Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My father

   My father was too young to die. Every other patient in the hospice I saw had long since had stripped from them every last vestige of humanity. They were folded back into brittle foetus shapes or wired up to silent generators, like old-fashioned electrical appliances which still worked but no longer had any function. There was something almost shameful in the way these wizened husks clung to life. It made them somehow hateful. One sensed the life force in them consisted almost exclusively of fear. One wants the old to at least impart an accomplishment of wisdom. If terror is all they have to offer at the end of their days why even bother listening to them? I admired my dad for his obvious desire to get this thing over and done with quickly. Fear did not seem to be his predominant emotion.
     Earlier my mother had told him not to hang on, to just let go. I wasn’t sure that would be what I wanted to hear from my wife on my deathbed. He nodded weakly. I remembered how avidly he had always liked to throw things away. It had been a kind of obsessive satisfaction for him to see something else consumed, something else consigned to a crematorium. The newspaper was often in the recycling bin before lunchtime. And after a meal he would often say, another dinner over and done with, with the satisfaction of someone completing a crossword puzzle. He liked to get things over and done with. In fact I suspect that was his chief motivation for doing what little he did do. I sometimes think that is another thing we have in common. Except he consigned things to the past so as not to have to look at them any more, whereas I consign things to the past so as to become more intimate with them.

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