(read about Layli Long Soldier here)
My father is sinking deeper and deeper into some netherworld of dozing and mumbling. I have only the reports from my siblings and the odd picture they sent me. The latter quite frightening, a very old man unravelling, sunk low in his wheelchair, head forward almost on his chest, eyes closed, mouth in a bitter snarl. His waking times, so the reports, he apparently spends being angry, unwilling or unable to cooperate in whatever efforts of personal hygiene are provided to him, drinking and eating sparingly and only because of the threat of an iv feeding tube. Apparently, in one of his awake moments he ordered the nurse to leave him to die in dignity, whereupon she, while picking up the used tissues and cutlery and papers he, according to my sister, purposefully, drops here and there without any care, replied that to get there he first has to behave with dignity. Ha! As if he could!
I know I have to visit him, see if he recognises me, if I can reach him, meet my siblings, who have great hopes that I can talk some sense into him. I don't think my visit will make any difference. I am not expecting anything. But I wonder how he feels, maybe even helpless, lost, and a small part of me hopes that my presence, silly me of all people, could make a positive difference. This of course is a foolish thought. In the world of my father, I am just a daughter and a distant one at that.
When my brother cleared out my father's home, the drawers of his enormous desk, sometime last winter, he found a box of letters, written by quite a number of women, in German, French, Danish, Swedish, the languages of my father, love letters mostly. Adoring middle aged women he probably invited to the opera or an exhibition in Hamburg or Stockholm or Paris, a weekend in a fancy hotel. Imagine, my brother said with a chuckle, he had several lined up at the same time.
When I visited my father earlier this year and asked about the other residents of the retirement home, he scoffed, old biddies, ugly as hell, and a couple of old forgetful posers.
And yet, I am scared. Not of his death, but that he may have already
forgotten me. That he will look at me and see nothing, none of my glorious achievements, nothing to be proud of. Sixty-five years on, I am still hoping for his approval. Searching for whatever it is I can be thankful for.