It was the greyest, darkest winter I can remember.
And I do remember it, often.
The old creaking house with dark red wallpaper, lacquered beech furniture that smelled of age and ages, and father.
Father lying on the big bed, his large frame seeming to spread across its surface, skin the colour of the winter I remember.
Smelling and dying.
Father looks up at me, in his last moments. I brace for his final words, tender and remorseful, his shaking hand reaching with a final effort to touch mine.
My son, he should have said.
But it does not come, the hand does not move.
His eyes close and I am left without a father, only a grey man in the grey winter afternoon.
I have sat by the bed and the fire has gone out.
We dug father’s grave under the old wattle tree, its leaves covering the ground like jigsaw puzzle.
Mother stood by while Andy and I dug, then she said some words and we covered the calico sack with dirt.
I left and didn’t go back.
We buried Andy under the wattle tree, to the let of father. Mother is to his right.
Distant relatives and friends I do not know stood with heads bowed, then wandered off grieving for the world for losing a good man.
Now I stand alone.
This is how I remember the tree, set against a grey backdrop having thrown its leaves to the ground as if having rent itself in its anguish.
All mourn the death of good men.
But what of me? Why have I been spared, outlasted all to survive this battle against the greatest enemy? Against time.
Why do the good die and the bad remain?
I have stood here and the fire has gone out.
I wont go back. I return to the city where it seems even she is in mourning as it has drawn the cloak of winter about her shoulders, her buildings bow, her eyes are closed.
My apartment is small and sparse, like I have organised it to reflect the contents of my head. Outside a siren wails but I will not cry.
The next day I should return to work but I don’t. I won’t return. Instead I visit the lawyers and arrange for the old house to be sold. I don’t care how much. I also sell my apartment and car.
And I buy a ticket.
As I reach for it I notice the back of my hand, wrinkled and greying. I remember my fathers hand in those last moments, the words he should have said, his own hand lying still and empty on the bed, not even a quiver of remorse about it.
I buy the ticket.
A ticket to be the man my father never said I could be.