Tag Archives: death

Relationships with the dead

1

In order to not too abruptly start with such an impossible subject, I would like to approach it from three images that we are familiar with from classical civilization. This has the advantage for me that I know a little bit about that culture and therefore talk about it easily, also when in the end it really concerns our own problems.

In the ninth book of the Odyssey the main character himself says that in a battle with the Kikonians a number of his friends have perished. “From each ship,” says Odysseus, “six well armed men fell. I evaded fateful death with the others. From there we sailed on, deeply saddened by the loss of our buddies, but grateful to have escaped death ourselves. My gracefully arched ships did not continue on their travels, until we had called each of our unfortunate friends three times by their names.” (Od. 9.60-66)

This is an image that everyone, I think, can understand because it is based on an impulse that we can hardly suppress: to call back someone who dies, to call them to order, three times, to give them every chance to undo the irrevocable. Only after this attempt can death as a merciless fact be accepted. Even in an as rationalised and institutionalised establishment as the catholic church this magical impulse has not been suppressed: deceased popes too are called three times by their name, and get three taps with a little silver hammer. The magical borders on the exalted and that in turn borders on the comical.

A second image I find in the oldest Greek images on graves, from the sixth century BCE. Almost always do we see a smile on the face of the deceased. In the arts that is called the ‘archaic smile’: offerers to the gods, gods to the offerers, the deceased who smile to the living. A lot can be said about that, but the essential must be that in this ripple across the face, the belief in a relationship and a living, moving contact is expressed, more quiet than the magic of calling, but also more lasting, more debilitating, and less willing to immediately sail on. It almost seems as though something of another world or another dimension of this world is revealed in it. Whether in that time there was a connection to the then immersing thought of immortality, I don’t know. I actually think that that thought hardly played a role in the true relationship between deceased and relatives. For that ‘immortality’ is too easy a word and too swift a denial of reality.

A following image is another two centuries younger. On an Attical tomb relief from the fourth century BCE a deceased young man is portrayed who stares vacantly ahead in the direction of the viewer. Across from him and unable to catch his eye stands his old father, leaning on a cane. Parallel to that cane and the straight folds of the garb there is an empty plane between both figures: that plane keeps them irrevocably separated. Maybe they are thinking of each other, and in any case, the father looks at the son, but they don’t know it of each other, and the father can only look back, in undivided melancholy.

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With these images i’m not concerned about a line of a historical development, for example from a momentary magical attitude of resistance to a melancholy resignation, or as a preparation for a christian, theological approach from biblical data like the promise of a resurrection, but as types of attempts to shape contact with the dead or the impossibility of that. The historical order of those attempts is certainly not without meaning, for a change in culture also brings with it changes in our behaviour and even in our emotions. We can’t escape to react and feel differently than people from other times and cultures. The eternally humane is orchestrated differently in every period and in every culture. Grief in antiquity was different than our own is. We have to overcome a sort of shame to admit, that we understand parts of it.

That’s why I think that, behind our more or less imposed uniformity of talking and reacting, we are still searching for an individual solution. That is not a rational undertaking, nor one that’s culturally stylised as rationality, one that assumes determined certainties or cliches, but it is a searching of a way out or many ways out. We are in this situation less comparable to an animal that acts faultlessly like it’s been programmed to do by instincts and inherited behavioural patterns, but more like an animal that’s been locked in a cage. It can’t trust its instincts in finding a way; it finds many small openings through which it can stick a paw or a nose outside, but none through which it can get out completely. The animal relinquishes its attempts and the friends sail on. I think that we can’t discuss a relationship with the dead without using a word like ‘resignation’. For whatever we think about death and however beautiful we formulate that thought, it is an occurrence in the face of which we ultimately stand passively, and that we can’t ignore without dying from it ourselves.

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This occurrence that cannot be imagined and cannot be grind finely by any thought, this hard fact that most resolutely crushes and refutes our thoughts, also determines the nature of our relationships with the deceased. A relationship with a deceased is essentially an existing human relationship that has changed character because of death, in which certain possibilities have been excluded by the most radical occurrence, without clear new perspectives being opened. There is, like in the Attac tomb relief, a line through it, there is a crack in the reciprocity. It is impossible to ignore death to such a degree that the human relationship beyond death remains something matter of fact; I think it will, from itself and always, have a problematic character precisely because of the fracture that was caused by death and that at least demands an adjustment, a new ordering of possibilities and a discarding of impossibilities. I speak of course solely about a reciprocal relationship that already existed before death and that was concrete, not about something like contact with complete strangers in a different world; it concerns changes that occur in an existing relationship between the living. Of these we have to say that they exist by the grace of a potential and preferably frequently realised meetings and interactions. Meetings are made possible by the presence and reciprocity of living persons.

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Where one of the conditions is missing, the will to create or keep a connection can still exist, but we can then only speak of a curtailed relationship at best. It seems to me, for example, that in our contact with small children there is too little a case of reciprocity to speak of a real human contact. For that, the share of our own interpretation, almost behind the other’s back, is too great. Nevertheless, of course it can be a joy to mix with children; it’s just that, I believe, they only enlarge our loneliness, rather than annul it, and that we already have to be fairly happy to enjoy this presence without reciprocity.

Also the relationship who is temporarily or permanently absent is curtailed by this absence; to think a lot about someone or merely have written contact necessitates us to, as it were, fill up the relationship with our own mental activities to an integrality of which we can never be sure if it is a product of reciprocity or one of our own imagination and interpretation. The presence of the other is so important, because it refutes our imagination and brings us back to the reality that we share with the other. For that reason I never really understand that people can have a relationship with God, and can address him as though he can answer at any point.

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The dead too are not present in the usual sense of the word. They are no longer capable of the reciprocity that determined our meetings with them. For those are precisely the things their death has ended. Death refutes our thoughts, for example the idea that relationships last eternally, and with that it challenges our imagination, too, for example to think that ‘in a certain sense’, ‘on a different level’ etc the contact still remains. I don’t want to speak about this in an unmasking way, for I would degrade myself to a henchman of death. Anything we can salvage from the hands of death is a great gain and eternal possession, no matter how little it is.

But we do have to say, I think, that the change in relation that occurs with death, is in any case a curtailment of its potential; otherwise there wouldn’t be any sadness and grief. Grief is a process in which we get used to a withering of a relationship: the presence and reciprocity shrivel into a past and a memory, and the painful thing is that this minimum is too little for us. We call the dead by their name to invite them to give a sign of their existence and presence. We almost see ourselves obliged to keep them alive in our thoughts and memories, and to pull them away from the abyss with our activities. If we don’t call them, they will disappear forever.

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In the stage of grief where we haven’t yet succumbed to the reality of death and to the stylistic compulsions of our culture, including the Christian use of language, we are at our most magical. That finds its way in the fairly poetic expressions about love being stronger than death, or the description that Gabriel Marcel gives of love: “To love someone is saying: you shall not die.” These expressions are touching, but also typical for the overconfidence of life and imagination. They only apply till death refutes it all. Nietzsche said that we are immortal as long as we live.

I’m not concerned here with an unmasking, rather with a purification and with the measure in which we can accept a difference between our way of talking and our awareness of reality. A way of thinking and talking that can not be calibrated by some reality, seems infertile to me and moreover I have the feeling that in the end, we can only be consoled by reality, not by our lonely and powerless imagination. The relationship with the dead is not a denial of death, but an acknowledgement of it, like solace isn’t a denial of sadness, but an acknowledgement. The magic of addressing, greeting, the rituals surrounding a feigned presence are necessary to prepare us for an unimaginable fact. Only after this acceptance can we maybe interpret this fact in a new way and from that interpretation continue our relationship or what’s left of it. The reality of death doesn’t just make our lives and thoughts different; also death itself can, when it occurs, be something else than we thought it would be.

7

There is a very drastic interpretation in which death is seen as a transition into another life and a temporary separation. On the Attic tomb reliefs that i’ve mentioned, this concept seems to be depicted. Both the living and the dead are visible and physically present, it’s just that the reciprocity has been suspended. But perhaps it is exactly the same with depictions as it is with words; we can imagine and say more than we can reasonable justify. Death as a transition to another life can be a way of speaking that we use, without accounting for the fact that we are talking about something that is almost unthinkable.

More realistic is another interpretation, one that death invites us to itself, because it is connected to the reality itself of the occurrence. Death imposes an inwardness upon us we might not have known before. What we carry around by means of an inward life in ourselves consists partially of unspoken thoughts surrounding death. Its reality redirects our relationship with fellow humans to the one active pole that remains. At the same time as the reciprocity ends the ambivalence that usually characterises a living contact. The possibilities of the deceased have been fulfilled, they have become past and now nothing can happen to them anymore. What they were for the time being, they are now definitely and eternally. Their goodness, the reason why we mourn them, can only now truly permeate us. The wisdom to ‘speak no ill of the dead’ might come from this realisation and from the guilt about a lack in appreciation , rather than from a magical fear of revenge. The problem of a relation with the dead only occurs after all in connection with loved ones who are suddenly no longer there; it teaches us at the same time that we don’t have a relationship with most people, or a very meagre one: most people aren’t there for us. Some dead are, despite their absence, more present in our lives than most living.

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So partially the relation consists of a missing and of the awareness that our possibilities of contact have been curtailed. The missing is the way in which the absent stays present. We don’t miss what we don’t have, but what we’ve had and wanted to keep. Missing is, coming from us, an attempt to hold onto the past and make it into the present. In this missing sometimes the past becomes the reality pre-eminently, the sum of all that is already been realised no longer needs to be dreamed. But also from itself the past continues to work on, probably more than we can rationally calculate and in a way that we hardly chose ourselves. My relationship with my deceased father, if I may be so personal, is not just missing and memories from my side, a late guilt, unuttered gratitude, a hundred questions of things only he could still know, he is also still, even against his wishes, present in my life by the effect of his earlier presence, by traces of his influence on my behaviour, and probably not in the least by the message of a inherited disposition. The more i’m growing aware of that, the more I remain connected to him and feel related to him, and the more I’m inclined to something like an ancestral cultus, in which the weight of existence is not so much placed in the perilous moment of life than in the solid presence of a whole ancestry. I think that this feeling of solidarity with people who have lived might be the vaguest relationship we can have with the dead, but it is also the most important one in our own lives, which are after all mortal in every sense.

Portrait of Cornelis Verhoeven by Wim van de Voort

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Without a sigh -last part

March 6

There could be a beautiful, integrant and almost happy sorrow about a life gone, if we didn’t have to become so active. There are so many things to take care of and so many things to be thought of. People are never busier than when they’d do nothing rather than staring ahead. Especially surrounding death and funerals there is a frantic urge to organise and moreover a strangling etiquette. Hundreds of regulations determine every step we take and the more fearful we are, the more we get trapped in the fyke of funerary commerce. For every degree of ‘piety’ there are adjusted rates.

Then there are the expressions of sympathies that consist mostly of speaking in cliches. ‘How old was he?’ ‘Eighty five.’ ‘Well, then you can’t complain. I’d sign up for that.’ ‘Yes, yes, you can say that.’ ‘But it’s not in our hands.’ And then they tell you to ‘stay strong’, which you really only need to stay nice amidst all those well wishes.

There are endless considerations about what has to be, should be, is done frequently, would be greatly appreciated etc. What I would love to do most is to take father with me and bury him in the orchard. There is a beautiful, melancholy spot there that i’ve long considered as a graveyard. The hedge makes a turn there and the grass seems tender. The ground underneath it would have mercy on him.

In the evening there was a stations of the cross and a rosary in the chapel of the old age home. Visiting this ceremony is a part of the innumerable obligations. My hands were sweaty when it was done. Fortunately one of the little ones yelled ‘it stinks’ out loud when one of the attendees wasn’t able to suppress a fart. I think father would have laughed too, for in the field of farts he had a finely tuned sense of humour, almost as imperative as his piety. When we used to sit behind him on the bicycle, he’d sometimes fart loudly and yell ‘catch ‘m’.

The stations of the cross were just like when I was young, an incomprehensible mixture of mysticism, sadism and moralising. In between there were as good and as bad as they could songs of an old Dutch version of the Stabat Mater, sung with sheer, senile voices. It didn’t surprise me at all that none of us participated and I felt most connected to the kids that took every opportunity to giggle or to imprint comical details so they could repeat them at home.

Father is now in an open bier. I scare more from the fringes and tassels that decorate the coffin than from his hollowed face and his blue nails. I never understood what this fuss was all about. Apparently it is a commercial expression of great affection or something. Now that nothing can be achieved anymore, you suddenly have to spare ‘no expense’, even at the cost of your own taste, for someone who is no longer there and thought it all nonsense when he was there.

The residents of the old age home condole us, beautifully, without small talk and sincere. Only old fold should really be allowed to use cliches. Some of them have tears in their eyes. Someone said: ‘We lose a lot with him.’ I belief his housemates were very fond of him, even though he was a bit withdrawn. He’s had a few happy years here.

I don’t think he would have had as much freedom and rest in the houses of any of us. We were never very good at hiding the smaller and larger annoyances he caused: his proverbs and sayings, the drumming of his fingers on the armrest of his chair, his coughing fits, the matt, submissive tone of his rosary and the way he ate or really not that, but the introverted smile with which he held each bite in front of his mouth for a moment and looked at it or really not that either, but the total absorption with which he stared ahead or really not that either etcetera. Those are the things that we now, when we are amongst each other, are starting to talk about, not without regret and shame, but still with the certainty that we never could have done it differently, that it didn’t change a thing in the situation and that the next generation will have the same tricks. It’s like a competition in which we surpass each other in making risible confessions and reminiscing painful moments.

March 7

When I’m looking at him, as he lies there endlessly absent in his coffin, i’m having difficulty imagining that this is meant to be taken seriously. We’ve known him for so long as a presence that a definitive farewell is unthinkable. That’s why I have this crazy thought that he’s sleeping and not really dead. Fathers remain alive forever; they are immortal because they are inevitable and determine our whole life. Only others die; they die because we don’t care about them.

Sometimes I feel the ridiculous urge, like I used to do sometimes in a lonely spot, to try out all my magical abilities, my dormant forces, with a resolutely spoken command. Then suddenly the great wonder would occur. Jesus could do that so beautifully and he managed to pull it off every time too. I would like to take his dead hand: ‘Jan Verhoeven, I tell you; rise’ and then bring him back to the surprised family. It is my old priesthood dream. Perhaps the rector had something similar in mind when he wanted ‘to speak with him alone’. But he couldn’t even make a living person talk. Such is all of life full of a shameful primitivity that we can’t always hide. We make them into solemn rituals, so they seem official and acknowledged.

March 8

The condolences and the funeral, which we had dreaded quite a bit, went by without difficulties. Someone said by accident or out of ignorance ‘congratulations’ and we were very curious if he’d persevere in that eleven times. He did so indeed and we all managed to keep looking serious. The church was full, the service was well taken care of and not as lugubrious as it used to be. The pastor that sang the preface, although in Dutch, is a former classmate. Tea afterwards, where we had about a hundred family members and acquaintances, was even very convivial. The sun was shining as cheerfully as on the Sunday morning he died. The kids ran to and fro from the cafe to the grave to check if it had filled up completely yet. We had a few drinks and agreed to see each other more often. But probably that won’t happen until another member of the family is buried.

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Mortality

Death always has a cause; nobody dies of their mortality.

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Without a sigh

Night

At midnight, just as we have gone to bed, there is a phone call. The end seems to be near now. After a quick trip through the night we find him still in death throes. It can take hours more. Gradually the others go home, only we remain. The unrest passes into an unrestful sleep, panting and difficult, punctuated now and again by imminent silences. Each time we think it is the end and we bend over him, but then from the inside the respiration is propelled again and the panting surges.

At six thirty, just after the bells have rung for the first mass on sunday March 5th, the quick rhythm falters, but now in a very different way than we have become accustomed to in the last few hours. Back then you could hear it going into depths where it would take a turn, as it were, to come back moments later. Now it terminates like a stalling engine; there is no more echo in nearby life and no promise of a new beginning. We have no experience in these matters, but we don’t have to say a word to both know that this is the end. Without a sigh he stops living. His sighs have always marked the transition to another phase in his existence or the rhythm of the day. Now there is nothing left to sigh. He moves his mouth once, seems to want to swallow, and then lies motionless, his eyes almost all the way closed, his mouth open.

Because i’ve read about it often and because I now too feel the need for a final ritual, more than because it is necessary, I close his eyes. As I press his limp chin upwards, another superfluous gesture, my eyes soak in the last images of his stiffening face for minutes. To my surprise I feel no need to still talk to him or call him to order. I just want to keep looking at him till he’s disappeared at the horizon. Then I press the button next to the bed to warn the nurse. From now on we give him out of our hands and within 5 minutes a living father is a dead and stiff thing.

Not a trace of the famous smile in which the finally found peace would be expressed or even a vision of the happy afterlife. He just looks dead, removed from us at an infinite distance, mute and unreachable. He is even too far to be mysterious. He leaves not a single sign. It is impossible for me to guess what he thought or saw before him in that last moment. All week i’ve been trying to get contact with him about such things, but it has yielded nothing. Probably dying is very prosaic and the absence of every thought and vision belongs with it. There is no contact because there is nothing to report. Could the mystery of death, like so many other mysteries, consist of this, that there is nothing behind it, not just no other life, but also no wisdom, no resignation? Mystery could be the product of our resistance against the banality of life and death.

We drive back home on one of the most beautiful spring mornings I have seen in years. It is quiet on the road and we don’t say much. We’re not bothered by sleep. I almost have a feeling like I did on a day in April when I came back from the seminary, a farewell combined with a mission.Up till now i’ve often had the idea, against my better knowledge, that father also lived a bit for me, or that my life wasn’t definitively my own. It wasn’t completely in my name. It didn’t take place in the front lines and there was still a generation between us and the grave seriousness, a buffer zone. On the way home, with the dead face of my father printed deeply into my eye sockets, for the first time I feel owner of my life, but also heir. What constitutes it has been largely determined by him.

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March 4, afternoon

The priest, diligently busying about to offer spiritual assistance, comes to pray the prayers for the dying. We all join in bravely, in the hope father will notice and will believe that his children will remain on the path of righteousness. I hold his chilly hand and breathe on it. I’ve just had a few drinks at a reception and am getting very emotional. For hours I have watched him the last few days and studied every movement. And now I still don’t know if there is anything I understand about him. Because I see his lips move -which indicates a conscious presence with the situation- I try another exam after the prayer. ‘Are you tired?’ He nods yes. ‘Would you like to die?’ No reaction. ‘Shall we come with you a bit?’ Yes. ‘Is it far?’ Yes. ‘You’re over halfway there by now.’ Nods vehemently yes. ‘Will you see our mother?’ Sigh. ‘Is all well?’ Yes. ‘You’ve been a good father.’ He shakes his head and seems sad. ‘We’ll always stay with you.’ He nods and sighs. Then he closes his eyes. It is enough for today. I squeeze his wrinkled, skinny hand, of which the skin keeps getting looser. The folds that I make in them remain, like in leather. When he opens his eyes again, he seems to stare of into a distance where nobody can follow him. I don’t know whether he sees anything at all; I really believe he doesn’t.

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March 3, afternoon

‘There is a lot of aggression around the dying’, I read yesterday in an article. I believe that this is true and I notice that it also applies to our situation. We’re beginning to resent father’s weakness. We’re on the verge of thinking it is affection when he recognises others but not us, when he is confused and doesn’t behave like we expect him to. But the aggression goes much further and I hesitate to acknowledge this. Weakness cannot last too long; people have to be strong or disappear. It becomes more and more hard to put up with our powerlessness. The situation seduces us to impatience. Tired out by the wake we keep on wishing out loud, that it won’t be much longer. Maybe there is more aggression in that wish than we dare to admit to ourselves. I still don’t know if it is that good for father to die. Dying is never good. Nobody seems to know exactly what happened to him and how far recuperation is possible. But the thought that he would survive treatment and would remain a wreck -and therefore a burden- scares me, not just out of pity for him, but also for myself. I’m getting a deep distrust against the noble talk about euthanasia, because I suspect that there is a lot of aggression behind it that is being kept quiet. People become aggressive when they think they have to do something while in effect they experience that they are powerless. Sometimes they want to kill because this is for them the only way to keep believing in their activism.

Father does not want to eat and only seldom drinks. Again i’m under the impression that he has decided to die. The doctor says we shouldn’t do anything against that. None of us also feels anything for artificially prolonging this life through IV’s etc. Here, amongst his children, in his own room and his own bed, father apparently wants to die. We will look on powerlessly, without the pretension to be able to do anything for him or have control over whatever, including our dubious wishes.

I have to laugh a bit when the rector comes by again and very solemnly asks if he could ‘speak in private for a while’ with father. Very surprised, I retreat and try to eavesdrop from behind the door how this expert will succeed in getting him to talk or even confess. I suspect that he wants to bless away the last remaining bits of sinfulness from him. Out of sheer excitement I hear nothing of what he says. When he comes outside again within a minute and admits that he too cannot make contact with him, I feel a great relief. When father doesn’t talk with us, he may talk to no one.

It strikes me that many people that ask about his situation, talk about him in the past tense. They ask for example ‘how old was he?’ I’ve noticed this before. This peculiar use could potentially be explained this way, that the past tense doesn’t refer to the past, but it is a careful and soothing indication of the present. In the way some people say ‘I thought’ when they want to discretely indicate what they are thinking that moment. They are prepared to, as it were, take back their thought. ‘How old was he?’ can mean: how old was he again, I did know, but I can’t think of it this moment. The same way they often asked in stores: what was your name, what was your size?

For me, I have the tendency to explain it differently and connect it to the aggression surrounding the dying. By using the past tense the dying is written off even before his death, deleted from the attendance list and removed from the area of attention. When someone asks me ‘how old was he?’, I understand that this person doesn’t count him amongst the living anymore; and it feels like a little murder when people get ahead of the facts like that.

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March 2, afternoon

There is little change in the situation. It’s just that father keeps getting thinner. His words become more confused and the hope of a meaningful ‘last word’ is getting to be a bit childish. The reality of dying is different than what I thought. I had imagined a fairly romantic scene in which the dying, held up by pillows, addresses his children for the last time. Probably that never happens and is one of the many lies surrounding the elementary things in life. Father never addressed us, so how would he be able to at such a moment?

Everyone, it is said, has his own way of living and of dying, but I fail to see a connection between this life and this deathbed. Maybe just the silence. Father has told us little about his inner life, for example how he dealt with the death of our mother, thirty six years ago, or if he felt lonely, thought about getting remarried etc. I would also like to know, how he managed in those years of crisis, without the help of an insurance agency, to pay for the costs of a couple of years of care in a sanatorium. In mother’s old letters, which i’ve sneakily taken out of the safe and read in the past, she mentioned now and again that it all cost so much, that he had so many worries and missed so much care himself, but that happened, if I remember correctly, very sporadically. He never complained about it himself and only very rarely expressed himself about the loneliness after her death. Clear answers he has always dodged with proverbs and generalizations, no matter how big and concrete our curiosities and questions were. Answers that weren’t valid for everyone at any time and therefore weren’t suitable for endless repetition, didn’t seem to satisfy him. Usually he’d quote an old saying, that with some good intentions could be interpreted in the direction of the situation. The special case, even if it was himself, seemed to be outside of his attention. I sometimes doubt whether his emotions, conditioned so differently and especially more restrained, can be compared with ours. In any he had a greater acquiescence, and maybe he felt less at the time than we think now and precisely because of his acquiescence a lot of things passed him by. But that is hard to believe with such a sensitive man. I sometimes think too that he didn’t talk with us about all that misery because we were still little children when it all happened, and that where it concerns those occurrences, we remained little children in his eyes. With outsiders he was always more talkative than with us. From my side, I too never told him that in all those years of going to church, I passed the time judging women on their qualities as a potential second mother.

My respect for him grows despite all doubts and complaints to a mythical size. By going outside of all reasonable proportions, I seem to want to make up for all the ways I felt him short. I think I haven’t been a good son and have hurt him a lot. I can’t take that back and there’s hardly sense in trying, for example by becoming extremely religious. Still I think that I am at this deathbed beginning to swerve right, at least inasmuch that I feel a fiery hate towards the propagandists of a revolt against fathers and for a fatherless society. Even a bad son can’t abnegate his father and ignore his heritage without maiming himself deadly.

People still moan about the crisis years and they always depict it as though the crisis only struck the workers. The small tradesman that lies dying here was hit much harder and who knows how many others like him. I remember from that time that we would occasionally have a can of ‘crisismeat’ at home, the same meat that the sons of workers of my age still complain about now. Compared to the rancid bacon that was our daily food, this meat seemed to us a treat for rich folk. But father was a bit embarrassed by it.

He did not, like some other farmers, profit from the war to become rich. He came out of it poorer than he went in it, at least I suspect as much, for he wouldn’t mention it much. That one time he dared to do something, selling some gold coins from an inheritance he had to split up, he got caught. Furthermore he was a little too scared to undertake much. The radio was turned in diligently and even a pistol which was at least 100 years old was not allowed to stay in the house. But that fear wasn’t enough reason to give away as much as he did. After the war he was involved with the currency reform and found out pretty precisely who had enriched themselves. He never wasted another word on the subject; still we noticed that certain farmers he founded harder to respect.

Even though he was often involved with monetary matters, I don’t believe that he was really knowledgable with them. His discussions on the rates of interest and such things impressed me as a child, but far more than the business side of the money it were the moral aspects that stayed with me. Those had only to do with his money, the money I cost him. The small allowance that he gave me so I could study, barely a hundred guilders a month, but i’d have to let him know if I needed more, always made me emotional and brought about a sense of debt that had nothing to do with finances. If he had been a bit more businesslike, i’d probably not have had that feeling. But when communication is a tad deficient, the few things that are fairly clear in and off themselves, and which are calculable, like money, become burdened with an unbearable heavy symbolism. Every penny was a sigh from father, part of my great debt.

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