image from Benedetta Casagrande
After Emilie de Lauwers, we continue the series of responses to All Quiet on the Home Front with this insightful contribution from Benedetta Casagrande (see more of her work at Ardesia Projects)
I always used to tell my father off. When I was a child, I had a loud mouth and a strong sense of justice. I was inquisitive. I would ask him whether he ever went with a prostitute, and after I would ask him why didn’t he marry her. We would drive together to school, and I would reprove him for how he spoke back to mom. I was sweet and forgiving but I would not let anything go unnoticed. The most amazing thing about these memories is my father’s effort to listen to me. At six years old. Telling him what is best to do. More often than not he would thank me, and apply my wise advice.
When I was nine years old my oldest brother died in a motorcycle accident. Me and my father always were close, but the loss of my brother brought us closer - unlike my older brother and sister, I still required a great deal of looking after. My presence in my father’s life became a fundamental asset for his recovery from the loss of his firstborn. That special core of intimacy strengthened over the years - me and my father were (and still are, though differently) partners in crime. I know I can see through him - he knows it too.
Teenage years were tough. My boyfriend died in a car crash and I became increasingly anxious and afraid of death. Back then I used to live with my father, and he was growing old (he is from the class of 1944). He was an aging man dealing with a teenager in crisis - it must have been really hard for him. A few months later he had a brain hemorrhage, and I was sent to live with my aunt. He survived it, but my teenage self was persecuted by the images of him in the hospital room with two tubes coming out of his shaved head. He always had long, black hair, I had never seen him bald before.
How do you deal with the overtaking fear of loss? Death is so definitive… I have no answer to this question. All I know is that, becoming an adult, I began standing more steadily on my own legs. I know I will not be lost anymore. Me and my father have the most loving relationship and I am proud of how he is aging; he has a new family, picks up the nephews from school once a week, plays tennis three times a week and never spends one weekend at home. Him and his girlfriend are always travelling. Our bond has survived my growing up; I am an adult, but the characteristics of our relationship are still rooted in my childhood, in the times in which we were inseparable partners in crime.