My father, a painter, photographer, recorder of village life, and dedicated outsider, has finally, at 94, surrendered a big chunk of his independence and moved into a smaller, protected environment, at the foot of his beloved Alps, of which he knows the name of every peak. He now lives in a small apartment, crowded by furniture and his memorabilia.
He never showed much interest in me. I should have been a boy, and I’m still trying to let go of this traditionally embedded rejection.
Due to my dad’s poor communication, the past returned like a big wave that threatened to drown me, because, whether we like it or not, we all emulate qualities of our parents. His image here is interesting as emblematic turning point. Unbeknownst to my dad, his skying skills were exploited. He was groomed by the army for Russia. While on a special training he saved the life of a girl, which is why he did not end up in the nightmarish march to Russia and instead worked as an engineer testing aeroplanes.
Thanks to a remarkable woman in the village (thank you Micha) who supported my dad with the logistics of the move during the last few weeks, all went smoothly.
Together with my son and his partner (without them I would have faltered) we sorted the chaos left behind, enduring a few days in the stirred up dust of my dad’s two relationships, the one with my mother, who died much too early, in 1987, and that with another woman, who my dad also lost to illness.
Thanks to marvellous hot sunshine, which allowed us to swim in the lakes and ponds of Bavaria, and thanks to the help of some wonderful friends in Munich and Aalen, the task was made lighter. A leaf I found (below) sums up my sentiments.
* * *
The leaf, like my life
Grows from green-sprung verve
Towards brittle glowing gold
Weathered into definition
By burning days
And moist nights
Worn veins gnarl back
To imagined beginnings
While futures curl forward
To the ever-expanding
Where every ending appears
As a glitch in time …
22 responses to “… my father …”
A beautiful post full of melancholy but a little spark of truth and light – lovely – Diane, and very best to your father in his new environment
Thank you, Diane. Yes, sparks of truth help to integrate memories. Never easy for an old person to change their environment. Knowing he is looked after will relax him, and me. I had not realised how much his living alone so far away burdened me. Up to a year ago he drove a car. And he still uses a bike.
What a beautiful piece, full of memories, nostalgia, hinted-at secrets and
maybe regrets. Thank you. -Liz xx
Thanks for responding, Liz. You’re right, and very kind.
Thank you for this beautiful piece. It carried me away to my own father who’s life was marked by his time in Germany during WWII followed by a colonial war in Indonesia
Thanks, Elmer. Our fathers were born during or shortly after WW1 and the Spanish flue, only to have their youths disjointed by WW2. These traumatic experiences are difficult to imagine for us, or our children. Many personal stories of that generation will remain untold.
A beautiful post. Both of us thinking of our male role models today. Sometimes men are more interested than they let on. 🙂
Thanks, Mary. There are surprises when the cupboards of our role models spill their secrets. Had I been a spoiled girl, another kind of shadow would have featured. Imbalances certainly make life interesting.
Your posts are always fascinating — defying expectation and provoking many thoughts. The line “He never showed much interest in me.” reminded me of the repeated sentiment in Stephen KIng’s Pet Sematary (of all things) that men’s hearts are gardens of stony soil, but they tend them with great care.
Huh, J.F. – I stayed off Pet Sematary – it promised disturbed sleep 🙂 But I guess we all have a patch of stony soil in our metaphorical gardens, under which some stuff is well compressed.
How’s Bricklayers doing?
I’m waiting for what I hope is the last print proof (the fourth!) to arrive before publishing. Just between you and me, I plan to publish on Sept 1. 🙂
Whatever the gulf one has with a parent, the proximity of permanently losing that parent dangles the prospect of being orphaned over one’s head. Then, when that moment comes, one moves–without choice–up the line to matriarch/ patriarch of the family.
Hum, it seems not a linear thing, Fay, more like the dipping in and out of a spiral. All is inside me. I must choose what energies to employ. I like the childlike energy best but must exorcise the fear of outmoded parental archetypes that mess everything up.
So very very difficult for you and your father. These transitional times are so hard, when we have to change to move our lives and mindsets from one beloved place to somewhere else. But what beautiful evocative memories. I think you’ll feel more at peace now, knowing he is being looked after.
Transitions are so interesting. I hadn’t realised how much it burdened me that my dad lived alone, relatively unsupported because he didn’t want anyone meddling with his independence, not even me. Now he has accepted that he might need support at some point. It’s a great relief.
I’m so pleased for you and your dad. It will be an adjustment for him but at least he is being cared for and that must give you peace of mind.
Yes, we so often don’t take the time to reflect when we find ourselves in moments of transition. Change can be so hard, but sometimes so rewarding…
Keep up with your wonderful posts, I do so enjoy them! 😀 xx
Peace of mind sums it up. You’re wonderfully encouraging, thank you.
I just know how delicate families can be, and when it comes to loved ones…well, you’ve done the best thing sweetie for your Dad and for you. xx
I love the lines ‘to imagined beginnings where futures curl forward
Beautiful post Ashen thank you – do most fathers hope for a boy in some way? Girls are difficult and contrary? That father image – and we love them no matter what. I’m glad for you to hear that he is comfortable, rides a bike knows every name of every peak …
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