Excerpts from The Secondhand Man, by Karin Jaeckel,
Socially uprooted: TORE, OLLI, MASCHA [p. 45]
TORE: I'm from a good family
15 years. Orphan of divorce for ten years. Lives presently in a home for
homeless youth. Mother repeatedly divorced and re-married and presently cohabits
with a boyfriend.
Father: Lives in Turkey
Grounds for divorce: Extra-marital affair of the mother and separation by wish
No joint custody
|I'm from a good family. Father, mother, six children. Everything clean
and well-kept. A small rowhouse, car. A good, civil life. Until my
mother got the notion to go catting and my father caught her at it. Then divorce,
house gone, car gone, everything gone.
My father tried to get us children. We all wanted to go with
him, because somehow we couldn't put up with what mother had done. Because she had
brought that guy to us and slept with him in the living room, and father sat in the
children's room and wept, because he couldn't do anything anymore and all was going down
the sewer, what he had built for himself.
However, my father never had a chance to get us. And at that
time nobody had listened to us. They held us to be incapable. They had to let
others decide for us what was good for us. The judge only said that children belong
to the mother and that my father wouldn't have any time anyway, to care for us, because he
had to bring home the bacon. Aside from that, that my mother had always done a
pretty god job with us. That that was obvious to anyone who cared to look.
That there would therefore be no reason that she couldn't continue to manage that well
with us. That broke my father's heart somehow, I believe. At any rate, he quit
his job and took off to Turkey or somewhere else, where he doesn't have to pay alimony.
And my mother had all of us around her neck [like a millstone],
no kidding. To her that stank to heaven, because she had figured that it would all
be different. She had thought that the old goat would pay, and that she would be on
easy-street with her new-one. And now it was all nothing.
We then got an apartment in socially-assisted housing. There
the hallway stank from people having pissed against the walls, and from Schnapps and from
cooked sourkraut. In the other apartments there too were families with too many
children and not enough money. For us that was all strange at first. But we
quickly got used to it. Primarily because mother eventually started to invite lovers
and to throw us out while they were there. Regardless of what kind of weather there
was. She didn't want us to see that, she said. But that we knew about it was
just as bad.
Because we now live in another burrough, we had to go to a different
school too, and my smaller siblings into a different creche. Our friends from before
were gone too. I think that we were so really torn from everything. And then
somehow, too, we couldn't get solid ground under our feet anymore. Because my father
was already gone then. And my mother, though present, wasn't there for us.
During that time I started to rove around and to filch things.
First only in department stores, and I filched only small things: sometimes candies and
sweets, cigarettes. Nothing special. They caught me a few times and squealed
on me to my mother and set Social Services on her. And then one of her guys, who
actually was at that time continuously at our place, really beat me up. That was
something totally new. Sure; I had caught one now and then from my father.
Like with the open hand on the cheek or maybe once on the back-side. But that now,
that went right down to it.
That type, he took the leather belt, that had a metal buckle, and
then he went at it. That's when I got the first bruises. However, that didn't
improve me. The opposite. Now I'll go for it in spite of it, I thought, I
won't be told anything by a pig like you. And then I got involved with a youth-gang,
and became the look-out for them, broke into cars, pulled wallets, emptied vending
machines whatever it is that one does there. After they caught me a few times
they told my mother that I have to go to a [correctional] home, because she can't
manage me anymore. My mother, I believe, was quite happy about that, because there
was one mouth less to feed.
However, I didn't wait for them to pick me up, but instead went with
my friend to Amsterdam. That was more or less the start of everything. And I
think until today that it would all have run quite differently if my parents would have
That's not to say that they wrecked my life. I'm not saying
that at all. I won't hold anyone guilty for what I have done. However, I have
my own thoughts about it all. I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid. And then I
always ask myself whether that little bit of sex that my mother had was worth it all.
That doesn't mean that sex is shitty. Not at all. It can
be strong. But, to throw away everything for it? However, apparently it had a
higher priority for my mother. She didn't conceive six children by being pollinated
through the wind, I feel. However, that's not my thing.
If I can get my life in order, and manage the school and then an
apprenticeship, and then get away from the street and find a bride that I find to be truly
good, then there must be more than just sex. And I mean a hundred-plus. And if
that comes about, then I want, too, that it holds together with her, that we grow old
together and maybe have one, two children and be a real family. That's like a dream
with me. I haven't given up on it yet.
OLLI: Actually, I have no-one at all
13 years. Orphan of divorce for four years. Lives with his mother
Father: Co-habits with his girlfriend and her children
Grounds for divorce: repeated mutual violence of the parents, and her wish to
No joint custody
|I actually got the impression pretty early that my parents wanted to divorce.
They fought continually. They even beat each other up. One time my mother
wanted to use a beer bottle to bash-in the head of my father. She didn't, at any
rate. In spite of that, I still see it often in front of my eyes.
At that time they constantly asked with whom I would want to live,
when they separate. That was a heavy load on me. I never could make that
decision. Then too, at that time I cried a lot.
Somehow, I actually was in constant fear. I don't know of
what: actually, of everything. That made me really crazy. No, not like with a
clinic and a room with rubber walls. But, inside, so within me. That was all
yeah, I don't actually don't know that either. Odd, in any case,
And then, too, I couldn't sleep properly. I eavesdropped
constantly, whether my parents were fighting again. And when I then heard the
nagging and the swearing, and how my mother threw utensils and my father yelled that he
would hit her in the mouth right away, then that was really bad. Then I didn't know
anything anymore. That's when I thought that I would like it best if I were
dead. And that they would be able to get along with one another if I were gone.
In spite of that, it was almost worse when they got along for a
while. That's when I always had such a crazy hope. That's when I promised to
them that I would be always totally good and such. Only that they wouldn't get
And then, two days later, it would blow up again. And then I
always got the feeling that it was on account of me. Because I acted up again and
got to be a bother to them. Then, too, that's what they told me without end.
That on account of me my mother couldn't go to work anymore and that they couldn't
go on vacation any longer and such.
And that's why I filched sleeping tablets from my grandma and took
them all. I could hardly get them down, that's how bitter and revolting they were.
And then I lay down in my bed and waited to die.
But then I didn't die anyway. You can see that! All I
got was a stomach ache and had to spit for hours. And when my parents noticed that,
that's when the mess really hit the fan. After that I hardly did homework anymore,
hung around outside and got into trouble with everyone.
Then they sent me to the school psychologist. And he did such
a therapy with me. We constantly used figures to set up family situations and such
stuff. Well anyway, that was okay. But when we then spoke about my father or
about my mother and what they do to one another, that's when I often got a bad
conscience. Because at times I told things that actually shouldn't be of concern to
At the divorce, too, I was asked whom I wanted to be
with. That's when I said, with my father and with my mother, because I want to keep
them both. That's when the judge [a woman] said, that that wouldn't work out,
because a child must have a real home and that I have to go with my mother. They
said, too, that I can go to visit my father during vacations or on weekends and that he
would always be there for me.
Because the city is quite far away, my father couldn't visit me very
often. And if he then wanted to come, then my mother said that on that weekend she
wanted to do something with me and that he shouldn't come. To me she said then that
he had forgotten about me, that he didn't care about me anyway and that she wants that he
should stay away all-together. Then my father didn't come at all anymore.
But my mother didnt have any time for me, because she was constantly
on the go with her new boyfriend. Well, they did take me along at times. But
mostly they drove by themselves and brought me to an aunt of the new boyfriend or to his
old grandpa. That was idiotic.
I'm still living with my mother. I believe that she's doing
fairly well. She works again, gets around a lot. She already has a new
My father too has another one. He even has children again:
those from his girlfriend. Sometimes he telephones me or writes to me. But
that is totally nuts somehow.
Actually, I have no-one at all.
MASCHA: Somewhere along the way my father was
16 years. Orphan of divorce for five years. Lives with her mother
Father: Where-abouts unknown
Grounds for divorce: Extra-marital affair of the mother and her wish to
No joint custody
|My parents got divorced two years ago, but had separated two years before
that. In the beginning, my mother had a boyfriend who after my parents' separation
immediately moved in with us. When the divorce came through and my mother wanted to
marry him, my mother's boyfriend left her. He said that he had no desire to raise
the kids of strangers.
The separation of my parents was absolutely terrible for me.
Because my mother was working full-days as a sales-representative, and my father, being a
teacher, had far more time for me than she had, he was the most important person to whom I
It had totally passed me by that my parents had wanted to
separate. Somehere along the way my father was suddenly gone. My mother told
me that he wouldn't come back to us. And on the same day my mother's boyfriend moved
in with us. I understood nothing of it. I was still fairly small at the
time. My father sent me a letter and explained to me that it would be better
for us if we weren't to see one another anymore, because he wouldn't be able to bear
anything else. He would otherwise miss me too much.
My mother's boyfriend and I couldn't get along very well. He
always pretended that he had the right to tell me something or to educate me, and he acted
as if he were the greatest. At first I tried to discuss that with my mother.
But she wanted to know nothing about it. I didn't mean much to her.
I ran away a few times and started to steal in department
stores. My performance in school became fairly bad. The only explanation I
have for that today is that I wanted thereby to force my father to come back. But he
Then came the divorce, and mother's boyfriend moved out.
Shortly thereafter my mother began to drink. Today she is dependent on alcohol and
behaves as if she were the child and I the mother. She literally clings to me and
weeps and begs that I shouldn't leave her. I truly pity her. But I also feel
enormous anger against her, because she over-taxes me with her demands and because
everything that went wrong with us is basically her fault. I never heard again from
My mother told me quite a while ago that in the years before the
divorce he had asked time and again whether he could be allowed to write to me or come to
visit me or have me visit him. She never gave him permission. She told him
that she wanted to construct a new family with her boyfriend and that my father had to do
without me, or else he would make me unhappy.
I intend that as soon as I'm of age that I'll visit my father.
My mother won't be able then to forbid it any longer. I don't know whether I want to
live with my father then. But I want to ask him why he never fought over me, why I
wasn't worth that much to him.
Posted 1999 06 07
2001 02 08 (format changes)
2007 12 16 (reformated)