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Kapitano

QED

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Nothing I did was ever good enough for him. When I get him his breakfast in a hour he'll find something wrong with it.

I was seventeen before I worked it out. If my father was never going to approve of anything I did, there was no point in trying for his approval. What he really wanted was to disapprove - to be disappointed by me. It reaffirmed his self-image as the superior man. And what I really wanted...he wouldn't approve of anyway.

So, logically, I could give us both what we wanted by pursuing what I wanted. QED.

I left at nineteen, after he lost the argument (as usual) and I lost the fight (as usual). I spent a year sleeping on the floors of some friends - and in the beds of some others.

They were good times. I fell in love a lot, sometimes two or three times a week, sometimes with the same person. We all got by somehow, mainly by borrowing everything from each other until we couldn't remember who originally had what.

At one point I got a flat to call home, a lodger to call income, a job to call a career and a stranger to call the love of my life. You can go a long way just calling things what you wish they were.

But not far enough. It fell apart and at twenty three I tried to make a reconciliation with my father. It was a moment of madness - we all get them. Sitting there in the same house I'd grown up in, in the same room where he'd thrown me out, with the same horrible wallpaper - he gave me the same lecture. The one about how I'd never amount to anything if I didn't decide what I wanted, and didn't work bloody hard for it.

I walked out before he got halfway through. A week later I got a letter informing me I'd been disowned. Seeing as all he had was debts and regrets, I decided he was doing he me a favour. QED.

I moved away - out of the town, then out of the country, then out of the continent. It wasn't as easy as before - there weren't so many floors or beds, or friends, or loves.

Never outstay your welcome, never rely on people who can't rely on you, and never ask what might have been. That's been my philosophy, and it's never got me rich but it's never got me truly poor either.

Middle age crept up on me, and I put down a few roots, but nothing I couldn't spend months away from when the mood took me to explore somewhere else. I thought I'd probably die without a permanent address - and the idea didn't worry me.

Then, for the second time in forty years, I got a letter from a family member. A cousin - one of those whose floor I'd slept on. It mentioned my father was ill with some terminal disease and wasn't expected to live more than a few months - everyone was rallying round to look after him, more out of obligation than affection.

It took less than a day to make my decision, and less than a week to arrive back at the old house. Everyone was highly surprised to see me, and frankly astonished that I volunteered to look after the old man. But not so astonished as to put up much resistance. They probably thought I was trying to make things right before it got too late.

So here we are father, alone in the same room, with the same wallpaper, where we used to shout for hours and you hit me, so many times. But there's no shouting now - it's peaceful with you asleep, and you haven't got the strength to hit me anymore.

You always told me I should decide what I wanted, and be strong enough to do it. Well, it took a long time, but now I know exactly what I want. And I'm going to do it, and I'm going to keep on doing it, for as long as you've got - for as long as I can make it.

Which means, logically, you should be proud of me at last. QED.

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We find out who we are in many ways. One way is to look at our past, as Kapitano has done, and derive our conclusions about who we are from our past.

The other way is to look at the truth of what was taught to us and make our own decisions about what we were told and what we believe.

Wonderful piece Kapitano, truly. It's one of those pieces that make us think. I am so happy to see this.

Richard

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