swear, my family has almost the same photo as the second one, but it was taken in Sweden. As for my family lore, my Welsh great-grandfather, and great-aunt (his daughter who was in her 20s) died within ONE WEEK of each other in 1918 of the flu... in SEATTLE! Could you even imagine what that would have been like? And my great-aunt was the first in the family to graduate university and was a teacher. The family was obviously devastated...
Posted by coffeeboss on April 28, 2009 at 3:56 PM · Report this
Good job keeping up with those great-aunties. I can barely keep up with my first family, let alone the second and third generation my dad (7 of 9 (and I never noticed that particular Trek reference in my family until this moment)) is always talking about.
Posted by Enigma on April 28, 2009 at 3:59 PM · Report this
You might want to trim your mustache, too.

You never know what might be hiding in it.
Posted by NapoleonXIV on April 28, 2009 at 4:06 PM · Report this
I should probably stop incessantly biting my fingernails, huh.
Posted by w7ngman on April 28, 2009 at 4:09 PM · Report this
I work at a shitty company that provides in-home care to people, and many of the nurses tramp in and out of houses where people with MRSA and C-diff live. Naturally, I have no health insurance, so I have become completely OCD about handwashing on the job and not touching doorknobs.

The thing is, though, while I wash my hands for 20 seconds every time I pee (yes, I count), I pee a lot and so now my hands have cracks in them. Those cracks make it easier for germs to enter. Hand sanitizer only makes it worse, and it stings.

So I ask the Sloggerati: HOW DO I KEEP FROM DYING NOW, GENIUSES?!?!?!?!?!
Posted by TVDinner on April 28, 2009 at 4:28 PM · Report this
Great story! Nice to have a sense of history. Wash your hands, and stock up a bit of food for just in case. We should have that anyway because we're in earthquake territory. Or maybe some time we just won't feel like going grocery shopping for a month.
Posted by Patti on April 28, 2009 at 4:39 PM · Report this
It's worth mentioning that none of the buildings in the photo are brown, because it's a black and white photo. I realize it's brown IN YOUR MIND, but that doesn't help me figure out which one it is. The one not made of unfinished wood? But wood is brown, too. It is confusing.
Posted by Chip on April 28, 2009 at 4:56 PM · Report this
Mustache rides! There is bound to be a joke about Mustache Rides!
Posted by Snidely Whiplash on April 28, 2009 at 5:00 PM · Report this
And it was a cool story, by the way.
Posted by Will in Seattle on April 28, 2009 at 5:06 PM · Report this
@9 I think you should take that over to the questions blog.

That is so awesome that your family's hotel is on the Wikipedia page. I have crazy family stories too, but no kind of evidence or anything. So people just think I'm that crazy gal talkin bout her grandma living with hitler...
Posted by whereisrpatz? on April 28, 2009 at 5:50 PM · Report this
@11 Is "next to it" not enough information for you to discern which building she's talking about?
Posted by Meags' Loincloth on April 28, 2009 at 5:59 PM · Report this
@9: Bag Balm
Posted by ejamadoodle on April 28, 2009 at 8:12 PM · Report this
Always a pleasure to read your posts, Lindy. What was it about facial hair back then? My brother dug up a picture of our great-great-grandfather from 1903. He looked like one of the bearded members of ZZ Top as an old man--you know, like how they look today.
Posted by RainMan on April 28, 2009 at 8:53 PM · Report this
And THIS is why you're my favorite slogger.
Posted by M2 on April 28, 2009 at 9:18 PM · Report this
What 18 said. Also: from Mom's note, we now know where she gets it. Yay, Lindy's mom!
Posted by this guy I know in Spokane on April 28, 2009 at 10:28 PM · Report this
great story!
Posted by gnossos on April 28, 2009 at 11:06 PM · Report this

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