I have written several stories and anecdotes about my father and those were only the ones that bubbled back to the surface when reflecting about certain situations. There have been many instances in my life where my father played a pivotal role. Building models with him was one of them. Those are the memories I recollect the most. Others have been pushed further back into the depths of my sub conscience but only very few are forgotten.
I always loved my father for the kind, caring man that he was and for the simplicity he bequeathed towards life. To him, life was a beautiful thing, that at the same time was very precious and not to be wasted.
Dad was also tough. Not strong or muscular in size but just plain durable. I have seen him cut himself several times badly on obstacles, when he was fixing something. One Christmas Eve, he tried to slice off the tip of the tree with his pocket knife but in doing so, removed part of his thumb in the process! Only for mom to be able to place the angel on top. Never was there a snivel or a shout. A silent cuss escaped occasionally out of the corner of his mouth but that was just out of frustration that he’d slashed himself and that he had to deal with the aftermath of an inconvenient injury. Usually his handkerchief was wrapped around the wound until the bleeding stopped!
Then there was the time he caught an infection on his gums and had 9 or 10 of his teeth pulled in one session. He had it done after work and then pedaled his bike home, rinsed his mouth over the kitchen sink and the man was ready for supper!
My sister was the apple of his eye. The only girl of 3 kids, she could do no wrong and dad always made sure that he would do everything humanly possible to prevent that anything bad would happen to her, while growing up. Lea was a couple years older than me and when she was about 11 or 12, she baked her first pineapple cake.
That same morning, dad had left for work with the car. He wasn’t feeling all that great but already had expressed to his overly concerned wife that the nausea he was enduring, would “blow over”. Well that day, it didn’t!
Meanwhile, immediately after school my sister, under the watchful eye of my mother, had been “slaving” over the stove. For a school project, she was supposed to bake a pineapple cake. After some trials and lots of errors with dairy products and an old, tarnished pineapple can she had dug up from the basement, the experiment was ready for consumption! Finally, after hours of anxious anticipation, some odd, materialized shape emerged from the oven that looked far from appetizing! Even the smell was off. Nevertheless, mission accomplished! Now it was waiting for dad to come home to make his digestive assessment!
An hour later, the maroon family Fiat pulled into our driveway. Sis had been on the lookout for the last 15 minutes, pineapple cake clutched in both hands. Once dad had stopped the car, she ran out towards the man who was going to evaluate her baking skills and deliver his epicurean appraisal.
The rest of the household stood behind the window, watching the spectacle taking place. Even as a kid, I immediately could see that all was not well with father. When he opened the car door and swung his legs out of the vehicle, his face appeared to be as grey as the plastic bag, mother had packed his lunch in!
Still, when he saw the excitement on his little girl’s face, who was running towards him and holding something that resembled a squashed German helmet, he immediately straightened himself in his seat. From the inside, we could not hear what was said but we saw him smile when my sister handed him a slice of pineapple cake. With painful gusto he took a bite and started chewing for what must have seemed an eternity to him before he was able to swallow it down. He took another bite and made it look like it was the best thing he had ever consumed. All to show to his daughter that she did well and that he loved it.
Meanwhile, mother had left me and my brother’s presence to walk towards the car and very softly, ushered my sister back inside. Father stumbled out of the Fiat and could barely make it to the other side of the automobile before losing it completely. I saw him hunched over, heaving and surging at the same time, puking his guts out! This went on for a while and I vividly remember feeling sorry for him. It took dad several minutes to compose himself, while leaning exhausted against the car. Even when he was sick as a dog and could have been easily excused from eating anything, he could not bring himself to disappoint one of his children. That was just the way he was put together.
Here, was a plain and simple man but who deserved the true title of father more than anyone. He knew that it was easy to become a father but that it took a lot more guts to be one.
Although dad was not a tall man in statue, he’ll always play the role of a gentle giant in my script.