Remembering my Father
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Do Not Disturb.”
This past Sunday my father would have been 95 years old. I now think about him with warm feelings, but it’s been a long way to come to that.
I have mentioned my relation to him in a post called “My Long Journey to Overcome Fear”.
He was born in 1920 in Copenhagen into a Baptist family. His father was struggling in periods to get a job. He was a bricklayer’s assistant and did all the hard jobs in the buildings carrying the heavy bricks up on a ladder. Late in his life, he was working in a factory making scouring powder and got so-called “stone lungs”. He died far too young in 1949. My father’s mother got ill at a critical point during the war. The Germans had occupied Denmark in April 1940 and in July 1944 a general strike broke out as a reaction to executions of freedom fighters. During that strike, she was admitted to the hospital for appendicitis and as my father said:
“The physicians had disappeared to calmer places in the country and she died from the consequences as the infection spread to peritonitis. There was no cure from that.”
A few months later my father, 24 years of age, was a fire guard in different official buildings as our Royal Theatre. The young men who should have served as soldiers had this duty while doing their jobs or education. The Germans had taken over so we had no military during the war. On the 21 September 1944, the Danish police were taken during a fake air-raid warning. As a guard, he was cycling through a Central Park in Copenhagen to the place he had to appear. Two young German soldiers arrested him as they thought he was a police officer too. He fell off his bicycle by the shock and he spent the day and the following night in a building at the harbour not knowing his fate. He was later released but many policemen were sent to KZ camps.
My father as a civil guard during the war
He was doing his education as a tool-maker during the war and in that work, he got exposed to poisonous exhume and together with the loss of his mother and the pressure of the war he got serious problems with insomnia. The doctor gave him sedatives and sleeping pills and he never got rid of these medications for the rest of his life.
As a schoolboy, he was very sensitive and described his teachers as brutal drunkards. His background as a Baptist made him an easy object to harass. He was never encouraged at school and believed he couldn’t learn in an academic way.
He was very clever though. He invented a lot of things through my childhood and youth. Loved to be alone in the cellar in our house making all kind of woodwork, plumbing and things for the garden. He never thrived at his job as a foreman at a radio factory. The job was not suitable for him, he should have made the radio parts or inventing new things, but as there was already one in this job he was chosen to lead a lot of women at a production line. He was immensely stressed by this work, but he feared to stand in the line of the unemployed so he endured this for 25 years.
Times were tough in the fifties and when the women arrived sick, afraid to lose their salary, he sent them home discreetly and signed them in for being present.
Just after his 25 years’ jubilee times were bad for radio factories here in Denmark. Everything was cheaper when bought from Hong Kong and elsewhere and he lost his job. That became a huge advantage for him as he got a job as a caretaker for a biological firm working at testing the quality of seawater. He soon improved a lot of their equipment inventing new things for the biologists. He got at least 15 good years at that place.
When we were children he didn´t speak too much with my brother and me. He had some expressions that he used like:
” Walk quietly through the doors”. Translated to ” You are not supposed to be heard at all”.
He came home exhausted and had to sleep just after the dinner. He slept very badly at nights. While he was away at work we enjoyed so much the company of our mother. She told us a lot of stories from her childhood and youth and it seemed to have been so much more fun with a lot of activities with siblings and friends. When he came home the atmosphere changed to a more tense one and for years I had stomach aches at dinner time. I had problems in expressing myself because of insecurity. I still prefer to talk with just one at a time because it is too exhausting to watch the expressions of those I sit around and to match my conversation with the situation.
He would make toys to me for Christmas and birthday and I liked it, but I was never asked if I had any wishes, or I never said anything about it because I didn’t think it would be possible to get these things: A composition doll and a pram and a cradle with a canopy.
I am sure he could easily have made the last wish come through. But to buy toys in a shop was too extravagant as he was so afraid of spending money he didn’t think he had, also a reaction to his childhood. He wanted to give us a good house and proper food. He had experienced to be stuck in the flat because the shoes or clogs were at the shoemaker for repair.
One of the best things he made for us was a wooden house in the garden. Rainwater came into a tap from the roof and the kitchen had a sink. The doors were in two like stable doors. The other nice thing was a doll’s push-chair that was almost authentic for the time.
Unfortunately, I became panic-stricken by the thought of being alone with him in a room from I was thirteen and this feeling never left me before his death-bed eight years ago. He had read my diary and said:
If your mother heard about what you have written she would be taken to the hospital! My mother was the best I had so that fear drove me away from both and I became a difficult teenager.
As the years have gone after his death in 2007, I can value him so much more. I know that he loved me, but he was so inhibited that he couldn’t express it with words and his own addiction to medications gave him so much suffering that he just wanted to be alone.
His physicians should have reduced the doses gradually. But not many had that knowledge of how dangerous it was to be addicted to sedatives and sleeping medicine.
I have written about him in an earlier post.