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since June 19, 2001


A father doesn't give up : The story of a used man

More excerpts

A father 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 Mannes)

....continued from previous page

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 her mind.
   "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 anything, penniless!"
   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.


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Posted 2002 02 07
2002 02 10 (added link to the last instalment of the translation of George's insight into Uschi's psyche)
2007 12 16 (reformated)