I’m sitting on the verandah with my father, not looking at the view. He’s sick, with the kind of advanced condition you don’t know you’ll come back from. One end of a line runs directly to his heart, the other end dangles from under his arm. His distinguishing feature—a moustache—is gone. What’s left of his hair is thin and shaved short against his skull. His head is back, his eyes are closed against the sun.
We sit this way for a while in companionable silence, something I’ve come to recognise as a disposition—genetics, or something else—that I’ve inherited from him, a need for company without the talking. We all know what will happen next week: he’ll get a call to go back to hospital for a second round of chemo; I’ll self-consciously slip socks and shoes on his knotted feet and tie up his laces; noticing his ankles, one replaced years earlier and still swollen, the other surgically fused to stop the pain of bone rubbing bone. For three weeks or maybe longer, he’ll be confined to four hospital-grey walls with a window that won’t open, and no visitors allowed.
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