05 Jan As my father journeys Home
Norwegian farm boy, war survivor, and proud American.
Nuclear missile electrician, Boeing Manager, and world traveller.
All those things were part of my dad, Knut (kuh-NEWT) S. Johansen’s life, but they were not who he truly was.
Some descriptors come closer, yet still don’t fully hit the mark:
Loving husband who often brought Mom flowers, “for no particular reason.”
Devoted father to my disabled brother.
Daddy who called my sister, every day, to tell her how precious she was.
Papa that traveled through the night to surprise me at college, when I had my first broken heart.
Smiling grandpa to six cherished grandchildren.
Pa was born above the arctic circle on November 23rd, 1934—shortly before WW2 broke out. When the Blitzkrieg swept through, his family members scrambled up the steep mountains bracketing their valley.
Once the battle was over, he and his siblings—Annbjorg, Sigrid, Jon, Ragnhild, Odmund, Karl-Inge, and little Christian—passed by dead Norwegian soldiers lying in the river.
By the end of the 1940’s, Annbjorg and Christian had perished, and dreams of America led my father to start hiding money in the floorboard next to his hay-filled mattress.
In 1951 he celebrated his 18th birthday, on a transatlantic ship, in view of the Statue of Liberty. Older brother Jon soon followed.
After a stint in the U.S. Air Force, Dad met Mom at a Sons of Norway gathering. Married in ’60, Mama never knew just how serious Papa was when he told her, “I like to move.”
Accepted into Boeing’s Minuteman Missile program, during one stretch they packed up 23 times in 18 years—a pioneer-like journey spanning high (North Dakota), low (Texas), east (Missouri), and west (California). Eric, Kari, and me were born.
While many children of the missile fields rarely saw their dads, Pa drove back from remote sites every single night. Dad brought home wriggling, black Lab puppies and purring Siamese to bless us children.
After many years he passed up a high-paying position with the MX program to bring us home to Seattle, where he served as a Boeing middle manager.
There he chose to be at work by 5:15 every morning, so that he could get home at 3:00 p.m. to kiss Mama, hug Kari, phone Eric (by then in the army), and attend my sporting events. Kari married Tracy Glenn, and I wed Jill Melody.
In the 90’s “Papa” began doting on Kari’s children, Dylan and Madison Jewett—especially after recommitting his life to the Lord at a Promise Keeper’s event in the old Kingdome.
From that day on, he and Mom prayed and read a few Bible verses every morning while sipping strong, black coffee.
Last vestiges of old wounds healed up. Two addictions fell away.
Through the early 2000’s, “Far Far” (Father’s Father) greeted my kids: Abby, Michael, Jonathan, and Sarah.
Though not of great physical stature, he fought off heart attacks, strokes, skin cancer, Parkinson’s, and dementia.
And though he will go Home any hour now, he is at peace—his last alert moments were spent looking into the distance while holding hands with family members and whispering of the beauty of Heaven, and grinning about a great reunion to come with Far, Mor, Annbjorg, Christian, and Ragnhild.
His final words belie the essence of who my father ultimately will be:
Citizen of the Golden City, living by the Crystal Sea.
And I pray that he’ll be the first to greet me, many years from now…
When I go to him.