The last time I saw my father, he was waiting to die. He was the last one left in the third floor apartment where we lived during my high school and college years. My mother was dead, her last days spent in Bellevue. My sister and brother were married and gone. Dad's throat had been cut out, laryngial cancer. He wrote notes and handed them to me as we talked. We never talked much when he had a voice, but talking isn't about vocal cords. Now that it was harder to communicate, we tried harder. We talked more.
The apartment was spare. The night table by the bed was bleached white where spills from the half gallon bottle of Four Roses blended whiskey left streaks on the mahogany veneer. Before the battle was lost, we all tried to get him to stop drinking. Now it was all he had left. It served a distinct function. What did it matter how he fought the pain?
He and I were left with worthless words. We were left with touch. I hugged my father for the first time since I was a child, for the first time since I became a man, for the last time.