When my father was 87 he walked with a sluggish gait, could hardly force a morsel of food down, and was very hard of hearing.
His daily routine consisted of the TV, the newspaper and sunning himself, but when not doing that he would space off and fall asleep. After being cared for by my sister and me for a time, he took on a new habit– waiting for me to get home. He got to know exactly when I would get off work. In the wintertime, he would be sitting by his window, in the summertime he would be peering through the doorway in anticipation. One day I got off work late and didn’t come to check on him. The next day my sister told me that he had been laying there by the door staring off into the darkness. I wasn’t sure if it was that my father was worrying about me or just missing me. There were so many times that I would walk through the door and call his name, then sit by his side for a spell and go. When I was leaving I could feel his desperate gaze, like knives stabbing me, pleading for me not to leave, like he wanted me to stay right there by his side forever and ever, keeping him company.
Sometimes he wanted me to listen to his stories about Yan Xishan, one- time warlord of Shanxi Province, or Fu Zuoyi, who was once a Kuomintang general but later became a powerful politician for the People’s Republic of China. He told stories of scorched earth and how the Japanese or bandits came to his village robbing, pillaging, plundering and burning down everything in sight. He couldn’t hear himself speak and thought that I couldn’t either, so while he was telling his stories his voice got so loud I thought his windpipe would burst. There were so many times that he would get confused and keep calling people by the wrong name. I couldn’t help busting a gut, but at the same time my heart twisted into knots. I know it was just that he was getting