I remember very little about my great-grandfather. I remember he was very little. Even as a child, when every grown up was like a giant to me, he seemed diminutive and frail. I remember he could drink copious amounts of vodka. For a long time, I assumed all old people could drink like that. And I remember his apricot story.
“Three months I hid in that forest,” he would wheeze, with a defiant grin baring his almost toothless gums, “living on wild apricots, and they couldn’t find me. Ha! Those Turks looked all over for me. Had ’em chasing me all through the forest near Yenice—dozens of ’em, armed with rifles—and they never got me!” He would laugh and splutter and take a mouthful of vodka from his flask, and Mum and Nene would glare at him disapprovingly. “I outfoxed the lot of ’em!” he would continue, red in the face from a coughing fit. “Those Turks never would have caught me either…” Here he would sigh, hunch his puny shoulders and scowl—a scowl overflowing with bitterness and regret. The story always faded into a string of mumbled Swedish swear words and a lot of drinking.
My great-grandfather’s cunning impressed me. Think of it—a young soldier leading dozens of enemies on a wild goose chase through their own territory—and surviving the whole time on nothing but apricots. With enough determination, you can do anything. That was the motto I came up with from the story. I was reminded of it every time I saw apricots.
I rarely saw apricots. I figured I was missing out on potential motivation, so I painted some apricots. They inspire me every day with a reminder of what Great-Grandpa did.
Last year, I gave it some thought. Sweden was neutral in World War I. And tracing the timeline the story sometimes featured, the war would have been over when Great-Grandpa was in Turkey. I suppose he never actually said he was a soldier. It just seemed like a war story. Well, what was he doing hiding in a forest for three months? And why were armed men chasing him? I didn’t look good. Was he a criminal?
I asked Mum about it. It was a long story, but basically Great-Grandpa and Great-Grandma had an arranged marriage. Great-Grandpa didn’t like Great-Grandma, so he fled and hid in a forest to escape the wedding. With his wild apricot diet eventually wreaking havoc on his digestion, he got sick, and that’s when Great-Grandma’s family found him.
If you really don’t want to do something, you can avoid it for three months. That’s the new motto I coined after hearing the context of Great-Grandpa’s apricot story. It may not be as noble or as catchy as the first, but it did help me avoid cleaning the garage over summer.
© 2020 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED