Learning to love. Those are the last words in Catherine Fransson’s memoir, which centers on her relationship with her late father.
If the book’s title, “Loving the Enemy,” seems jarring, the Edmonds author offers a gentle explanation.
“I pondered over that title,” said Fransson. “He would have thought it’s forgiveness. It was a journey to forgiveness and affection.”
A retired high school English teacher and counselor, the 77-year-old Fransson later earned a master of divinity degree at Seattle University. She served 15 years on the pastoral team at Seattle First Baptist Church. As a member of Spiritual Directors International, she now sees people in her home as a spiritual director.
Edmonds wasn’t always home. Fransson’s Everett roots run deep.
A 1961 Everett High graduate, she grew up the daughter of Carl and June Ramstad. While she was an Everett Junior College student, as Catherine Ramstad, she was crowned Miss Everett, an honor that had her waving to crowds at local parades.
Carl Abner Ramstad was 101 when he died on Aug. 12, 2005. Three years earlier, Fransson’s mother preceded her husband in death. The subtitle of Fransson’s book, “When the favorite parent dies first,” is a preview of frank revelations she shares in the memoir completed nearly 15 years after losing her father.
“This is the story of my unexpected confrontation with a father I hardly knew,” Fransson says on her “Loving the Enemy” website. There, she described the book as “a tapestry of memory, poetry, scripture, spiritual thinkers, and heartfelt guidance for how to find the words beyond the words.”
“When the boundaries fall because of illness, age, or disease, our relationships change,” she wrote.
On Monday, Fransson talked of how her parents hadn’t made plans for a time when they could no longer live independently in their Everett home.
“Neither had planned to move anywhere,” she said.
After health problems arose, both were moved to an Everett care facility. Her mother died within a few months, at 84.
“Dad thrived in the nursing home,” she said. “He made friends with all the workers. He was charming.”
Yet her personal memories are not of a charming and affectionate father. “Dad was always present,” Fransson said, but he was “emotionally not available.”
“He ruled the house, and my mother let him,” said Fransson, adding that she was much closer to her mom. June Ramstad was a singer, a soloist in church, she said. Fransson, a classical pianist, for years provided the accompaniment.
“Her quick, warm smile — I have these lovely memories of my mother, a star in my younger years, now leaving before we have a chance really to level with one another,” she wrote in the book.
Carl Ramstad spent his work life at Soundview Pulp Company, later Scott Paper Co. He and his wife of 63 years were active in Everett’s First Baptist and Our Savior’s Lutheran churches. Along with Cathy, they raised two sons, David and Lewis Ramstad. Now deceased, Lew Ramstad was a co-writer with Jack O’Donnell of “Seems Like History,” a local history column in The Daily Herald. Dave Ramstad is a local history buff.
There are painful memories of a distant father in “Loving the Enemy,” times when Fransson said she felt “invisible to him.”
Yet late in life, he turned to her for help. She would oversee his finances, visit him frequently, and learn much about why he was the way he was.
Her father’s upbringing had been stern. Carl Ramstad’s mother died when he was 6. Fransson wrote that his stepmother was cool, if not cruel, to him.
“I asked him questions, and he would reminisce. He trusted me. He was so grateful for my support,” Fransson said. “We didn’t have a come-to-Jesus talk, but we became friends. I saw what deprivation he grew up with.”
Fransson feels blessed. In those last years, she came to know her father.
“If he had died five years earlier, absolutely not,” she said. “It was a gift. I wrote the book to capture it somehow.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Edmonds author Catherine Fransson is scheduled to give a free talk about her memoir, “Loving the Enemy,” 2 to 3:30 p.m. March 14, at the Everett Public Library’s Evergreen Branch, 9512 Evergreen Way. Her book is available at iuniverse.com, amazon.com and local bookstores.