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A 12¼-year-old's Manifesto

by Kjell Fjortoft of Norway

We're sitting at the kitchen table, my son and I. It's time for homework to be done. Fight and struggle. I suppose my son is just like all the rest, like most men have been throughout the years. He has a certain tendency to spend a lot more energy on finding ways of shirking, rather than doing something sensible.

No matter how unpleasant it may be admitting it, sisters, mothers, or aunts for that matter, have been the ones to do most of the dirty jobs, and taking care of most of the unpleasant tasks. It is also they who have been the ones most often rewarded by unfair scolding and hurtful remarks. While sons and fathers have achieved high status and glory for doing little or nothing at all.

And it's like that today. As the ghost of maths rattles with cunning fractions in the dark, deep belly of my son's school bag.

Eventually, after long negotiation, bribary and, in the end, harsh threats, we are eventually seated at the kitchen table. My son, his school bag, and I, his Dad. His rough book, and a long-lasting sharpened pencil stub, are eventually ready and fit for action.

Dusk has silently begun introducing itself. It is early fall, Dad has reached one semi-hundred years of age, and son has just passed twelve and a quarter years of his life. Son, with his lifetime ahead of him, balancing on the edge of his kitchen stool, and Dad in his wheelchair, with his cup of black coffee, and with the comprehensive experience of life already lived, supporting his back.

Outside the deciduous forest has little by little started blushing, perfectly aware of Mother Nature's striptease-show at hand. The weather is nice, though, and the ocean lies calm and smooth like a mirror. Probably tempting any eventual dawn sailor's dream of brave acts, and wetting his whistle with the dream of enjoying deliciously prepared lobster sandwiches. A welcome sight to those seeking an escape from an unmanageable chart of multiplication, intricate exponential functions, and unpleasant fractional arithmetics.

And when the desire to work is distant, and when the subject is far from Dad's sphere of interest, a conversation about lobster pots appeals. Before they're even aware of it, the talk turns to the everlasting lobster fishing nights of dad's long gone youth. Of foolhardy navigation in sudden, thick mist among skerries and rocks, wet rubbed by wild, winter waves. Of renowned catches, and of the midsummer night when the common seals bring forth their young ones.

The chart of multiplication, and unpleasant fractions, are conveniently losing their way among the wildly growing trees of imagination and dreams in memory wood. Dad is soon lost in dreams. Son is listening, enquiring, and wondering about different things.

"I wish you could have gone out with me, I could have shown you where, taught you how, you know. However, Dad can't walk on his own feet any more, so all boating has become history for me...," Dad expresses his feelings of sorrow aloud.

Then the boy expresses himself, he who was 12 three months ago, and Dad will never forget his words...

"I'm perfectly aware that you can't be with me in our boat any more, and that you're not able to walk any more, dad. But that's not at all the important thing. What is important is that you are here when I need to talk to you, and when I need answers to my questions. That you are here. That's what's important, you see!"

Life is young, the fraction is complex, and the message is perfectly clear. And the really important values of life are manifested once and for all.

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