Ah mayseh, he would have said in Yiddish: a yarn. Believe that and she’ll tell you another one.
Another one is this: even as we sat on the wooden benches discussing cryogenics, he was easing a splinter off the edge of the table to dislodge a last bit of lunch from between his teeth.
When I was in the third grade I had a brand-new slim spelling book, for which I made my usual cover, out of a brown paper A&P bag. Though I liked the smell and feel of the book, the spelling lists and exercises were contemptibly simple, as innocuous as the large sans-serif type. So I tried them out on my father, who had come to the U.S. at age eighteen and never had much formal education.
The last few days I saw my father alive, I took some satisfaction in spooning Ensure into him. Vitamin pudding from a can. Another day, another sunset that signalled its indifference through the windows of his room at the nursing home.
The next day, when I proffered a spoonful of pudding, he clenched his teeth. He was still present in his eyes, and they were defiant. The spoon clacked again against enamel. He was finished with living.
My mother and I were sitting at the dinette table in the house where I grew up and she still lived. No tooth marks, just two people face to face, two years after my father’s death. I was sure I heard her bones crunch when I said maybe it was time to stop mourning, to seek people out again, enjoy the everyday. I’m not mourning for him anymore, she said. I’m mourning for my own life.