I was eleven when my father was diagnosed with cirrhosis. Mother and I visited him at the hospital a few times. He was scrawny and sad. I pitied him, but I was not too sorrowful. Only frightened.
A few weeks later, on a September afternoon, mother picked me up from school.
‘We’ve brought father home today,’ she told me. ‘He’s going to die soon.’
She paused and looked down at me.
‘Will we managed on our own?’
I didn’t answer.
A week later they buried father. As the coffin was lowered into the grave, everyone cried according to their gender, rank, and station, except a short and frail little boy dressed in black. Me.
I wonder why.
My father never hit me. He rarely raised his voice at me. When I was little he took me to swimming lessons, which I detested. After I had become interested in football he accompanied me to the park. Sometimes we watched football on TV.
He was grumpy most of the time. After he lost his job, he sat all day on the couch and watched TV. He spoke little. And he did not get along with mother. They often quarrelled.
And then each time I went out with him and saw in a shop window a toy or a comic book and I asked him if he could buy it for me he said he did not have money. But on our way back home we always stopped in a cheap bar, where he had at least one strong drink. He always bought me orange juice, but that didn’t improve my disposition much.
Ten years have passed since my father died, and I seldom think of him. Last year I went to the cemetery for the first time in years. It took me a while to find his grave. I touched the tombstone but I felt nothing.
Once mother said that while she was pregnant with me father used to drink and go out with other women. She might have passed her grief to unborn me.
I might have cried in her womb.
Perhaps that’s why I didn’t cry when my father died.