When I was young, I didn’t understand the tiredness my Dad frequented me with. I didn’t get that eyes could hurt in their orbits; that knees could wax; that the oomph and the aaahh when you breathe were not automatic anymore; that you had to propel the engine forward, as it were, through sheer effort.
Now, I am 35 and my Dad is in his sixties. I pretend to understand the granularity of his organs; I see the veins popping out of my (old) hands, too. I wish I could sleep at night, without the death-mask; I wish I could walk, without the lubricant. And I am starting to understand his sense of humour: the little salt he used to add to each wound; the twinkle of pepper he sprayed between the nostrils, spread out like duvet between the toenails.
Oh, Papa. I wish you could see me, now. With a full set of lungs between my ribs and tiredness just enough to make me thankful that the air is not so carcinogenic. I wish I could have known these things when I was, say, fifteen, and I thought all your stories of Gulags were lame. I wish I could have whisked you some of my fairytales and fireflies, then. I was so sure, you could have used some, then, against your sorrow. Now, not anymore.