My dad, Gerard Kluijt, 1923 – 2012

Monday, August 6th, 2012 @ %I:%M %p | Life

wpid-P8300013-2012-08-6-16-22.jpgFriday night my dad passed away due to heart failure and other complications. He was, in his own words, almost 89 years old. He was a difficult man, I didn’t have a close relationship with him, often I didn’t really know how to relate to him and I think it was the same for him. But still, he was my dad and I will miss him nonetheless.

I like to share some of my memories of him with you. I don’t think I have often talked about any of these.

My dad was not one to show his affections easily. Not that I do so either – hey, we’re Kluyts. But he did in different ways show his solidarity. When I was 10 or so my football team was playing Ookmeer. I was the goalkeeper. The whole match I did not get a single ball; we won easily. The whole match it poured rain. I was soaked. The whole match my dad stood next to my goal. He didn’t have a raincoat nor umbrella. He was as drenched as I was.

Around that time, it might have been a year earlier, my dad and I learned to play chess. I joined the school’s chess club for a bit. During vacations he would buy a Dutch newspaper, often De Telegraaf if we were abroad. The sports section would report on recent matches between grandmasters.

wpid-195727-1-2012-08-6-16-22.jpgAt the camping table we would replay to those matches and try to play on from where one of the players offered a draw or defeat. We would talk through the moves then switch the board around and try again only to discover 15 moves later that the masters were right about how it would end. I enjoyed those moments. No, I never told him this.

After I moved abroad, one time my dad came to pick me up from Amsterdam Airport. He drove, I sat next to him. I looked over and noticed how he sat behind the steering wheel, how he held it, the back of his hands. I realized that I sit so too, I hold the wheel that way, the back of my hands look like his.

 

wpid-1962VacantieTexel-2012-08-6-16-22.jpgWhen we were young my dad would take books with him on summer vacations about the Club of Rome and other rather serious books on economic policy. My dad left school when he was twelve. My sisters and I would joke about this behind his back wondering, doubting if he understood what he was reading. One of my great pastimes is to read nonfiction books; a short list of books I read recently include a Robert Oppenheimer biography, a book on quantum mechanics, Six Easy Pieces by Feynman, Plato’s Republic and some of Karen Armstrong’s books.

There was one thing that for many years I wanted to do together, and that took too many years to finally fulfill: have a beer with my dad in a pub, just he and I, just talk and hang out. Or as in Jeffrey Gaines’ song: “Did all the things that good friends do, Worked together and talked about girls, Talked of dreams and traveling the world.”

I only managed to achieve this just a few years ago. I visited our mom in the nursing home. A while later Ger, my dad, arrived too. When we left we walked back together to my parents’ home. Halfway is the Buikslotermeerplein shopping center and a cafe with a terrasse and it is nice weather. I stopped and said: “Let’s have a beer.” He looked at me, nodded. After we were seated and had our beers in front of us, I told him that this was something I wanted for a long time. He smiled.

wpid-1989DDuinen01-2012-08-6-16-22.jpgThe last time I saw my dad was when I was back home last year September for his birthday. As usual he took the family for dinner to the Chinese restaurant he goes every week. I sat across from him, not everybody had arrived yet, he and I chatted a bit. I told him that one of things that surprised me about life as I got older is that when I was, say, in my twenties I expected people in their forties, okay fifties, to feel that age and to, well, feel old. “I still feel 24,” I said. He was looking at me, nodded a bit. “What age do you feel you are on the inside?” I asked. He thought a bit and said: “35 or so?”

 

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