|We cremated him the day before Christmas last.
My father, Frans Christiaan, age 81, was a complex man with a very strong character. He was eager to learn, happy to be of help to others, and always present somewhere in the corners of my life.
When we were kids, he was difficult, headstrong, and a dictator for my brother, sister, and me; a tyrant to my late mother. In one of his angry mood swings, he threw a scissor at me; I ducked. They always fought for as long as I can remember, day in day out, but never separated.
He was the kind of man that should not have been fathering young kids, but he was a good granddad and a great help to me in the last ten years of his life.
He remarried and was happy with his second wife for eleven years. They were good years because he was a milder man, the stress of performing in a job was gone, he could relax and concentrate on reading, listening to classical music, drinking his gin, and helping out the church community of which he was a member. For him being a Catholic was important; he went to church every Sunday.
Every end of the week for those last years, he picked me up with his car and drove me back home after an afternoon filled with laughter, playing cards, or watching a DVD.
I saw him on a Sunday afternoon when we went to a theater play together. He got on his bike to have a long ride the next day, to buy me a Christmas present, weeded his garden on Tuesday, and Wednesday morning, he was gone. An aneurysm in his stomach was responsible for his death.
Within ten minutes, he was no more. His wife was with him.
It’s been six months now, and I miss him. It’s not that I think of him every day, but his two photos have a prominent place in my house, next to a little wooden box with his ashes: a shrine; it helps me to remember.
Thinking back, I recall several nasty incidents involving hefty encounters with harsh words, words I have not stored in my mind, but they were there. He was also there for me when things got rough, with simple practicalities that made life easier for me.
I‘ve hated him, I have loved him, but in the last years of his life, I grew to like him as well. He was my dad, and there is no other.
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