Your heart is still beating, my father, and I am writing to you. Can my words still reach you? Like a wind chime, the fog of your illness – Alzheimer’s disease – enveloped you, becoming denser and more impenetrable, washing the lifelong torment of unbearable thoughts from your soul and leaving you behind in the innocence of your mind-less existence. Immersed in the smog of oblivion, you fled this world that had always been a little too noisy for you, too hectic, too fast and far too sad.
An inhabitant in the realm of your center, a traveler in the cosmos of your own incomprehensibility. No one can follow you to the distant pole of tranquility, your companion is the loneliness of your last days, gifting you silence. Even the constant nagging of your wife fades away at the borders of your speechless paradise, where there is no future, no here and now, only the past; experiences, blurred, having never thus existed. Maybe you are happier now, I don’t know, can’t say. When I saw you crossing the gate into the silent garden, when even my name sometimes slipped from your mind and you began to forget yourself, I wanted to say goodbye to you. Your wife and even your daughter knew that you had taken the road to loneliness, just as grandfather and also uncle Eberhart had done before. “What a misfortune!” they said, and for those who knew you it was no surprise, because they knew, that you had decided long ago to give yourself up and just go away.
Your conscience did not let you sleep for decades. Out of the endless hours of the night thoughts rose that you were forbidden to think during the day. Like sharp knives they cut into your heart, bored deep into your soul and robbed you of your life force, while in the bed next to you your wife lay, without remorse or bad conscience for her committed atrocities during the day, deeply immersed in the unconscious world of her sleep. Is it quiet where you are now? Have you finally found your peace?
In spite of your temper and your tantrums, the swear words of your impatience and your not always easy or just ways, I could always see in you a good soul, a pure heart, which was not evil, but surrounded by a weak will, too powerless to stand up for yourself against the dictatorship of your wife. So you did what she told you to do, day after day, all your life.
Since your first meeting while skiing in the mountains, she knew that she would rule over you, because at that time you were defenselessly at her mercy, humiliated and degraded, by a girlfriend who left you, and father of a daughter you would never see. Once you had told me, as we walked through the railroad underpass. “Here it was,” you said suddenly, and I didn’t immediately understand what you meant. “This is where she told me she was pregnant with my child and that she was going to leave me.” You bit your lips and tears came into your eyes. Not a word more, no one was allowed to notice that it still hurt you so much, after all these years, because your wife forbade you to ever talk about it.
You were always too sensitive – I think I inherited that from you – you carried your feelings on the palms of your hands and always took everything much too seriously. So you became a spectator of the tragedy of your own life. But while you silently endured and suffered, I left, went far away, fled to the other end of the world. I could no longer bear the cold-heartedness, the daily vulgarities and the calculating greed to which everything and everyone had to submit. Since the day of my birth I fought with your wife, my mother, because it was always only her will that she wanted, that she had to enforce, against mine, which she could never break. Thus I suffered a childhood in which the most surprising fact was, that it had not ended in my suicide. My will to survive as defiance to my mother, who had always considered my early demise as a calculated realistic possibility.
My world was shattered under the hammer blows of false maternal affection, scattered by the storm wind of an innocent child’s heart, my miserable existence crumbled into dust. In one glance, rapt from all humanity, the inferno of our entangled lives raged on, and I became a voice in your mind, a reminder of my untamable young life. Just as you now took refuge in the solitude of your inwardness, I had to live a life far away, in involuntary exile of hope for freedom, a wanderer between worlds, a wanderer, stranded. From afar, my mother and I watched the decline of the other, which was our own.
The fate of two people who detested each other with an intensity that kept them always far from each other all their lives, at a distance that allowed both of them to survive this tragically absurd symbiosis until today. But now that you have begun your departure, the equilibrium of both our forces is eroding and we are falling bottomless with such force and unspeakable violence towards the collision that will result in the inevitable annihilation of one or the other.
Father, my father, you who have lived your existence in the second row, spectator of your own decline in the shadow of your wife. Gutta cavat lapidem – the constant dropping wears away the stone and has driven you deep inside yourself, far away from everything, from the pain of a love you were never able to experience, from a life you had given up dreaming. An earthly existence of which all colors were washed off by secret tears, until everything that remained was monotonous and gray.
The inescapable dungeon of your marriage robbed you of your life’s light, of your courage to set sail for new horizons in search of your own happiness. Slowly and inexorably your thinking died and only the sadness of your existence remained, every day anew. She took away your breath, stifled your cry for freedom, until you gave up believing in yourself. You carried the endlessness of your days around with you like a burden that grew heavier and heavier with each step, each breath, each of your painful thoughts. Where was it going to go if not toward the end: the futility of aging, a waiting for the merciful forgetfulness of an old man, your last hope slain and dead. You did not want to wait for the finality of your last hour, not to face the horror of that very last moment, not to give an account of a life, your life forfeited. Oh, how much I do understand you! No more sense which has not since long become nonsense and which only you can understand. The light has lost its power, weightlessly you fall into the night. I cannot hold you. I wish you good luck on your journey. Take care.
Letter to my Father