I was approached by Lisa Van Der Knaap, a freelance writer for “Your Family” magazine, a while back for an interview she wanted for the Father’s Day issue of “Your Family”. She had read my blog I wrote last year about my dad on father’s day. She said she was so touched by the story and thought it was a good fit for the feature they were running in the magazine.
And so I got interviewed for the first time. And my blog post and my story published. Just like that.
It was all in all very emotional to go back to that place when I wrote the post. But at the same time it added to my healing process so I am very grateful it all happened the way it did.
My interview was part of a series of three stories which got published in the June issue.
I felt it would be easier to read the article typed rather than off the photograph of the magazine. And it gave me the opportunity to add a few more photographs as well.
And now over to Lisa and her interpretation of our interview:
‘Growing up, my dad was away a lot for work, but the time that we did spend together as a family was always very special. My dad was passionate about photography and we’d often find him lying in some obscure position, trying to get the best photographs. He bought me my first camera when I was seven and was constantly giving me books and advice and his hand-me-down cameras. Very soon, his passion became my passion.
This is my first camera I got from my Dad for my seventh birthday. It has finally found it’s way back into my hands after at least 25 years of sitting in a box collecting dust in the basement of my family home in Germany.
Devastatingly, my mom passed away when I was 22 while I was still living at home in Germany. In the months that followed, I assisted with many of my Mom’s responsibilities and spent a lot of time with my father while he adjusted to his new life. It was a special time which came to an end when I had to move from Mannheim to Munich, some 400km away, as I started my career.
Some years later, my dad remarried – which we were very happy about – while in the meantime, I’d moved to Africa. The move was only supposed to be for a few months, but I’ve been here ever since. Between the distance and my dad’s new life, we had less contact and before we knew it, years had passed.
Although I’d been back for Christmases, I hadn’t celebrated my dad’s birthday with him in 15 years – and it was very different now. This time, he was in a wheelchair, as he’d since been diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (a degenerative neurological disorder), so he couldn’t move freely and wasn’t very responsive. I arrived on the morning of his birthday two years ago and although his body was deteriorating, his mind was still sharp. His eyesight was very bad and he couldn’t breathe very well, which meant that holding a conversation with him was difficult. He always loved to read and I knew he could still understand things, so I decided to read to him. I was lucky enough to do this for two weeks with him and it was a very special time for both of us.
On the final day, it was extremely difficult to leave. He and I both knew that would probably be the last day I’d ever see him. He raised his arm and gave me a ‘royal’ wave; despite all of his suffering, he hadn’t lost his sense of humour. From there, I cried all the way home – and just six months later, he passed away. I returned to Germany for his funeral and when my sister and I started clearing out the basement, we found the most magnificent photo album. Having moved continents, I only had photos of my life from 1997 onwards, but nothing from my childhood. As a photographer, I always hated that fact, so I decided to take photographs of all the pictures in the album.
When I came back to South Africa, I had no idea what I was going to do with the photographs, but as it got closer to Father’s Day, I thought about my dad more and more. I’m always writing and taking photographs for other people, but now I wanted to do this for myself. I decided to do a special blog post on Father’s Day − with stories about the different photographs − which I dedicated to my dad. There were pictures from my dad’s childhood, right up to the day my parents got married and my childhood, all of which were extremely special.
Afterwards, I had many people who sent condolences and said they felt privileged to know my parents; that really meant so much. For me, it had added impact that I’d completed the post on Father’s Day and when I was done, I felt like I’d healed immensely and taken a step forward; even today, I’m so happy I did it.’
Thank you Lisa for finding my blog post, for interviewing me, for your article and the wonderful ways of putting all my emotions into words so that they read as well as they do, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my story, once again. I am truly grateful.