The living dead

My last glimpse of my physical father was on Sunday, the 16th of November, 2008, at St. Joseph’s Hospital, here in Parkdale. He was in the most ancient wing of that hospital, which has an unfortunate reputation. For even from the newer wings, “no one gets out alive.” This reputation is surely exaggerated, and my papa would be the first to laugh, on any day when he wasn’t dying. It was a question of energy, however: and he had little left.

From that day to this, my father has been looking at me through a hundred peep-holes, scattered about the High Doganate. These are the many common objects, that he gave me or that once he touched. It is surprising what an inventory collects, in a few decades of father-and-sonship, and with what vehement fervour each object is retained. For in each there is the presence of the man; and as one looks, the absent other seems to look back.

A time will come when I vacate Parkdale. My flat will be cleared, the books crated off by an impatient dealer, and other items junked. My sons will keep a few relics. The things that were papa’s will mostly disappear, for with me gone, there will be no one to explain them.

In a vivid dream, last night, my father was struggling with a nasty, spindly, flimsy, writing desk, of the kind we both hated. It was a very specific desk, for the original was discarded when I was in high school. But here it was again, in my dream, and my father was pushing it towards his little beige Volkswagen (also repudiated long ago). Several other things were retrieved from my faded childhood; and even in the dream, I knew I had not spoken with my father in a long time.

So I called out, “Papa!” But he did not hear. And again I called, and again, offering to help. But he was struggling with that Sisyphean little desk. He could not hear.