The doctor’s comments boosted my morale. Because this was not a disease that continuously deteriorates like dementia. He might not totally recover, but he would get better in time.
As soon as we got back home, I started to think about what I could do to stimulate my father’s memory. I needed to find places where we shared the past together. The first thought that came to mind was to return to the schools I had attended. Since he had also been a teacher, education had always held an important place for him. I knew he really liked to talk about the educational institutions in my past.
Early the next day, we left home to visit the primary school I had finished around twenty years ago. My father once said that he realized I had grown up when he left me alone in the school and watched me walk in the yard. Every time he mentioned it, I could see the emotion in his eyes. With this feeling, I drove my father’s car to the school. It was at the center of Kayseri, and its name was Ahmet Paşa İlkokulu, or Ahmet Paşa Primary School. When we arrived at the place of the school, I was shocked. There was no school building. It had totally disappeared. What I saw instead was a crowded parking garage where you feel the heat of the cars and smell the scent of the tires and old oil. I didn’t understand how this had happened because I clearly remembered the metal plate on the entry gate of the school documenting its establishment in 1865. It was probably the oldest school in Kayseri; now demolished and replaced by a garage.
“Why did we come here, son? Are you going to park the car?” he asked.
“Well… I was just…” – I could not explain it to my father. “No, we won’t park here. We were just passing by,” I replied, and, luckily, my father didn’t really know why we had come here.
I then drove the car to my second school, Küçükçalık Anadolu Lisesi, or Küçükçalık Anatolian Middle School, which was between primary school and high school. My father had frequently come here to talk with my teachers. To be honest, it was a period when I often skipped the lessons and just hung out with my friends. Once one of my friends joked, “Seyit, your father is at school more than you are.” My father was actually showing up at the school to discipline me. It was a period of conflict between an adolescent and adult.
We got out of the car when we arrived. But it was difficult to recognize the place after many years. The poplar trees that used to encircle the school no longer existed. They must have been cut due to the pollens they spread during May. It was a trendy idea recently: Poplar trees should be in rural areas and those in cities should be cut. They were completely wiped out from the cities in a decade. Without them, my school was basically a naked building, however. But it was not only the trees. A new road ran straight across the yard. A newer building behind the school had also reduced the size of the yard. While looking at the school with my father, I asked,
“Dad, do you remember the middle school I used to attend?” – He looked for a while and replied:
“No, not really!”
“Me neither,” I said.
Having failed to find something that could stimulate my father’s memory on the first day, we turned back home. I thought that it would be better to go the Kayseri Fen Lisesi, or Kayseri Science High School, which was a boarding school. My father and I had a lot of memories from there because he had taught physics for more than ten years at the school and we lived in the housing facilities allocated to school staff. Furthermore, I also spent two years there and we shared a lot of memories in each corner of the school.
Early in the morning, teeming with emotion, I drove to Kayseri Fen Lisesi. The school was quite far away from the city center of Kayseri – it took half an hour to reach. When we arrived, a guy stopped us at the outer gate and asked why we had come. I said my father used to be a physics teacher in the school and we had lived here. He apologized and said that it was no longer Kayseri Fen Lisesi; now it was Kayseri Spor Lisesi, or Kayseri Sports High School. He didn’t let us go inside. He also added that Kayseri Fen Lisesi had moved to a modern building in the city center. Since we had driven quite a ways, we at least got out and looked at the old school buildings silently. When we returned to the car, I took a final glimpse at the main building, and suddenly got the strange feeling that it was also watching us beyond the walls and gates.
I dedicated the following day to past sports events and places we had some collective memory of. We went directly to the open fields in the district where we used to live when I was a child. There were areas open to everybody, places where we spent time playing soccer, flying kites, and enjoying many other childhood games. My father was just like a friend I remembered very well: We had spent hours at events together. In comparison to yesterday, I had less hope that we would find the place the way we knew it.
So I was not surprised when we arrived: The soccer fields had been converted to artificial turf and covered by huge tents. Of course, it was no longer free to play soccer, as these facilities were for-profit businesses. People were waiting outside the tents and watching the matches.
“Dad, do you remember when we played in here?”
“Maybe… I remember a bit…”
“This place was completely covered by grass. It was not a regular park, of course. We played games… Mainly soccer… There were no normal goal posts. We used big stones to mark the endpoints of the goal. And there weren’t any boundary lines. It was all in our imagination… No need to wait… Because there was enough space for everybody.”
“And the ground was not nearly as clear of small stones or pebbles… there were even cattle droppings.” We laughed. – The area was occasionally used for feeding cows, probably because of some small backyard stables nearby.
“In the late afternoon, there could be more than a hundred people in the meadow. Fathers, sons, daughters… We were all in there. If it was kite season, like May or September, you could see close to a hundred kites swirling above.”
“I remember, son; our kite was usually one of the highest.”
“Exactly, dad, it was far above the others; and once the string ripped and we had to run after it, street by street.”
Our conversation continued for half an hour. Although I could not completely lift the veil on my father’s memory of the place and period we spent together, he recalled some of what I was describing. Having seen the traces of memory in my father’s mind, I drove the car straight to the city’s sports center where the stadium and basketball fields are located.
After all, I was not very surprised to see that the city’s main sports facilities had disappeared entirely. They were right at the center of Kayseri and had a beautiful location that residents could reach. I had wanted to remind my father of the matches occasionally played at Kayseri Sports Club. The long lines we had at the gates, the sunflower seeds we ate – an exclusively Turkish snack habit –, the chants we shouted together, the regrets after defeat and the joy we shared after victories, the road we walked while going there… All had been left behind…
What I saw was a quite ugly hotel and shopping mall adjacent to it.
I googled the new place for the stadium. It was far away from the city center. As I check the search engine hits, I saw the mayor’s comment: “Not a single lira paid by us for the construction of the new stadium.” But he didn’t mention what happened to public space at the heart of the city and in turn why this place was allocated to new business owners.
“Why did we come here, son,” my father asked.
After taking a deep breath to gain time, I replied, “Mom has some orders; we need to go into the mall.” Luckily, he didn’t resist, and we did some shopping inside.
(Part 3 to follow on January 25…)
In the Middle – An International Transposition (Fiction)
Introduction to In the Middle – An International Transposition, edited by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey
January: Forgetting – Turkey, by Seyit Ali Dastan
February: The Unreal in Real – Armenia, by Armine Asyran
March: Catching Water – Argentina, by Javier Gómez
April: Unwanted – South Africa, by Sarah Leah Pimentel
May: House with a Stucco Ship – Ukraine, by Gennady Bondarenko
June: A Girl Pedaling up the Road of Life – Cuba, by Marilin Guerrero Casas
July: The Last Day – Poland, by Pawel Awdejuk
August: Through my Hands – Venezuela, by Veronica Cordido
September: Amelia’s Euphemism – Spain, by Jonay Quintero Hernández
October: Until Love Do Us Part – Uruguay, by Alejandra Baccino
November: A Journey to the Edge – Lebanon, by Rayan Harake
December: I Used to Smoke – Russia, by Kate Korneeva
Background – Context
Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)
L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)
From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)
More by Seyit Ali Dastan
Uncertain Waters – Short story
Polarization and the Epidemic of Extremity – Short story
Living in the Pendulum between Turkey and Syria – Short story
More on Turkey
Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from Turkey and other countries
Cover photo of Kayseri, Turkey by Attraction Art
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed