A few days after my visit my father passed away, finally overcome by heart failure and pneumonia.
My father and I never had a good relationship. Perhaps our innate temperaments were not all that different, but if nothing else, the differences between growing up in post-Civil war small-town Finland and 1970s suburban Sweden, betwen surviving new wars and living a laid-back academic life, ensured that we had few, if any, things in common. Possibly I would even strive to increase those differences to mark distance.
With time I came to better understand my father's motivations and the ideals he tried to live up to, but by then I could no longer communicate this to him, as he had descended into dementia. Perhaps it was even necessary for my understanding that I no longer had to keep my protective shields up, that my formidable father was reduced to a frail old man who I no longer had to be angry at but could pity and comfort as best I could.
Now, I am at peace and so is he.