Our study used to be a room that was about three feet above the level of the living room area, and there were some steps leading up to the study. My sister Anna decided it would be funny to run up the stairs, pretend to trip, and dramatically fall onto the floor and act as if she’d died. She did a pretty bang-up job of it, but the conveniently placed sofa cushions were kind of obvious, but daddy still fell for it. I remember my dad just freaking out… He was like “Aneeta? Aneeta? ANEETA!” and then she couldn’t resist and started giggling, and he just got all pissy that he’d been duped; and eventually started laughing after giving my sister a good dressing-down, who just giggled all the while.
So that morning, when I stepped out of the house to throw my bookbag into the car, and my eyes moved reflexively to the center of the long orchard, attracted by something unusual. When I saw it, the first thing that popped into my head was; how am I going to tell daddy this? I went into the house and found him. He was already really worked up because his keys were nowhere to be found (they ended up being in the pocket of his coat that he was wearing). Anyway, I walked up to him warily and said: “Daddy, there’s a fat hairy black pig in our yard.” His head snapped in my direction and his furry brows crowded together and he replied: “Vat are you tokking about? Don’t say stoopid things, I don’t have time forrr thet.”
“Really, Daddy, there’s a really hair fat black pig, right out there in the back yard,” I insisted. He looked even madder and then stormed out to the stone veranda, and looked out at the orchard and lo and behold, there was a massive black pig eating the fallen fruit from the apple trees and rolling chestnut burrs around with his snout. I told him: “see?” His brows arched up in puzzlement; there were a few farms near us, but they were grain farms, and the livestock in our neighbourhood were mainly draft horses and cows. Pigs were not usual, and this pig was particularly non-traditional looking, with a smooshed up face. He was really cute. I walked towards him, and daddy shouted at me not to. The pig only ran a few steps away and then continued rooting around. He sighed, and then went to wake up my mother so we could figure out the pig conundrum. He found his keys after yelling around for ten minutes, he took me to school anyway, and he went to work. We listened to BBC World Service, (this ident music still pops into my head sometimes)
as we always did, and he whistled along to it. The day was uneventful, except I spent all day wondering about the pig.
Mom came and got me after school, and as soon as I got into the car, I wanted to know about the pig. My mother discovered that the somewhat nearby Planckendael Zoo, which was a small zoo which at the time was a sort of nursery zoo for the animals from the main Antwerp zoo, had lost a Vietnamese pig. They were going to dispatch someone to get the guy.
When we got home, he was still there, this time further back in the yard, eating crab apples and chestnuts. Not long after, the young men from Planckendael showed up, and we were wildly entertained by the attempts to capture the pig. Our garden had a moat around it, I am not kidding. It was about 80% of the moat on our end, the driveway cut over part of it, and the last 15% of it was on the back side of the property where the third house was. The pig, after being leapt on by one of the guys, dragged his assailant into the moat, where he shed him, and then the pig waded on the edge a bit, and circled one end to climb out out in our pony pasture, where Penny and Silvermoon came over to check him out. He didn’t like ponies, so he went back into the water and paddled like an Olympic swimmer back to the apples. It took them another hour or so to catch the portly guy, and the two guys were worse for wear. Piggie was taken back to the zoo. We visited him there a few weeks later, he was in a pen with a bunch of other smooshy-faced pigs.
A few years ago, I was on the phone with my dad. This was before he got really sick, and I had called to ask him to help me troubleshoot some computer hardware issues I was having. In the middle of our geek-fest, he popped out with “Feffa… do you rremember when there vas a peeg in our back yahrd?” he chuckled. I laughed too, and said: “yeah, I remember you not believing me when I was telling you about it.” He had a good laugh about that, and replied: “Vat do you expect? You kids ver alvays doing stoopid things to make me mad.” His laugh was so hearty and wonderful.
I miss that old curmudgeon so much—I miss hearing him whistle to the BBC World Service intro, I miss watching him make a ritual out of eating an apple. I miss talking computers with him, and building them with him. I miss him so much. All these fertility-pill-induced hormones are putting me in that frame of mind lately. It’s so hard to think about him being permanently gone sometimes. I sort of pretend that he’s still in New Hampshire and I just haven’t gotten ‘round to talking to him for a few weeks—that he’s still at his ham-radio, logging his QSL contacts—sitting at the microphone enunciating: November One Mike Papaah Zulu and laughing with his Hungarian friends.