For brief seconds, it appears he wears makeup to convince the world he is almost eighty. Odd patches of increased pigmentation dots his cheeks, brow and hairline. What is this disguise and why is my father wearing this old face?
In December he will turn eighty and my sisters would like to visit and celebrate. He sees no reason for a party, whether we would travel a hundred miles, or thousands. We discuss this on the walk home from the Indian restaurant; one of the few places open on a Sunday evening. His right knee is new, he calls it his DuPont knee. His swing is somewhat shorter on this side than the left, his shoe hits the ground at mid-foot under him, rather than hitting with his heel, in front. For the past few days, the left knee has been bothering him. He can’t recall how he might have strained it. The pace is slow, half as slow as the normal walking tempo. His chin tends to drift downward, and his gaze turns towards the ground, and his wife reminds him to put his chin up, and for a bit, his eyes settle on the scenery in front of him.
I see the tremor in his left hand when he is due for medication. He performs most movements slowly; bringing individual salads to the dinner table one at a time, rather than carrying a salad bowl in either hand. When he holds a mug or cup, the liquid inside lists precariously to the side.
In the middle of the night I hear him talking in his sleep. He’s having a conversation with someone. He talks loudly and articulately, then pauses as though listening for the person’s reply. He’s speaking again, and I wonder whether he’s really on the phone. I don’t understand the words, only the cadence of sentences and I drift back to sleep wondering about all the times I heard my father on the phone, while I slept in the adjoining room. Later he tells me the house we lived in had only eight hundred square feet.
When he was younger he cut his hair short, so short he looked almost balding. Now his straight white hair stands up. It covers his entire head and I muss my hand through it and tell him his hair is wonderful longer. His eyebrows retain some darker shades of grey and grow like wild bushes high and curling towards his brow. He seems content. When I ask him what he is doing when I catch him in his chair, he tells me he ‘s sitting. I take the chair in the other corner and sit with him.