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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.



JaniceW's picture


You draw the reader in so beautifully with your writing. I can picture Marek standing off in the shadows silently moving in to hold your father's hand when needed. I hope that we all have a "Marek" near us as we enter that fragile stage of life. Thank you for sharing this moving story of this gentle caretaker.

suskelah's picture


thank you for your kind words.
I too hope I have a 'Marek' in my fragile years.

pooza11's picture

Marek has so gracefully

Marek has so gracefully holded the hands of your father which is so calculating.Your story has captured me in a different way.
Thank you for sharing

suskelah's picture

marek has so gracefully

Pooza, thank you so much for your positive thoughts

Frances Faulkner's picture

unexpected gifts

This is such a tender story of your dad and Marek, a lucky pairing. I love that relationships can flower unexpectedly, no matter how old we are, or what our behaviors have been in the past. Thanks for sharing,


suskelah's picture

unexpected gifts

Frances thank you so much for your kind words. I hope there will always blossom beautiful gentle relationships especially when we need them most.

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