My father’s palms have been tan with darkish blue veins. His left hand was darker than his proper, from years of smoking a cigar out the window of his 1965 Mustang.
Throughout synagogue companies, we regularly performed a recreation the place he’d make a decent fist and I’d tried to pry his fingers unfastened, one after the other. As soon as all of the fingers have been launched, I’d draw letters on his palm and slide my fingers alongside his veins, pretending I may transfer the blood to his wrists. His nails have been all the time brief with rounded edges and buffed to a shine. This was as a consequence of weekly skilled manicures.
After I was rising up within the ’70s and ’80s, I used to be embarrassed by my father’s weekly manicures. I discovered it unusual to consider him coming into what I thought of a lady’s house to do a lady’s factor. However by the point I reached school, I used to be bragging about my father’s peculiar ritual. To me, it stated lots about him. My dad was a German Jew whose mom helped him escape the Holocaust. For him, having clear nails (and monogrammed shirts) signaled triumph. Plus, he wished them to really feel good. He was an accountant who spent a part of every day licking his fingers whereas flipping by W-2s.
We’re made up of our particulars. The way in which we maintain espresso mugs, unhook bras, or pronounce jewellery. Alzheimer’s started stripping away my father’s particulars and changing them with new compulsive ones, like choosing fuzz off his pants, flicking his tongue to at least one facet of his mouth, and, sadly, biting his nails.
When he started the biting, I’d inform him to cease. “Lower it out, Dad. You’d hate that,” I’d say, as if the previous him would possibly present up unexpectedly. I’d rub his palms with lavender lotion, hoping the odor or style would discourage the biting. I requested him to inform me about his manicures, considering the recollections would possibly deter the behavior. He couldn’t bear in mind getting manicures.
For the final 5 years of his life, he lived in a nursing residence, in a locked wing for folks with superior dementia. This part of the ability was known as Recollections. After I first toured it, I stated to the supervisor, “Recollections is a bizarre title for a house for folks with reminiscence points.” She instructed me I wasn’t the primary individual to say that.
I preferred to reach at dinnertime at Recollections. Consuming gave my father and me one thing to do collectively. The employees would hand me a plate of no matter was served that night time. Filet of fish, meatloaf, marinara pasta. Dad would have a look at me, smile and shrug, as he typically did pre-Alzheimer’s. As soon as, he leaned over the meatloaf and introduced, “That is all bullshit.” I agreed. It was all bullshit.
Generally I’d carry his favourite snack, tart Granny Smith apples. Dad all the time peeled his apples earlier than slicing them into exact half circles. He invariably used the identical small paring knife and whipped off the pores and skin in a single piece earlier than inserting it over my neck like a necklace.
On the nursing residence, I attempted to duplicate his method however by no means succeeded. Towards the top, when he stopped consuming however nonetheless stared at me together with his foggy eyes, I’d rub an apple slice alongside his backside lip as a result of it might trigger him to the touch his mouth together with his index finger, maybe recalling the motions of consuming. For this cut up second, he’d come to life.
Final night time there was a full moon, so I did what I typically do. I went exterior and talked to my father. This behavior started quickly after he died, so for almost 10 years I’ve been speaking to the moon. I simply inform him what I did that day and if I met anybody new. He preferred interacting with strangers. I image him strolling round at the hours of darkness, smoking his cigar, asking folks what they do for a dwelling. I faux there’s a manicurist on the moon, who can nonetheless contact his fingers and preserve them clear.
Rebecca Handler is a author in San Francisco. Rebecca’s tales have been printed and awarded in a number of anthologies, and she or he blogs commonly at One Lady Occasion. Edie Richter Is Not Alone, her debut novel, was printed in March 2021, obtained a Kirkus Starred Evaluate, and was longlisted for the Middle for Fiction First Novel Prize. It not too long ago got here out in paperback and is obtainable to buy right here. Rebecca, a latest MacDowell Fellow, is writing her second novel. She additionally wrote about her most cancers analysis for Cup of Jo.
P.S. Extra on grief, together with how Amy Bloom helped her husband die on his personal phrases, the way to write a condolence notice, and Joanna visiting her grandmother with dementia.
(Photograph by BONNINSTUDIO/Stocksy.)