Their Adieus: Father & Son


Their Adieus: Father & Son

The 83-year-old man expected his 3 children and grandchildren would visit him as he had wished. His eldest son and daughter failed to turn up whom he has loved more but his 49-year-old youngest son landed at his house.

The youngest son was the least stable and most unreliable among his children. The son took out the father to complete the pending errands in the morning, visited their umbilical connection of a woman (mother and wife) couple of times to the cemetery, and returned to pack up for life.

The articles in the house were intact except for the packed ones. The father asked, “Do you want anything?”

“Nothing,” the son replied.

The father has chosen what he would take with him to the end of life home: old-age home. His clothes and two photographs fitted into two cardboard boxes. The instruction from the old-age home was clear: bring as fewer things as possible.

“Take something” the father suggested.

“I can’t carry, and I don’t need,” replied the son who has arrived from Uppsala to Gothenburg.

“Something, please,” the father reiterated.

The son looked at the things neatly arranged in the shelves, racks and wooden cabinets. He picked up the turquoise porcelain tortoise. He shoved the tortoise into a pocket of his jacket.

The father was pleased. The tortoise came from Far East Asia where his grandfather had worked for the Swedish East India Company during its last days in the nineteenth century.

“You could have brought your children,” the father murmured.

“You know,” the son answered quickly. He was married twice and divorced twice, fornicated thrice, and lived like a male moose now.  He lost the regular contact with his four children except for a word of wishing on their birthdays.

“I understand,” the father replied. The invented and institutionalised institution of marriage for over two millennia is democratically ripped apart in a couple of decades in the twentieth century in the country. He witnessed all those changes, directly and indirectly.


“Have you heard anything?” the father asked the son but he did not answer. The father expected that his 51-year-old daughter would come today. She did try to reach him via social workers because her father could not hear: he had lost the hearing even aided by an ear-machine.  His eldest son lived in the USA whom he saw two years ago. The father resented the idea of his eldest son’s immigration to the USA: There is no famine in the countryside. There is no dearth of opportunities in the towns. And at a time, when every citizen can make a living of one’s choice in Sweden.

The father understood the youngest son’s failure to reply: estranged from his siblings, too.

The son went down with the two boxes to place them in the car. The father sat alone: all the things of life were boxed up in two boxes for the last leg of his life. He rued: The old age robs away to be on your own. Since his wife had died unexpectedly a decade ago to the cancer, he had lived alone, made new routines and engaged himself with relative joys of retirement though the Christmases were spent alone.

The son returned, and helped his father to the elevator. A view of Gothenburg flashed and started to disappear quickly, and they landed at the ground floor. The car sped towards the city centre. The son parked the car in front of the Fish Church separated by the canal. They walked at the pace of a tortoise towards the fish market and restaurants housed in the Fish Church savouring each second of the journey.

All his life, the father worked as a fishmonger.

After the lunch, they started their journey to the car park. At one point of time, it took the father less than three minutes to reach either from the car park or tram- and bus-stop. Today it took them almost half an hour.

Their silence and the motion of walk tethered them to those invisible feelings.

They sat in the car, and it zoomed towards the old-age home.

The father looked at his driving son, and raised his hand: one more time, please. They had been together to the grave twice in the day. The father wanted to see the mother of his son, one more time, possibly the last time.

The son stopped the car, and held his father’s hand, “Sure, dad.”


—Lucinda Palme


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