sábado, março 21, 2009

Papi Jan


He come into my life trough the door of the stories his son used to tell me so often. He was a traveller. He went on the road, when there were no roads. He took some gold and a huge bread, the gold inside the bread. Those days money use to be what it always has always been: just not valuable paper money trusted by nobody. Beyond the gold and the bread, he had an iron horse, a fantastic motorcycle, and a great group of friends. They left from Groningen, Holland, and reached Rome, Italy. They crossed a smashed Europe under million of bombs, its roads devastated, its dead fields and cities fallen over themselves. They flew over the chaos and pain, and sang a holy song of joy for the end of the nightmare.
I cannot imagine what it would have been going on a trip like that.
He travelled during all over his life. On the back seat of his car he carried enormous suitcases that would fold on themselves and opened like an accordion, as I’ve pictured it in his son’s description. Inside this accordion 500, 600, and even more shoes, rubber boots, boots and slippers and house shoes travelled, but only left feet. He showed them trough Dutch villages, small towns and cities. He accomplished that with a genuine pleasure that exceeded the mere business insight, far beyond barriers of the bookkeeping columns where he inscribed orders and profits, amounts, references, debits, credits. He performed his work with the seriousness and the concentration of a playful child. That’s why he could count so many friends instead of just customers.
Then he was also a traveller who shared the pleasure of the journey with his family. What was his car like? On his side, mother has a candy bag on her lap and a small grocery store on her feet. How can she manage it? The car not yet left the city and everyone is already chewing. On the back seat four blond heads, many elbows, a sharp confusion of arms and acute knees, spiky tongues. She needs to keep her kids busy. Mostly eating candies instead or before they start biting each others. Later, they cross North routes to the South countries in a caravan. In winter they would go all together to Switzerland ski resorts. In summer they went to Mediterranean seaside, landing in sparkling camping parks its new grass and equipment about to be use for the first time. Groningen periodical even published a photograph of the family leaving to foreign countries in their great caravan. Everybody talks about that.
Later, a flagman police in the South cities would stop the traffic for this group of golden ducklings, who communicate in strange signs and Nordic sounds, and their young and pretty parents could cross the road in safety. Local people, dark eyes and dark hair, stare in an astonished silence this golden Dutch family:
-They used to put their hands through our hair and said “bianco, bianco!" By those days, almost nobody travelled like we use to do -- his son told me.
We saw each other two, three times? We exchange hesitated sentences in English, and confident and warm smiles in universal language. Language was not a barrier. He looked my feet and he liked my shoes. He touched them. He described them. I suppose he wanted to know its origin. Years later, we took a walk trough the canals of the city where he was born, grew and lived, whenever he was not travelling. The city where he loved, married and his children had been born. It was January the canals were almost frozen, but the boat still cross the waters to the flavour of a life full of history. All the memories I have about him – sequential and short by direct experience, or other people's memories – come always loaded of joy:
-My mother lived here. My father met her here. My sisters were born there. My parents use to live there for some years.
The day Papi Jan left, the very same hour, we were speaking about him,and his son had laughs in his voice and tears in his eyes as he told same old stories and quite new ones. Very pragmatic, he added: «I know but the good part of histories about him. I left home many years ago.»
Last Sunday it was a splendid sunny afternoon. News came shortly afterwards. An old gentleman his body tired of intense and joyful life freed his soul.
We so miss him.
Lisbon, 17 of March, Manuela
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