I put my hand on Dad’s arm and get close to his face and I think, God, he looks old. He looks like Grandad.
His skin is too thin. Not papery — not that frail— but like the corners of a paperback that have been crumpled up and smoothed out one time too many. Each crease seems to be etched deeper than it was just twenty minutes ago. When the blood was still going round.
Maybe nothing has changed at all. I mean, when did I last look at his face like this? Taking in every freckle and every clogged pore as if they’re the brushstrokes of a painting I hope never to forget. Perhaps not ever.
Yes, he looks exactly like Grandad. The resemblance was always there, of course it was, but right now he’s the spit of him. A bit less grey, maybe. A bit more heavy set. But I could be going on false memory, patchy after all these years. It’s a decade since I last saw Grandad in anything but photographs.
I remember the day Dad came home in the dark with an armful of treats — bottle of whiskey for him and Mum, tubes of Smarties for my brother and I. He handed out the goodies right after telling us of Grandad’s Great Big Heart Attack. Not treats, then. Consolation prizes. They were Smarties to drown sorrows with. We tucked right in.
I cried, not just because Grandad was gone, but because it was rare to see a man like Dad look that crushed and worn out. I felt sorry for him. He’d just lost his daddy.
And I look at Dad now and feel sorry for him all over again, even more so, because I really understand it. I know now how it is to have your dad there every day of your whole life until, in a moment that both goes by in a flash and lasts forever, he’s not anymore. To see all the crumples in his skin after the blood stops going round and think… God, he looks old. When did that happen?
I can’t decide if I want whiskey or Smarties. I think both.