Do you know what it feels like to be the apple of your parent’s eye?
Well, I was my father’s favourite. It certainly had advantages, but sometimes it was a burden too: feeling obliged to be perfect for fear of losing that privileged position.
My father was very charming when everything went his way. When his anger was aroused, however, this would change. He had strong opinions and found it difficult to understand that not everyone shared them. When I was a child I tried to understand his anger, but I couldn’t apprehend his reaction to things I innocently said in front of him. And I could certainly never forget these incidents.
The first moment was as follows. One day I came home from school and I said to my father: “I love Jesus Christ more than I love you”. As we were a catholic family, I attended the Saint Barbara school. I was rather zealous in my religious convictions and I wanted to pronounce what I had learned. (Once, I even tried to convert the girl next door). It had struck me that what I was taught at school differed a lot from what we were thought at home and I wanted to express my devotion. My father was very angry and condemned my utterance, leaving me upset.
The second one was when I said how privileged I was to have three grandmothers. A rather strange thing to say, as I never had seen the third one. My father’s parents had divorced when he was 15 years old and he didn’t want to see his mother since. He was furious when he heard me say that.
Thirdly, my father was an autodidact and he loved to discuss philosophy with his friends. One time I listened in on their conversation. They were talking about solipsism. Out of the blue I said that I agreed that we were essentially solipsists. The reaction of my father shattered me, when he said: “Women cannot do philosophy. Period.” Had I not been a feminist before, I certainly became one there and then.
Lastly, I had been invited by a friend on a tandem bicycle tour through the countryside and we had had a lovely day. In the evening we went for a drink in the pub. I had never had been in one before. My father had been a teetotaler int the past and in his opinion pubs were bad. When we left the pub, we ran into my parents who were just leaving their friend’s house opposite the pub. What a coincidence! As a consequence, my friend was banned(!) from our house. For the first time, I defied my father’s wishes and kept seeing him. Eventually my recalcitrance won. By Christmas time he was allowed to come around and we married some time later. Have I told you that we have been married for 45 years now?