My Father's Story
Updated: Oct 24, 2021
This story just goes to show that we are products of history, which can’t be changed. It is what it is and all that we can do is accept things and adjust to them in the way that will bring us the most happiness. Ranting against history is like Don Quixote attacking the windmills.
I have put the story in my father’s mouth, as I believe he would have told it, had he been able.
The story which you are about to read is the result of a long and arduous search for reasons why my parents behaved towards me in the way they did. I wracked my brain for every possible explanation. One theory followed another. Here are some of them. This also shows what goes through the mind of a child who is left to making assumptions, in searching for explanations.
I was an orphan, whose parents had died in the holocaust and had been adopted. I had somehow caused that atrocity. I even considered the likelihood that I was Hitler’s secret child. I was sure that my parents hated me, but took care of me because they were kind people, who would take care of even the child of a criminal like Hitler.
The events and dates are true, and to me, the explanation sounds correct. But I leave the reader to judge for him/herself.
We had a child, a son, and wanted him to have a brother.
We had both grown up in families with many children; my wife and I, each had four sisters and two brothers. I had left my home, with my two brothers to immigrate to South Africa.
I arrived in the town where they lived in 1935. My wife’s family were very hospitable and friendly people, besides her older sister was a teacher and used to give English lessons to the new immigrants. I was ambitious to get ahead and understood that knowing English was important.
When I met her she was 19. an orphan. Her mother had died 4 years earlier, and her father had gone to live with another woman, in the big city of Johannesburg. The burden of earning a living lay heavily on her shoulders. She was left to run the family business with her older brother.
We were married in 1937, with the blessing of her father, who gave us a wedding present of 300 pounds, which was enough money for a slap-up wedding and to make a down payment on a piece of land with a small house, purchased from her father’s girlfriend, where we lived and started our business.
Our first attempt at having a child ended in a miscarriage. We tried again and our first son, Raymond, was born. It was a very happy time; things were going along nicely in the business. We took our baby boy for walks, cuddling him, playing with him. Each new action he performed was a reason for delight and for complimenting him on being very smart. We didn’t allow anyone else to take care of our precious bundle, no black nanny, as was the custom in many families. Aunts and uncles came to admire the child and bring gifts, like the wise men from the East brought to baby Jesus.
Each complement was a motivation for the child to perform cleverer tricks. He delighted in the happy smiles and expressions of wonderment that he caused. He was growing up to be an ambitious little boy, and later when he began school he was renowned for high scholastic performance. His teachers complimented us on having such a wonderfully clever and gifted child.
My marriage and our little boy were a great comfort to me. The parting from my sister, when I had immigrated to South Africa, was a very sad event for me. Being much older than me, she had raised me, while my mother was earning a livelihood by taking care of orphan children. I loved her like a mother. I was also attached to her two children, who were babies at the time I left for SA. The birth of my child was a great comfort to me. He became the focal point of my happiness.
Our little boy was nearly a year old when the 2nd WW broke out, but we were far from the battle sites. We were upset about the war but felt safe in South Africa and our lives carried on as always. There was some talk of rationing imported products because of transport problems in the War Zone, but South Africa was rich in basic foods and the rationing wasn’t much more than a little discomfort.
We wanted our little boy to have a sister or a brother and in September 1940 our wish was granted when my wife gave birth to our second son, Leon. Times had become bad in 1940, during my wife’s pregnancy. The war situation, which didn’t seem serious a year earlier, and didn’t affect our happiness and the attention we devoted to Raymond, worsened, and a dark cloud of anxiety and sadness, loomed on our horizon. Each day brought news of new German atrocities against the Jews in Poland and especially in Lithuania, where my dear Sister and her family lived.
July 17th, 1941 was a black day for us, when my wife’s father passed away suddenly. Then in August 1941 came more horrible news; the Jews of Lithuania were being massacred, they were being brutally beaten to death. Our happy little world crashed. We were in a living nightmare. Never again would I see my sister, or play with my nephews. Our second son came into a very sad world.
Wherever the baby turned his gaze fell on sadness. The joy of a second child wasn’t enough to assuage it.
People in depression don’t cuddle babies or bill and coo at every new trick. The child grew up in a strange world. Not sharing in our sadness, he became an outsider. He reacted in the only way possible, by being what we called naughty. We didn’t react by punishing him, which we should have done. That at least may have helped him to feel noticed, but we took pity on him. Our pity was a sort of compensation for the sufferings of our nephews in Lithuania.
We were hysterical about protecting the child and in so doing were being overkind. We did everything for him, not allowing him to do anything himself. And he, being a normal child expressed his frustration by throwing temper tantrums.
Everyone in the family and outside saw him as an erratic, unreliable child, someone to be wary of who was forever losing his temper. We even delayed his entrance to a regular school by sending him to a convent, in the hope that they could cure him.
When we finally sent him to a regular school, he had difficulty in learning. Eventually, when he reached STDV, after being pushed through one class after another, he was tested for intelligence and found to have an IQ of 90. This explained everything to us. Now we waited until he would reach the age of 16 when we could take him out of school and allow him to do something more suited to his level of intelligence.