Day 45

Northfield, MN

A day in the family of David & Mary Sudermann. The day went by quickly, doing lots of little tasks interspersed with many questions, esp. from Martha. She has a way of getting right to the heart of things, asking about the most sensitive topics. Does smoking make my mom a bad person? Why did I divorce my girlfriend? Do I believe in Jesus? Do I plan to keep her Dad’s pen now that it’s been in my mouth? Rachel is more sensitive. I have to be more careful with her. I help her with her cello playing, but also discourage her a little by playing it myself. She doesn’t have the bulletproof self confidence Martha exudes, but is reflective and thoughtful. David probed a bit about the ineffability and uniqueness of my experiences on my trip, and expressed a love of climbing high mountains. He was looking for something, I’m not sure I delivered. Got some idea of his experiences on Mt. Rainier, and interest in rock climbing. He’s very physically active, running daily, cycling. He suggested we do a family climb in the future, himself, me, Dewey, and of course I suggested my dad. I mentioned my dad considers his lifestyle somewhat monastic. This perked David’s interest greatly, and I found he has a great affinity for the idea of monastic life. He also likes the idea of being self-sufficient: I got a glimpse of the beautiful framing, carpentry, electrical, and plumbing work he is doing on his house. He asked me some questions about computer network he is building for a local school – competent questions I was no help with at all. Mary does some of this too – at least the work on the house, but doesn’t exude the love for it that David does. David watched the team of four roofers work on his house for hours, awed by their gracefulness and efficiency. I imagine these are things he has embraced from Mennonite traditions. The theology he clearly doesn’t embrace is fundamentalism. Part of his clash w/ the Enss aunts is that he views the life of Gustav Enss as a struggle to overcome fundamentalism intellectually, and believes that Gf Enss’ “breakdown” was caused by this struggle, and resulted in his rejection of fundamentalist theology. How the Enss aunts perceive this event he doesn’t know, but they are clearly very sensitive about it. He also opened up about Annemarie a bit more. He also calls here “Annamarie”. He says she doesn’t like him, and that he knows why, but he seemed unwilling to name it explicitly. He says she harbors anger toward their father, is distant from the family, and doesn’t respond well to calls or letters from him. He said he wishes he could be closer to her. He mentioned family matters such as moving their mother into a nursing home and taking care of their schizophrenic brother John as things that have driven them further apart. He has somehow been situated in the positions of control in these matters, perhaps as eldest, but he didn’t mention how.

I didn’t learn much more about Mary – she teaches language & women’s studies at St. Olaf. Clearly Norwegian & Lutheran. She stained windowpane frames & cooked dinner while we looked at David’s extensive collection of family photos.

During all this I did laundry, searched for a bike tire I desperately need (no success), wrote in my journal, answered email, ate like a pig, and made phone calls. I really felt a part of the family, and enjoy their style.

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