It happened years ago, December 30th, an accident linked with a life-long illness. All the friends and relatives with whom we had just celebrated Christmas, we had to phone them again, not for New Year wishes but for the funerals. His death was very painful, he remained four hours lying down on the ground, trying to make it despite fourteen fractures, before an ambulance finally came. Later in the night after the surgery his heart stopped beating and someone came with a defibrillator. One more hour, the heart stopped again but this time nobody came and at 5:00 in the morning a neighbour rang at the door, saying we had to call the hospital. Daddy is dead, my brother told me. He was 57. Somehow he knew he would leave at this age, because his own father had the same illness and died after the same time.
Without any doubt he was by far the person I loved the most. Physically I inherited very little from him. Unlike me he was very athletic and strong, we did some arm-wrestling once and it lasted only half a second. As a junior he broke many records in long jump. He was able to walk on the hands, while I, as tango has proven, sometimes can’t even walk on my feet. Also he was very seductive, in his younger days looking like James Dean and later like Mel Gibson. A grand-aunt told me that when a student he came one day at noon at her office to say hello, by then there were tens of secretaries there in one big room, frantically hammering their typewriters. When he entered my aunt -a secretary herself- remembers there was a moment of complete silence, all the girls had frozen.
He never wasted anything, and especially not time. Out of neccessity first, because being poor he could not afford much and had to do many things by himself. He made half of the furniture in the house. Another feature that I did not inherit at all by the way, at best I can replace a bulb. But more important he did not like to waste because he acknowledged the value of every thing or person or being. I remember a tired and lost bee, carried by the wind above the ocean, landing on our sailboat. He considered the little fellow for a while, then entered the cabin and soon came back with a drop of honey. A bee does not need much, he said.
With people he never wanted to be intrusive, and in practise it means he talked very little. I remember a certain exam, the kind of exam that does make a difference in your career, in his twenties he had failed, and following his path I made an attempt too when my turn came. After the exam I did not phone and they had to wait until the next Saturday when my dad would bring me home. So he was driving and the trip to the house was a 30-minute one, and I was remaining silent. He did not ask either, not even an eyebrow or anything, he just kept driving the car through the traffic. There were not many people in the class this morning, I finally muttered after ten minutes, the ones who failed yesterday did not bother to come. And you? I was in the class, I replied. Good. And that was it.
Cartesian-minded, he was sometimes able of certainly non-reasonable things, such as taking care of two orphan hares, bottle-feeding them, later giving them green beans and finally releasing them, to the great despair of his mother who had hoped that a good rabbit-stew would compensate for her now bean-less garden. Gifted for music, he was fond of jazz and used to play the clarinet in a band, until he got a child (yours truly) and had to sell the intrument to pay the bills.
And tango? Well as a matter of fact he could dance it. Tango, paso, nothing else. That’s how he met my mom. I saw him only one time on a dance-floor, it was during a holiday, there was a big party in the hotel, the DJ was playing any kind of music, one set of disco, one set of slow numbers… I was invited by a cute blonde on “Angie” and had to decline despite her insistence, because I had not learned the steps. With hindsight this evening may have been influential on my decision to take dance classes, years later. When some ballroom music was played my dad duly invited my mom and I was stunned to see how sync they were, stepping at the same time and moving with ease. Walks, amagues, open embrace, neither big stuff nor dramatic pauses but definitely some dynamic sensuality.
Darker sides… well he was a bad loser. he liked to play with us, table tennis, chess, whatever, but after losing once he would never play again. Not that he was easy to beat. Like anybody I had my bridge period, and attended bridge tournaments organized by world champions but only when playing against him did I get this feeling of unavoidable doom, however strong my cards were he would find a way to make me play them in the wrong order.
He did not wish to leave anything. After his death my brother moved to another town, my mom bought an appartment and I found a new job. Memories, that’s all what remains. The picture shows him walking along the sea shore of the island that he liked from his childhood, and where his ashes have been scattered.