The Canadian years, 63, the film

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Friday 30 January 15:37


The film

My father installed my mother in her chair and went to the bedroom. She held the baby lovingly in her arms. The image is etched into my mind, my mother in a light blue shirt, with a small green hose dangling from a nostril that was introduced recently and that could be clicked to oxygen. Her short hair that had once been so beautiful, once, not so long ago, and her sweet face that had gone so skinny. Surrounded by the fragrance of the eternal Boldoot 4711 parfume.

Sweet, sweet mother, how happy she looked, induced by her anesthetic intoxication, at the little one in her arms. I could not help but be happy for her and the deception no longer mattered. She beckoned me and I bend forward to her and saw that her eyes were not really clear, I pressed a kiss on her forehead, ‘say it mom,’ I said, ‘say what you want to tell me’. The breathing was halting,’ I'm so happy,’ she whispered. ‘You are my son’. ‘You should know I really love my dear eldest daughter’ and she nodded at the little baby, she paused and tried to force  the morphine cloud back to concentrate more deeply. ‘It can not be true,’ she said,’ but it is’, so just have a look.’


She smiled happily at me with such an intensity, ‘everything will be fine now, everything will start all over again, you can see that, can’t you?’ I realized that the confusion must have been great for her caused by the painkillers she had taken. ‘I'm so glad,’ she whispered again. ‘BigDan,’ she said to me, and I knew now that she confused me with my father, ‘look at Johanna she is small again and it is a great miracle, and you are young again as well.’ She laughed at me so lovingly, and I felt a pain that cleft my soul, ‘everything is new, it is nevertheless true, wait, wait, I will become young as well, we will start .. and I had to lean forward because she had talked so much that her whisper was like the soft wind blowing through the reeds along the river bank.’ We will start again, it is a miracle ‘and I saw that her eyes were moist and mine were too. ‘We can start again’. ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘how lovely’ and I learned to lie to sick people because I did not want to take away the little bit of happiness.

A whirring buzz came into the room and a bright blinding light came forward, followed by my father. He had got an 8mm film camera from his bedroom and he came in filming and tyhe artificial sun cast a light show that highlighted everything, cold and hard The sweet magic was disrupted, and the images were recorded that moment would torment us later and over again. ‘Come and stand closer to your mother’ he told my brother and he said to me, ‘step out of the picture.’ ‘We are going to Brazil,’ said my mother with a happy smile on the camera, ‘I have to go and pack,’ ‘I'm so proud of Big Dan, nice hey?’ The film had no sound but I could see her words form and joy splashed off her face. She nodded at us and laughed so full of joy, that I would never need the movie to know what it had been like.

  Pastor Ohler, opened his ‘doctor's bag 'and put his props back in their place, as also the empty bottle that had contained water from the Jordan River. ‘That will be full again tomorrow,’ I thought. In that bottle there was probably really an atom on molecular level from water of the river Jordan. The seas are obviously  fed by rivers and evaporation forms clouds that rain empty again in a never ending cycle, after they are dispersed by the wind all over the world. All the water of the Earth had probably already been drunk at some time, in a repetitive cycle. I found it a nice thought, nothing is lost in the atmosphere. ‘Will you please see Pastor Ohler home,’ my father asked my brother and me, disrupting my ecological considerations. ‘He has come by taxi but you won’t mind taking him home, now will you?’ He just wanted to gid rid of  the pastor, the man of God had served his usefulness.


‘Pastor,’ he said ,’ I have a little something for your church, I know that you will use it well.’ ‘Thank you, thank you,’ said our pastor after he had looked secretly in the open envelope. ‘For you I have something that is more personal in nature.’ My father handed him a gift box.  ‘Open it at home,’ my father said smiling. Moments later we were sitting in the Mustang heading North. ‘Your father is a gentleman,’ said the pastor. ‘I'm glad you said that’ I remarked and my brother kept his eyes on the road. ‘I have prayed for you and your father and you see my prayer has been heard, you have no more problems, that is clear to me’. How was it that my friend Don, who wanted to study psychology, had absolutely no knowledge of human nature, and that this priest had absolutely no understanding of the human mind. I realized that it was just per chance that folk ended up in the right professions..

There was a tearing of paper and pastor Ohler sounded genuinely surprised. ‘Black velvet, single malt,’ he hissed, ‘that's a very fine whiskey. Your father is a gentleman.’ ‘Yes, ‘I thought, ‘as if you would not know the brand. My brother pressed the gas pedal a little deeper, even he wanted to get rid of Ohler pastor. There he stood then on the street corner, when we left, he waved at us, a bottle of whiskey at the neck in the hand. Fine image of our pastor.

‘Gosh,’ I asked my brother when we were returning home, ‘have you noticed something about Mom.’ ‘What,’ he asked? He probably had his head in Edmonton and his girlfriend.’ I think she is starting to confuse many things, I said. She drinks you know? Betsy gives her daytime whiskey.’ ‘Yes,’ my brother said and did not sound very interested, ‘she of age you know.’ Listen,’ I said, raising my voice, I know that alcohol and morphine is a fatal combination, it can shorten her life.’ ‘Yes,’ my brother said again, ‘which is undoubtedly so, and if that then passes with less pain, is that such a disaster?’ ‘What is wrong with you,’ I said, ‘I am not getting through.’ ‘Something strange,’ he said, and now I wish I had listened better, when he spoke. ‘Something that I try to understand.’


‘What don’t you understand,’ I chuckled. ‘Throw it in the group and I will solve your problem.’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘no nonsense.’ ‘ Don’t you notice something with dad.’ ‘A lot,’ I said. ‘Well, I mean it’, he said. ‘He filmed me almost all day.’ ‘What do you mean,’ I asked? ‘If I come from my work and enter the car park and when I leave and drive off to work. That sort of thing, it's just not normal,’ my brother said. ‘He films just Mom and me. ‘Does he film you at all?’ ‘Or the little ones?’ ‘Well no,’ I said, ‘ maybe he is just testing his camera.’ ‘This is not a test anymore’, my brother said, ‘you know how expensive those movies are? You buy them, you shoot them full, and you have them developed. He splices them.’ ‘What's that,’ I wanted to know? ‘He has bought a machine that can join movies together, you call that splicing.’ ‘I did not know, I said. ‘Learned something new again.’ ‘What would you film,’ he asked me ? ‘The dog,’ I said, ‘and the little ones, well of course everything.’ ‘But he doesn’t,’ my brother said.

‘Well,’ I said,’ so be it.’ ‘Oh yeah,’ my brother said, ‘sure but, I get a strange feeling.’ ‘A man,’ I said, filming his eldest son and wife, you know, no one will find that strange.’’Oh no, ‘my brother said, ‘and if these films are spliced together and you have a movie of a few hours, what will you see?’ I suddenly understood that it was unreal and strange. I who was always known as the analytical one, had not noticed it at all. Now I understood that it was really very weird. Suddenly I thought I knew it, ‘it's a goodbye,’ I said. ‘Yes’, my brother said, ‘but one goodbye is not the other.’ ‘Mom is going to die and I am going to Edmonton if all goes well, I can come back whenever I want. As if there are only two people in his family, which is remarkably strange. We were with seven and then you had Betsy and her little one, and if you counted my uncle and aunt, nine people who daily performed in our life and you filmed only two of them.

We turned into the alley  and drove to the raised garage door. There in a chair sat my father waiting. The artificial sun flashed on. ‘Nice,’ my brother said as he steered the car into the garage and shielding his eyes against the glare. When we got out, my dad waved me away angrily and I stepped away from the image.’ Are you there dear boy,’ my father said, clearly audible, ‘welcome home.’


San Daniel 2015

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