“You guys can celebrate your fathers. I’m happy for you.” Boggel pushes the beer across the counter. “Me? I’ll just sit down there on my cushion. Call me if you want another round.”
Father’s Day is always a difficult one in Boggel’s Place. Do they make toasts on their fathers, only to remind Boggel of his days in the orphanage? Do they ignore the day, and make it obvious they sympathise with Boggel’s youth? The result is that they usually have a few rounds after church, before going home and allow Rolbos to absorb the ever-present silence of the desert.
But not today.
“Boggel, get out of there.” Gertruida leans over the counter to peer at the little man on his cushion. “You Come here and sit with us. Today I’ll be the bartender.”
A surprised Boggel takes his seat next to Vetfaan and Kleinpiet. Gertruida opens a beer for him.
“Like a good barman should, I’m going to tell you a story. I want you to remember that every father – right back to the dawn of man – have had their faults. Some drank. Some got eaten by animals or even other tribes. Others got lost – in so many ways. The idea of the perfect father is a myth.” She lets it sink in. “Now, I want you to look at your life. You’re a good man. You’re honest. You work hard to make a living. And you know why?” This time Gertruida gets herself a beer.
“No, Boggel. You learnt to make do with what you’ve got. You accepted your hump and your life. You didn’t play the pity-me-I’m-disadvantaged-card. I think your life would have turned out differently if you grew up in what we call a normal home.”
Vetfaan pats Boggel’s shoulder. “She’s right, you know. If you had a mom and dad that fussed over you, you’d have been a spoilt little brat. Special this and that to make your life easier. You wouldn’t have fended for yourself like you did. And you wouldn’t have been here. Where would that leave us?”
“That’s why we have decided to call this Fatherless Day, in your honour.” Kleinpiet draws a bent stick-man on the counter. “We’re just glad you are the man you’ve become.”
“I got this idea, see?” Gertruida dishes out some more beers. “I think it is time the world stopped thinking fathers are these wonderful, faultless creatures, who are always there in times of crisis. We all know it isn’t true. Fathers are human beings with body odour and warts and bad moods – just like the rest of us. They make mistakes – just like everybody else. And sometimes, the best of them fail, just because Life happens.”
“So, you’re saying I must be glad about my past?”
“I’m saying you had the past you were destined to have. The perfect past to shape you into what you are today. I’m saying your past wasn’t a mistake – it was given to you by the Father that never deserts you. And I’m saying you should be thankful for that.”
Boggel gives her a wry smile. “Okay, Gertruida. Nice sermon. Now what about the story you promised?”
“There was a fatherless child in Korea….”
When Gertruida finishes the story, Boggel gets up, pushes her from behind the counter, and climbs on his crate. Today, on this important day, he’ll serve his patrons the way he should: with a smile and a joke. They’re here to celebrate, and why not?
He owes them that, at least.