Becketwood Cooperative
An Active, Independent 55+ Community of Owners in Minneapolis

Senior Housing—And Ole And Lena—And Aging-In-Place

by Howard Bergstrom, Becketwood Member

Other Becketwood Members have been sharing important events in their lives.

I’d like to tell you something different about me—something very few people know. I grew up in the same Greater Minnesota town where Ole and Lena also grew up.

Actually, I didn’t know Lena well, until after she married Ole—except by reputation. What about her reputation, you ask? Well, she had a reputation for being fickle. Before she met Ole she was, for a few months, engaged to a guy with a wooden leg but she broke it off.

As for Ole, I knew him well. As kids we were in grade school together, and we attended the same Swedish Methodist Church. I recall one day—it was in Third Grade—we walked home from school to his house. Ole was very excited. When he saw his mother he exclaimed, “Guess what! Today for our numbers lesson, we all measured our feet—and I’ve got the biggest feet in the whole Third Grade! Is that because I’m Swedish?” “Oh Ole,” his mother said, “Don’t be silly. It’s not because you’re Swedish. It’s because you’re fourteen.”

That took place very many years ago. Ole lived to the age of 103. He aged-in-place in a senior residence built by Swedish Methodists. There was an enterprising group of Swedish Methodist women who came to be called “The Founding Mothers.” They intended it to be a place for elderly Swedish Methodists to spend their golden years.

“Svenskavood” (the senior residence’s colloquially used name, which became official) was furnished and decorated entirely with IKEA products. Its common spaces were given names such as the “Dagsqvist Lounge” and the “Storpsvold Dining Room.”

But it turned out that, when construction was complete and units were for sale, there just weren’t enough Swedish Methodists in this town who were ready to buy and move in. So it ended up being occupied mostly by Norwegian Lutherans.

As for Ole, in his last year (his 103rd) he had ailments that required hospitalization, but he always seemed to bounce back. His pastor was Reverend Larson, who took pride in visiting each church member every day that any member was hospitalized.

One day, the Reverend was visiting Ole and no family members or medical staff were present. Ole had gotten a procedure to check his lungs , which irritated his vocal cords, so he couldn’t talk. But he had a pad of paper on which he could write.

Rev. Larson read several Bible passages—but then, Ole began to be more and more agitated—and he reached for his pad of notepaper. He scribbled a few words, and then suddenly gave A GREAT GASP! He fell back, and his body became still. But he had just handed the note to the greatly alarmed pastor—who absent-mindedly slipped it into his suit pocket—while shouting for help from nearby nurses.

The funeral came a few days later. Rev. Larson was proud to say he had visited Ole each day and was with him at the end. He said, “I was there for his last breath! I was there for the last beating of his heart! And I wish I could tell you his last words.”

(Ole’s last words!) Rev. Larson was wearing the same suit! And in the side pocket WAS that slip of paper. He exclaimed to the congregation: “I DO have Ole’s last words!” He tried to read: “You are….” But he could not make out the rest.

In the front pew was Ole’s son Knute. “Knute, can you read your father’s hand-writing?” Knute said he’d try, and he rose up to take the note. He squinted and hesitated, then turned to the congregation and announced clearly: “My father’s last words were ‘You are standing on my oxygen hose!’”

Svenskavood honored Ole’s passing, for setting a new residence record for aging-in-place (men’s division), in a special and appropriate way. An exception was made to the residence’s policy of not naming spaces or places (that is, no names unless names were “historical”). Ole’s name was inscribed on a large boulder that was located near the edge of the property.

But what about Lena, you ask? Well, before Ole retired, and before he moved to Svenskavood, Lena had divorced Ole and married Sven (whose presence would otherwise have been left out of this story).


Acknowledgments: Two Ole/Lena jokes (I’ve embellished) are from the paperback “Pretty Good Jokes.” My own allusions are interspersed. The long Ole story (also embellished) was told to me by a close friend—on a visit to him while he was in hospice care. I’ve written this in tribute to him. HB













Leave a Reply

  • carol bechtel July 19, 2017, 9:16 pm

    Hilarious, Howard, and I’m not even Swedish–or Norwegian!