Shriveling Under the Shade of the Wide-Arm Oak

My parents were from Huş region and everybody knows about the Huş wine country. The parents of my parents had a vineyard and like in any other wine country, wine was drunk instead of water, though it wasn’t high quality or old. Later, after I grew up, I noticed that grandfather was alcoholic. Grandmother, I don’t know, I hadn’t seen her drinking, but maybe she was repulsed by alcohol because grandfather made her suffer.
My father slowly, slowly became alcoholic too, his profession asked him to be away from home most of the time. My mother, being caught up with household work and us, children, started by having coffee with a girl friend, and then switched to beer, my mother was drinking too, yeah.
So, one thing for sure: my father was an alcoholic. He was a very capable man but aside from that, he loved being praised. He’d make those around him preach me high ethics as to why I didn’t listen to him. He wanted me to succeed in what he couldn’t and he saw I had the potential. But another problem of mine interfered. I felt the need to have my own personality. Wherever I went, I wasn’t Corneliu anymore. I was His Son. Aaaa! You are His Boy/Son! Nobody called me Corneliu. They called me His Son. Look, His Son arrived! Aaa, you are His Son! And this matter started to bother me, to obsess me and I started to have an antagonistic attitude. Sure, as a father he wanted only what was good for me. He gave me freedom, his parenting principle was to give me a strong education and let me free, like the Spartan School, so to speak. There was an expression, when a child is born in Sparta they throw him down the hill, and who still lived when he landed at the foot of the hill was a Spartan. Who didn’t, oh, well, that was the Will of the Gods!
That’s how he raised me, but in return, he expected me to work towards the future he’d planned for me.
I can’t complain, I can but thank him because he had a library of 5,000 books containing the most important and useful information about life, and my room, my bedroom, he let me decorate it how I liked it.
I enjoyed reading, I read three hours twice a week, but I still had the problem of my need for individuality. To be my own person. I wanted people to know me not just as his son, but like somebody else, no matter whom that somebody would be.
Many envied me that I had such a famous father. [Laughs.] But I envied them that they didn’t have such a famous father. It’s a strange thing, do you understand me? And seeing him drinking alcohol, made me drink too, to get the courage to tell him straight in his face about my problem one day. I was drinking to gather my courage to tell him, Father, I have a right to a life of my own, to be my own person, haven’t I?! As Brâncuşi said, A plant can’t grow in the shade of a wide-arm tree, I couldn’t develop in the shadow of a father.
And, needless to say, the conflict grew because of my drinking; he was an alcoholic and meanwhile I became an alcoholic too. And I started to protest, he was very strict with my free time. He never gave me an allowance so I’d get used to live on little money but everybody knew I was the son of a barosan/honcho.
One Sunday I was at the dorm and I asked a class mate to loan me ten lei/dollars, and the kid said, “Listen, Cornel, my father is a mere peasant, he works at the cooperative farm, and your father is a big honcho/barosan, and you’re asking money from me, man?!”
This hurt. I said to myself I’d never ask money again from anybody. So I started to take advantage of the backing that I had. I could afford to do some tricks that were illegal then. For example I’d go to a shop that was only for foreigners and I’d interact with foreigners, I’d walk about with foreign currency in my pocket, which then, if they found a dollar on you they’d throw you in prison, for a dollar! [Laughs] and you couldn’t wash that stigma off all your life.
I entered the world of high end prostitutes. They had connections with Arab students, foreigners, with South Americans, Blacks and so on. They were paid in foreign currency but they couldn’t go into a shop to buy with it! The Secret Police officers were guarding all day long the shop, but I could afford to go in.
The first time, as it happens, it was at the Hotel Napoca. There were three young lieutenants that did their apprenticeship under my father. And when they entered the shop, “How are you Cornel? Come in, man,” and I went straight into the shop with them. “Give me that bottle of gin,” I was ordering [Laughs] I was ordering from the shop, “Give me that bottle of whisky, some packs of Kent, Marlborough,” then Kent was more in fashion, “Give me a few of those cassettes,” then the stereo and quadraphonic age had just started and you couldn’t find anywhere else but at the shop cassettes recorded with music and hits, “Just give them and I’ll copy them and then I’ll bring them back,” and in the end [Laughs.] I’d get drunk and put my legs on the shop counter!
And the prostitutes noticed me and I became their idol, their child. They’d give me money and I’d buy them silk stockings, high heels, because they didn’t have where else to buy from, with all their foreign money. They couldn’t get out of the country at any price, so slowly, slowly I entered this world of luxury prostitutes, of gold trafficking, of cigarettes, tricks, so this of course fueled my desire to drink and the fact that my father drank too and the fact that he also did some stuff that annoyed me, helped me drink heavier and heavier. Later I thought about it, Dear brother, maybe there was a genetic component too. It was not a problem of lack of education, or intelligence because I can thank him for that, he was the Gray Eminence of State Secret Police. He was like that Hitler’s general, the Gray Eminence.
He still lives, but we had a conflict and after I graduated from high school, he had a little girl, he remarried at three years after the death of my mother and meanwhile he had a boy. First, he had a little girl and he wasn’t happy about it. He was hanging out with his buddies and he says, “Another whore born onto this world!” [Laughs.] The stuff he’d say when he was drunk! And after my little brother was born, I went to congratulate him, well, be nice, no? and he says, “You are dead for me,” because I was drunk. He disowned me in public. The relationship was broken since then, when I was what, 21 years old…
Well, I didn’t have a father until last March. It was an extraordinary blow for me. Each time we’d met by chance he’d shout at me, verbal aggression, always the same opprobrium, “You didn’t listen to me! Were you to listen to me, you’d be the Prime Minister!” Alcoholism induced this paranoia in him.
After I started to come here, I arrived to understand Step Nine, which is to acknowledge your mistakes and ask forgiveness from those you’ve mistreated. And by chance I arrived at seven in the morning, he now lives in Turda. Well, truthfully, as Loony Feri says, the ticket conductor caught me at Câmpia Turzii and threw me off the train so, What can I do now?! And suddenly, I remembered that I am nearby my father’s. Well, let me go and ask his forgiveness. And [Laughs.] if he doesn’t open the door, then I’ll talk thru the door to him. [Laughs.] At least I know that I did it!
So I went and it was about seven in the morning. It was still dark, it was during winter. The light was on in the kitchen. I sat down on the curb and lit a cigarette. I felt nostalgic because this was the house in which I grew up. I went upstairs, and I knocked on the door and like never before he opened the door. “How are you, my child? How are you?” “I came to see how you are.” And he saw that I wasn’t drunk, there was no alcohol on my breath. This was always grounds for quarrel when I lived at his place. I was already an alcoholic, I became a rebel and I was all the time under psychological warfare, so to speak. I entered. He made me coffee with his own hand, he, who in the past always had ten servants around him. I can’t even believe it! So I say this and this and this, he doesn’t drink alcohol anymore, and I say, “Father, I came to ask forgiveness for what I did, but you know that when I was drinking that massively I had behavior disturbances, [Laughs.] under the influence of alcohol…” “What behavior disturbances?! Leave me, alone man! You weren’t normal ever since you were little!” [Laughs.] Well, what can I say, it wasn’t much to say after that, it was a speechless conversation, only our eyes talked.
He also stopped drinking for almost a year of days, I found out later, he had cirrhosis and it made him stop. He looked well. Radiant. Healthy.
When I was a child—I have another sister, by mother and father—we’d call him, “Hey, old man/babacule how are you?” In those days, it was a shocking thing to say. “Guys, don’t call me old man/babac. You make me feel old. Why call me old man/babacu?!” Then, just to annoy him, we’d call him again old man/babacu. And I remembered this trick before leaving, and “You look great, old man/babacule!” [Laughs.] And he laughed and I knew we were at peace with each other. 30 years.
So, another good thing. [He cries. Wipes his eyes.] Even now, this stirs up my emotions.
There are many good things that happen after you become abstinent.

Fall 2008
  Cluj Napoca, Romania

Well, here you have it: If you’d like to throw a bit of money my way to keep my endeavors going, and also enable me to spread the money to my various causes, witnessing democracy, freedom of speech and faith, and engineering social change thru art being one of them, I’d be grateful.

New York
14 mai 2013

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