Wrapped in newspaper, the newborn babe lay abandoned in the steaming mountain of compost. Apparently.
My father loved telling stories. He was a gifted tall tale teller. Stories were embellished and polished till they shone. Somewhere in there were the kernels of truth. Many a time we sat on the front veranda of his home on balmy Queensland evenings listening entranced to stories from his childhood. Growing up was tough back then. Not that you could tell that by his stories. He had us in stitches. We laughed so much tears streamed down our cheeks. It hurt. Then we laughed even more.
He travelled back to Finland many times. As a Minister of Religion, he was often invited to be guest speaker at various functions. An invitation he never refused. I recall once when he was staying with us he told me about a charity function he had been asked to speak at. Dad loved his grandchildren with a deep and abiding passion. None more so than ours. I am sure he dined out on stories about them many a time. You see, our boys are special. They are both adopted from overseas. One from India. The other from the Philippines.
This particular fundraiser was for overseas mission work. Dad spoke about the poverty and hardships children in particular experience in third world countries. Many are abandoned. Homeless. Street kids barely eking out an existence day to day. Used as fodder for cheap labour. All sadly true. Dad was inspired. He dug deep with this one. He told a tall tale that bore little resemblance to the truth as we knew it. About our son.
He was abandoned at birth, he said. True. After that it unravelled. Big time. Truth became irrelevant. He, our newborn son, was apparently bundled up in newspaper. There was no swaddling cloth to be had. He, apparently, was abandoned in the compost city of Calcutta. Which is how he came to be rescued by Mother Teresa. And eventually adopted by us. Tears streamed down the faces of the listening audience.
The coffers were filled that day.
Smiling, Dad finished telling me this story. I sat there listening in amazement at his inventiveness. Just then the son in question walked in to the lounge. I started to say “Do you know what Pappa has just told me…” when I was interrupted. With a touch of embarrassment he sternly forbad me to tell the tale. I did. Later. Out of earshot. It has become one of those treasured Pappa stories in our family folklore.
© Raili Tanska