doesn't give up : The story of a used man
by Karin Jäckel
(German, 2001, Rowohlt, 318 pp., pb., ISBN 3 499 60692 5;
DM 19.90; German title: Ein Vater gibt nicht auf : Die Geschichte eines gebrauchten
The artistic analysis and synthesis that led him to a logical construct
of remembered scenes necessarily brought him to a deep perspective that recognized in the
background of Uschi's types of behaviour certain patterns and their origins. It was
clear to George that the key to Uschi's simultaneous fight against and for her femininity
had to be in her childhood.
As precisely as possible he recalled what she had told him. When she
was a child, her ordered life in a traditional mother-father-child-family suddenly broke
apart. She had to experience how everything collapsed that had given her security.
Uschi's childhood ended with the unexpected death of the father, who had worn
himself out as the sole income-earner in a low-income job to provide for his loved ones.
All at once, completely without warning. Suddenly, she, a minor and
lower-grade student, had to take over the role of the grown-ups and protect the mother
that was lacking all life skills, look after the household and hold the family together.
"Now we have to make out on our own!", moaned the mother,
tearfully, time and again. "Now you must be my big girl. Now you must be
courageous and always obey carefully what I tell you. Do you listen? We have
to stick tightly together now, have to be our own man of the family."
"But certainly I will be that!" Uschi assured her and proudly stuck
out her little girl's chest. "Never fear, Mommy, we'll have no problem to
manage that. After all, I'm with you."
However, behind the brave facade of the big girl the little girl was afraid,
afraid to fail, afraid
not to be able to manage, afraid to lose the mother, too because her heart would
stop, too, suddenly, without warning afraid about everything.
"Take a look at that!", the mother said at that time and pointed to
the bank statements, waving the savings book. "There is nothing! Your
father left us provided with nothing. But that's how he always was, without a sense
of responsibility. I had to do everything by myself in the household and with your
education. I had no help of any kind from him."
Uschi wrapped her thin children's arms around the mother. The fear of
the life without the father and his money took her speech away. However, the mother
didn't expect an answer. She needed someone to whom she could pour out her
heart. That the little daughter wasn't the right person for that never even entered
"Why didn't he go to the doctor?", she exclaimed. "A typical
macho-man! And then he simply keels over and is gone, leaves us here without
Here lay the root of Uschi's control-addiction. It had sprouted out of
the seed of fear. Rigid rules, tight regimes divided the threat of the unknown into
manageable parcels, delivered recipes and patent-solutions for repetitive situations.
Life moved within the confines of their legality in controllable schemes.
Their trustworthy execution provided self-assurance and security.
In addition there was the determination not to fail. The fighting
spirit, clenching of teeth, to show mom and the whole world. To be hard, successful,
strong, like a man. No, better than a man. Never to be a woman like the
mother, never weak, dependent, prisoner of a love that brought in the end only terror,
only fears and tears. In other words, Uschi
cauterized part of her femininity away, sacrificed like all Amazons her breast, to be
able to pull the bowstring farther.
It had to have been a bad childhood for Uschi, George came to understand, as
he, weighted down by his thoughts, was painting his paintings, and when in the quiet of
the fireplace he sat alone with a glass of red wine, watching the flames and letting
all that he had learned from his loved-one pass review.
He suddenly understood why the trigger of all of Uschi's apprehensions was
the father, the unreliable, suddenly vanished father, who unbeknownst to the child
had in truth been anything but unreliable and had instead worked himself to death
for wife and child. She had loved him very much. And she had to have yearned
for him so desperately and so often, that, amidst all of the chaos that had deluged her,
she finally had to encapsulate her mourning over him and thereby to manage to distance
herself from him in her mind.
If she wanted to endure her life with the constantly
wailing, complaining mother, she had to blow the same horn. She had to forget how
the father had truly been. Her own perceptions, which remembered him differently,
couldn't be right, because they were not permitted to be right. The mother was
right. The father had been like all men, namely unreliable, a real oppressor.
He had abandoned them, his little daughter Uschi, too.
Back to Karin Jäckel's Table of Contents