The Swedish Immigrant

The Swedish immigrant, came at

five

from the lakes and woods with Gerda Anna, Edwin

Oliver and baby brother Eric,

 

whose mother died a few years later in child-birth

trying to give American citizenship to a still-born

sister, and whose baby brother

 

went back to live with relatives never to be seen

again and whose father died of Spanish Influenza

when he was thirty-three and Gust was just

 

thirteen.

 

Gustav Edwin Oliver, alone, orphaned, tossed from

Svenska foster family to foster family, went on the bum at

 

twenty-one

 

hopping a freight train out of the yard in South Chicago

headed west through North Dakota, with a stop over to

work the fields of Swedish farmers, getting hemorrhoids

because there wasn’t any place to go,

 

jumping on and off, nearly breaking a leg, sitting by a

fire, taking dumps in the weeds, wiping with leaves,

never bathing, getting attacked by horny guys in the

night on the hay in the moving box

 

cars, back and forth, from Chicago to San Francisco with

a stop at the 1933 Chicago Worlds Fair and a job as a

captain in the guides, a flush toilet, a bar of soap, a shower,

a uniform, a big photogenic smile on his Gerda round face,

 

blue eyes, blond hair and a taste of the slice of the

American pie in his mouth and hope for the future

for a Swedish, immigrant, orphan of

 

twenty-eight

 

who one day would become a Swedish-American who needed

hemorrhoid surgery and six days in the Roseland Community

Hospital on the south-side for recovery,

 

the same hospital in which he recuperated from a heart attack at

 

fifty-five

 

and one year before he couldn’t take one more bite of the slice of the American Pie and instead of jumping on the train just stepped in front of it at

 

fifty-six,

 

fifty-one years after he left the lakes and woods

for the opportunity of a life-time for an immigrant kid, one he hadn’t asked for,

a slice of the American pie.

 

 

2 thoughts on “The Swedish Immigrant

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