Ascension of Affection

521
Lucinda Palme

Ascension of Affection

Sofi Pedersdotter has arrived at her nonagenarian father’s fifth-floor flat in an apartment overlooking another block in Redbergsplatsen one of the densely concretized spots of Gotheburg.

Bengt Pedersson had already prepared the breakfast and set the table, ready. He had prepared pancakes, placed the jars of blueberry and raspberry jams on the table along with a jug of water and a mug of milk, freshly-brewed coffee, wedges of cantaloupe melon and cutlery.

Meeting his daughter Sofi over breakfast has become the most important day for him in a year: more important than any other day in a year. All the more, she invariably definitely absolutely arrives for a day in a year: on her father’s birthday around in ascensional month around Ascension’s Day.

“Happy birthday, daddy,” Sofi greeted the father after removing her footwear by the door, and gave him a hug as he stood slightly humped, slightly shivering in arms, and slightly tearful at an outburst of an emotion. She thumped her handbag by the table, hung her jacket around the back of the chair of the dining table, and looked around –  what she can do or put in place on the table before she sat at the table. There is nothing I can do, he has prepared everything, she answered to herself and felt sweetly overwhelmed by her father’s gesture. Though on a shoe-string budget, he is generous man and a generous father, she reflected.

Living on a pension less than an asylum-seeker’s income: her liberalism encountered the right-winger’s point on ill-liberalism.

They sat: dining table is small; but cosily accommodated two chairs. They started to partake the pancakes; daughter ate faster than father. She likes his pancakes. Savouring them she thought how much time he would have had taken to prepare them ‘probably two days’. She noticed that her father was eating slower than last year and she detected the shivers in his uncontrollable arms (more than last year). He struggled to hide the shivers from her but the shivers showed.

Daughter asked, father answered; father asked, daughter answered.

Father’s real world is growing smaller and smaller. His contemporaries and friends and peers have left to faraway places from him, far away. 

Sofia is almost the only person who has become his window to the world beyond his flat saving for the information and entertainment he strugglingly accessed from television and newspapers. For almost a decade, she has been visiting him once or twice or thrice in a year but certainly on his birthday.

With her annual visits, Bengt has been noticing that his daughter’s lifestyle is becoming poorer and poorer: no regular job, cheap clothes and in expensive habits. She is in neither middle-income nor in the high-income group. Yet, her natural beauty shone on her face like the Scandinavian sun, however rarely it shines, and her hairs has accrued natural radiance without the touch of a hairstylist or the hairstylist’s peroxide.

Discreetly, father cast his glance on the jacket of his daughter hung on the chair. The same jacket, since he can remember. The jacket appeared usable from outside but inside the sleeves were hand-sewn to prevent further tear due to overuse. Greasy patches beyond removal shone inside the jacket’s collar and armpits and sleeves. He wished she should buy a new jacket. When she was young, she always picked up the best and the expensive garments, and insisted to go to the hairstylist who gave a radical touch to the hairs rather than enriching the substance of her hair.

Sofi stood up, and opened the window. Spring’s air breezed into the flat. She smelt pollen. She sneezed.

Bengt got up to use the washroom. He returned after fifteen minutes with a manilla envelope. He placed it next to her plate. She asked what is it? He said, a card. She got up and kissed her father’s cheek. She felt his stubble on her lips. He asked, did it hurt? No, she said, tenderly with her affections for the father ascending with each successive visit, year after year after year.

Prior to her visit, father decided if his daughter would come wearing the same jacket, he should handover the cover with his savings for a year along with the summer vacation money. For the first time in his life, he abstained from going anywhere outside Gothenburg for the summer.

Thank you daddy, she said chucking the cover into her tattering handbag, without knowing what is inside the cover. She started to clear the table and wash the cutlery before she left her father.

Again, around for the next Ascension.

—Lucinda Palme