Marek and my Father
My father’s real name is Bert. I call him dad or Bob. My children call him Grampa Bob, but used to call him Grumpy Grampa Bob. He was very grumpy.
The name he was given at birth was meant to be Bert. His father, a new immigrant to South Africa from Lithuania excited at the birth of his first born, registered him as Bertha by mistake. We always tease him about being called Bertha. He does not find this amusing. Recently on May 21 2010 he turned 90. I live far away and travelled from South Africa to England, which is where he now lives.
He is in a wheelchair. He is a happy man now, no more grumpiness. He is kind, generous and appreciates every day. He is mentally of sound mind but physically weak, so unable to care for himself. He has a carer named ‘Marek’.
Marek is a Polish man. My father is a Jewish man of Lithuanian descent. At first I wondered would this combination of cultures be difficult. But when I saw them together I realised how wrong I was. My father’s home was filled with photographs of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. There was beautiful opera music playing. My father and Marek had just shared brown rice pancakes in rose petal sauce. Some food was on my father’s face. Marek gently passed him a serviette to wipe his face. I noticed Marek’s hands. His fingers were thin and long with soft smooth skin. My mother used to say pianist’s hands. I chatted with Marek. He was aware of a painful Jewish history in Poland. He had learnt much about the Jews in Poland. Perhaps he was a Jew or members of his family hid Jews or killed Jews, who knows and it does not matter.
We gave my Dad, Bert, Bob a 90th birthday party at my brother’s house. When Marek and my father arrived, they were both dressed in beautiful ironed white shirts. I knew this was Marek’s doing.
I watched as Marek stepped back to let my father be the centre of attention, but when he needed help Marek held his hand. Those pianist hands held my dad’s old fragile hands in the most respectful gentle manner, not intruding, not pushing, not bossing , just enough assistance for my father to be safe and trust this gentle man.