As time goes by things passes. People and places flow in front of our eyes, and even though we often would like to stop the motion, hold the current, we never can. And sometimes, you don’t even notice loved things passing until they are already out of sight.

Really. Normally I wouldn’t write this post. I really haven’t got much to say. Last time I saw the man was 14 years ago. And really, my memory isn’t the best. But nevertheless.

And, all I could find on the net, other than the sporadic listing of dead peoples, was a short mention in the protocol from “kyrkorådet” in Domkyrkan from December 2004. And somehow, it doesn’t seem enough.

So. Nevertheless.

RIP Ulf Ehnbom, 1943 – 2004
Yesterday, meeting some friends, word finally reached me that Ulf Ehnbom, long time history and religion teacher at Carlforsska Gymnasiet in Västerås, had passed away almost 3 years ago.

Ulf was “klassföreståndare” for the music course students at Carlforsska Gymnasiet, 90 – 92. He didn’t really want to be, and his first word to the collected students in front of him that warm autumn day 17 years ago was: “I have been given you for my sins.” What a thing to say to a confused group of 16 year olds! We were some 30 people in the course and more than half of them had moved away from home to attend. And what is it you’re told on the first day of that new life? The guts of the man! What he meant wasn’t as bad as it sounds though, being responsible and taking care of the music students at that time was a chore, and as he explained to us, “music students in general often show quite ambivalent behavior, on one hand, intelligent, thoughtful and expressive, and on the other, right little bastards.” He ended the information meeting with something in the line of: “and now I’m supposed to take you around the school, show you were the principals office is, where the restaurant is etc. But really, I’d much rather go home and stretch out with a beer. I mean, you’re 16 years old, I do think you can find your way cantina without me hold your hand.” There was general agreement in the class. And the word on the street afterwards was that he’ll be alright. Somewhat strange, but alright.

Over the 2 years he was responsible for us, we gradually started to respect him like no other teacher we had. You see, we were without doubt right little bastards at times, but what Ulf did and what, for me at least, was quite a revelation, was not caring overmuch. What we did wasn’t really his problem. He would look us in the eye and tell us when, and importantly, how, we were wrong. But at the end of the day, he considered us grownups and if we wanted to fuck up badly he had at least warned us. It may sound like a cold relationship, but in our eyes, he respected us and our choices, misguided as they may have been, he gave us the freedom to screw up badly, he didn’t take all the more or less ridiculous things we did very personally, and in return we gave him respect back.

Some strange results came out of that relationship. For example, almost everyone in the class studied hard for his examinations. Everyone. This might not sound strange to you, but if you had met us at the time, right little bastards as we were, you’d probably be surprised we went to school at all. We really only cared about music, and every other subject, and its teachers, was in for a nasty surprise when meting us. But for Ulfs exams, the entire class studied.

More than any other single person, Ulf taught me how to think. That using your brain wasn’t about learning algebra from a list. That learning history wasn’t about years or dates or even names. That separating history from religion in western Europe was a futile academic exercise. That understanding causes and effects was much more important than the fiddly little details. That it is OK being intelligent and to use your brain, even when others might not think it politically correct. (He considered writing an academic paper on the conflicts among the disciples in the new testament, just because he knew it would annoy certain persons in aforementioned “kyrkorådet”).

Of course, everything wasn’t peaches. I know that others don’t remember him fondly at all. But such is life when it is not cencored, and I’ll leave it to them to voice their opinions. I do know though, that Ulf was the only teacher from that time that I wanted to meet again. That I’d wonder from time to time what and how he was doing. And I know I’m not alone in that: Marcus, Erik, Gustaf et. al. would certainly agree.

And now it is getting late. For certain things it is already too late. But before I blow out the candles tonight I’ll pour myself a generous dram and raise my glass. For what it is worth: thank you Ulf. We remember.

Let my weary soul find release for a while
In the moment of death, I will smile
– Hansi Kürsch