brain

Yes, by Leonardo da Vinci. Artist and neurophysiologist. Creation and verdant fertility.  3

And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken. Isaiah 32:3.  4

My father came from a Catholic household; churchgoing. My mother from a protestant home; not so churchgoing. I was brought up a "nothing" and labelled a "nothing." More than once I overheard my father say that he sent a priest packing because he didn't like being admonished for not having many children. Memories.  5

Near the end of WW-II, Allied agents negotiated with German officers for aircraft to fly over Holland to drop food for a starving population. A test flight took off even before the negotiations were completed. Operation Manna had begun on April 9. Tinned food, dried food, chocolate.  6

The food was meant to be distributed expeditiously, but that was too much to expect from a society in chaos. Some people began eating right away which caused sickness, vomiting, and instants of death. Others had to wait, up to ten days when the war was already over. Sometime before Manna there had been a distribution of some white bread baked from flour trucked in from Sweden. Pure cake!  7

After the war, the country went through a period devoid of law and order. My father volunteered with a previously underground resistance group to serve as a police officer of sorts. He volunteered me as well. Our "office" was a school that had been occupied by Germans. On the shelves were books filled with anti-Jewish propaganda. I was soon assigned to stand on guard outside a restaurant that served Canadians. At lunchtime, I was invited in and ate to my heart's content. It didn't take long for diarrhea to fill my pants and vomit to splatter on the pavement outside, and that was the end of that.  8

A few days later, some people in the same sparse uniform I had recently worn came to the door. They hauled my father off to some makeshift internment facility. Anybody could put dirt on anybody and whatever authorities were in charge would sort things out whenever good-and-well ready. It was the kind of misfortune I later learned had befallen even to the best of people—my future father-in-law for one, a man who had risked his life by resisting the Nazi regime and helping Jewish people hide from Nazi police. More about him some other time.  9

My father was let go after a week or so. The experience must have put another dent in his selfesteem. People looking at him .... That may have been one reason for him to join the Dutch army. He was assigned to some unit that tried to identify the remains of Nazi victims, mostly Jewish people. I still remember human remains exposed at the side of some grassy knoll when he had taken me to a former concentration camp. I referred to that here.  10

Maybe it was his work that drove him to drink in excess. And it probably was the booze along with his lowly military rank that made him brag insanely, saying, I remember it well, that he could choose any rank he wanted—captain, major ....  11

His work took him to Germany as well. Once he came home with a German girl whom, some sunny day, he took along on a family outing to a nearby beach. I surmize she was intended to be my future wife. If so, he suffered another disappointment.  12

A few months or so after the war an election was held to fill a defunct city council. (Maires were appointed in the name of the Queen.) A big board had been erected to display the names of candidates and to show the latest vote tallies. People were dancing and shouting wih every new number. I didn't have the foggiest about politics, but witlessly danced and shouted along with young men imbued with Rege, a soupçon of Lege, drunk on Grege. Democracy in top form.  13

After having passed my finals for chemical technician (I wrote about that in my previous story), I got a job with a chemical outfit. I don't recall how I performed, but I was glad to soon be conscripted for military service. Five months of training, then off to the Dutch East Indies where our government wanted to reestablish control—sorry, law and order. Looking back, the training was rather inappropriate. Besides learning army ranks, insigna, and saluting officers, we did a lot of running, some disassembling and reassembling firearms behind our backs, threw a handgranade or two and duck behind a wall while slowly counting to five or seven. The inappropriate part was exercizing for land warfare in an European setting like running between tanks. Action in Indië occurred mainly in swamps and dense jungle. Worse still, they made me a corporal, putting me in charge of people whereas I could hardly take charge of myself. Ah well, so it goes in this topsy-turvy world. At any rate, the stripes on my sleeves, earned or not, gave me an uplift, of being a somebody; almost the same rank as my father's.  14

Soon after arriving in Indië, I was transferred to an army public relations' service where I became a programmer and announcer with Radio Palembang. Why was I picked for that job? The question has been put to me a few times and my reply has invariably been that I didn't know. Truth is, I didn't want to know, but it wasn't hard to guess that a former boarder in our house, a colonel in the Royal Dutch Indian Army, had aranged that for my father. At any rate, I liked the job and my underlings were spared a lousy underofficer. Moreover, my nervousness subsided considerably over the next three years. As for my bragging or knowing better, that still left something to be overcome.  15

Time out! Why did I write all this? In short—once more, with feeling—I did this to emphasize the destructive effect of parental incompetence, outright neglect, and bad example. Long-lasting effects in my case on my nerves and social behavior. Multiply my experience by millions and think of an unwitting crowd's effect on society. On democracy. On the exploitation of the masses by a relatively few who seek to aggrandize themselves by whatever means, fair or foul.  16

Again: I didn't like writing this exposure, shards of a biography, but things that must be thoroughly understood if we seriously desire a better society. I had the good fortune to escape from this kind of life. Few can say the same. And maybe, just maybe, I can make my ninety-plus years of experience useful to others. "An unexamined life," heeding Socrates' words, "is not worth living."  17

There was a Dutch organization that called on girls to take up correspondence with soldiers overseas. Thus I got in contact with my future spouse. Her letters were full of humor and interesting stories. I began to think: maybe a life together was in the offing. I began to think again how inadequate my education really was and went to a local secondary school where I was told that, too bad, the final exams were only three months away. Nevertheless, they lent me books to read, and with those plus what schooling I had, I passed the finals. Mind you, that school was not even near anything like gymnasium. Eventually, I met her in the flesh when an army bus dropped me off at my home.  18

We roamed the streets to escape peering eyes and hit it off even more. I began further studies in industrial chemical technology with a first-rate correspondence school. It's worthy of note that my home assignments were carefully read and commented on by professional engineers. Additionally, four years of practical experience were a must. Not the kind of correspondence schools found here. I began gaining faith in the future. We both did.

      ...
      Woman needs man, and man must have his mate
      That no one can deny
      It's still the same old story
      A fight for love and glory
      A case of do or die
      The world will always welcome lovers
      As time goes by.
 
19

My father had changed for the worst. Working with rotting corpses may have done that to him. A tortured soul. He could be charming, but was often drunk, a bottle of Dutch gin at his elbow. In one of his stupors he got red-hot angry with me. I had advised my younger brother about something. Feeling his authority threatened, he chased me from home. I had just enough time to grab some clothes, some books, and my bicycle and took a long ride to my girlfriend's home where I was well received and leaving us with no desire to ever go back. Far from it.  20


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