The Canadian years, 17 the pact

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Thursday 27 November 06:45


the contribution

Thoughtfully  my father put, in that silence, a piece of meat in his mouth. He chewed it without tasting it. The awkward silence was not broken. My father was far away in thought, perhaps in his mind in the Indonesia of his youth. He swallowed the piece of meat away, took a sip of water and said,’ what are you waiting for?’ ‘The food is going cold and your sister has really done her best and  has cooked  a lovely meal.’ I found this really scary, he did not explode but I saw that his lips were tightly drawn. I resolved that I would help my brother,if  my father would explode anyway. I would not allow him to do him any harm. Thoughtfully he took another bite. Then he pushed everything together with his fork and said to me; ‘give it to the dog, I am done eating’. I took his plate and put it on the floor in the kitchen, so that ‘ lady’ could do away with it.

Death was in the air. My father had everything under control again, I felt it more than that it revealed itself. It had not  been a good day for him, first some students had called his car a ‘krautcan’ and now his favorite son went his own way. He looked at my mother, and began to talk. ‘Congratulations wife, your son has grown up’. He had made an analysis and hurt her, without being blamed for it. He knew his son would not give form to the expectations he had cherished. My brother could not go back and would never study, dreams evaporated and escaped through the thick window of our house to go to waste into the cold. He had written him off.


‘Congratulations’, he told us as well, ‘your brother has become a man’. ‘So boy,’ he finally said to my brother,’ you are mature in years but you will still need to be kneaded in your life before you're a man. ‘You do not want to work in a laundry, that is impossible. You just do not want to go to school anymore.’ I realized that my father was partially right. I remembered that my brother had seen the ad and had said that he was tired of always doing what someone told him to do. He wanted to give direction to his life. ‘’If you want to be a man’, continued my father, ‘a working man, you have to take responsibility.’ ‘You're sitting in my chair at my table and sleeping in a bed that I bought. On the plate that I have paid is my food for you. ‘Where this was going’, I wondered?

‘The clothes that you wear, have been paid for by money from my work and is washed with water in my house which I get billed for. You are not able to live independently.’ He saw my brother suddenly as a finance cost data,  instead of his beloved son, his son number 1. I have given you life and I can take it away from you. I will help you to find another job, something technical, because with technology you have freedom and you can go wherever you want and there will always be a need for you. The laundry is local, that is for people with less opportunities than you have’ Phew, I thought that was mean and below the belt, but although here only spoke the disappointment, I knew that my father, as always, was right. A skilled person would always able to earn money .. ‘You can stay at my house,’ he continued ‘but you must fulfill your responsibilities. You're going to pay your part  in this household. You will pay, if you earn much or little, one quarter of your salary to me, that covers everything. You can save the rest up and in two years time, I will allow you to live your own life outside this house, mind you do not disappoint me again,  after all, I have given you life. That statement almost cast a shadow over him and I did not like it at all.


What was my brother to do? He probably expected a resounding conflict, he was not, as my father had so beautifully expressed, kneaded enough by life and would never be. He was no match for the demagogic man who reasoning was always right. He was probably just glad he got away with it. I knew more than anyone that a verbal contract had been signed here, my brother was a free man, but it was a guided freedom. ‘So,’ my father said, and he held out his hand,’ a man, is a man and his word is his word. My brother looked grave and shook the outstretched hand of my father. I felt that a pact was made here and my soul shuddered, I realized you could never break that pact, otherwise you would be treated less accommodating.

'So', my father said, and he looked at my oldest sister, ‘your brother has brought something about in this house. You also eat at my table from my food. Unfortunately, because of your brother I will have to treat you the same way, you also will pay one quarter of your salary to me and if you are used to this country, after two years, you may leave my house.’ ‘You and he looked at me, ‘will help me every spring to oil the roof with linseed oil, the wood shingles will otherwise dry out and who wants to live in a house with a leaking roof?’ ‘That's your contribution and you keep the garden neat in the summer and the sidewalk in the winter.’ I would surely have done so anyway, so why would he want to tell me that?


What were my brother and sister to do, only a few weeks in a country that we actually did not know? There were no uncles or aunts, or no Uncle John from Texas, who had lost his life in Libya, I knew he had cared about us.  We were thrown back to the roots of our existence, in a province that was foreign to us, in a land far from anything we had ever known. In the bosom of the family, but somehow it did not feel as a protective womb. My parents were assigned to us as our own guardian angels, with a mother who could see no fault with my father, we were at the mercy of the goodness of my father. God rest his soul, I should say, and I should expect God didn’t grant him that.

San Daniel 2014

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