There are a handful of instances in my life that I can remember when my father was present in it, as opposed to being an authority figure on the periphery.
There are flashes of him in my memories of being very, very small. And the time he taught me to ride a bike. And the two times he walked me to school to attend prize givings I’d been invited to. I was invited every year but he only attended those two.
Then there was the day I was summoned to the living room, where he would sit in the middle of the big sofa with his feet slightly more than shoulder width apart, a newspaper spread open on the floor between them, elbows on his knees and his right thumb grinding into his left palm, head cocked to the side and right eyebrow raised into a sharp, Spock-like, upside down “V”. This was the scene whenever there was Trouble Afoot. When we’d done something bad enough to warrant Personal Intervention from Dad, so I knew it was going to be big. This was the day I was told that I would be leaving for “boarding school”.
He drove me there himself, a couple of days later, and I remember him telling me that if I behaved well, I could come home anytime I wanted to. I cried when he said this.
The place looked big and imposing when we arrived and we were greeted at the main entrance to the residential portion of the the compound by the principal himself. He was old (at least in his 50’s) and came across as being firm but fair. I would come to know him as Oom Weber. He and his wife, a short, dumpy woman of around the same age, with short, curly black hair, ran the school. I suppose the idea was to give parents the impression of family – family values. Old fashioned, Afrikaner-style rules and discipline. With weekly visits to the resident psych thrown in. Oom Kobus.
Oom Kobus would spend many of our visits together telling me what a naughty little sexual deviant I was and how he knew I knew I really belonged here at this school, didn’t I? Not to worry, they’d get me all straightened out.