Thursday, May 23, 2019

A lesson in grace

One of the pleasures of my visits to Denmark is spending time with Mette’s aunt Erna. She is 98-years old and an example to all.

Erna at 98
She recently moved from an apartment in which she had lived for 59 years to an old age home, called Solgården in Virum. It is bright and airy and offers a variety of activities and concerts.

A couple of weeks ago, Erna spent the day with Mette and me at Mette’s home. We introduced her to the latest addition to house – Amazon’s wonder woman Alexa! She was fascinated by her and thoroughly enjoyed commanding her to play ‘classical music’ or Mozart, or asking her about the weather. She thought the technology was amazing. 

Naturally we bought one for her.

Yesterday, while she was out at a concert, we installed it in her little flat at Solgården. Then we waited for her return. When she walked in the door, she was naturally surprised that we were there since she wasn’t expecting us. We sat her down at her desk, gave her a cheat sheet Mette had prepared, and began a short training session.

It was such a pleasure to watch her delight when music she had asked for filled the room. She smiled, laughed, and would have jumped up and danced had she asked for Mitch Miller. I am confident that she will remember that Alexa is now part of her life and will become close friends. 

Erna at 87 with Mette's youngest grandson, Gustav
Erna is no stranger to technology. Her only son lives in Brazil, and she speak daily with him via Skype. Mette remembers a few years ago walking into Erna’s flat to see her and two of her ninety-year old friends poring over her computer, trying to resolve some problem. No calling the Geek Squad for them. They wanted to fix the damn computer themselves.

What I love most about her, even more than her comfort with technology, is her grace. She is always impeccably dressed, interested in what others are doing, with a smile on her face. The Danes love to sing at events – Christmas, birthdays, and so on – and she joins in with gusto. 

Erna at 78 
A few years ago, we had Christmas at Mette’s home and, of course, Erna was there. We picked her up early in the day, so we would have time to prepare the feast. Erna thought it was time I learnt to make Danish Christmas marzipan and nougat treats. So we sat down, and she taught me. It was delightful. And the treats were delicious, of course.

Erna at 95, teaching me to make Danish treats
Erna is fortunate still to have her wits about her. She reads the newspaper every day and keeps abreast of Danish (and American and British) politics. I am pleased to report she doesn’t approve of Brexit and just rolls her eyes at the mention of Trump. 

Of course, her short-term memory is not as good as it was, but she is very disciplined at writing everything down and does remember to check her calendar every day to see what she has scheduled. 

She certainly provides a very powerful example of how to age gracefully. 

May we all go down that road.
Upcoming events

June 11: release of Shoot the Bastards(Poisoned Pen Press, an imprint of SourceBooks)

June 18: 1830 for 1900
Once Upon a Crime bookstore in Minneapolis
Launch of Shoot the Bastards, in conversation with Kent Krueger


  1. What a great lady. She reminds me of my gran who died at 105 and was still doing her own garden at 104. I think it's being lively and interested that keeps them going.
    I bet she has some stories to tell of her youth, what changes she has seen, good and bad.

  2. Stan, when I grow up, I want to be like Erna!

  3. What a wonderful story about a woman who knows how to enjoy life and people.

    Meanwhile, I'll be depressed about the fact that Botswana's president will now allow elephant hunting. Oh, why? Tourist dollars, but apparently living elephants bring in a lot more funds.

  4. I agree, Aunt Emma serves as a wonderful example for us all...and as for that Alexa cheat sheet, what's the chance of getting a peek at it? I'm not yet at Aunt Emma's age, but nor do I have access to her gray-haired Geek squad!