Usually, my grandfather was on the sea. My sister and I used to greet him on the wharf. He had the roll of the sea in his walk. If I saw a new tattoo, I got a new story. In Stockholm, in 1899, Eric William Grundberg came into the world. His mother put him in an orphanage. His ear was notched and as an infant, he was put in several foster homes. He completed his education at the age of fourteen. Eric paid for his passage to America with his labor on a farm in Minnesota. After his debt was paid, he rode a freight train to the Texas coast. Thus, began a half century on the sea. Eric learned to speak English by reading western novels and he developed a very special accent. Between voyages, he was jailed for vagrancy in Marshall, Texas. The local cotton crop was ready to be harvested. Mr. Jack Landers, a cotton farmer, needed more workers. He went to the jail and discovered two strong boys inside. He paid the sheriff and hired the two strangers to harvest cotton. Landers had a wife with Cherokee blood. She admired the Swedish boy. He was two meters in height and his hands were the size of baseball gloves. When the work was complete, Eric left on another freight train. When he returned, he married one of Lander's daughters. His ring was three centimeters in diameter. He studied steam and diesel mechanics and was elevated to Chief Engineer.
During the wars, he served as a Lieutenant Commander in the American Navy. He never talked of the wars, except for this vignette: We see Eric at the prow. He is singing Swedish songs. His chants are protecting his ship from torpedoes. We see Eric laughing while the blind steel dolphins plow the sea. From the Sea of Japan to the Bay of Bengal, he was known as Big Hands. He was the kind of man that made pants from sail-cloth and fashioned knives from sheets of steel. Eric did not seek the help of others, but helped any man who asked. The lion's share of my moral character was formed in his company. We fished and swam in the Gulf of Mexico. We worked on motors and we had many hours of philosophical and religious discussion. He corresponded with me from every corner of the world. The sea took his son, but he never lost his love for both. His personal code was simple. A man always did the right thing. Eric acquired much spiritual knowledge during his life. Grandfather, you taught me gentle strength.
Copyright © 2015 by Michael A. Hawes. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.