by Sharon Olds
A week after my father died suddenly I understood his fondness for me was safe – nothing could touch it. In that last year, his face would sometimes brighten when I would enter the room, and his wife said that once, when he was half asleep, he smiled when she said my name. He respected my spunk – when they tied me to the chair, that time they were tying up someone he respected, and when he did not speak, for weeks, I was one of the beings to whom he was not speaking, someone with a place in his life. The last week he even said it, once, by mistake. I walked into his room ‘How are you’ and he said ‘I love you too.’ From then on, I had that word to lose. Right up to the last moment, I could make some mistake, offend him, and with one of his old mouths of disgust he could re-skew my life. I did not think of it much, I was helping to take care of him, wiping his face and watching him. But then, a while after he died, I suddenly thought, with amazement, he will always love me now, and I laughed – he was dead, dead!