One of the saddest and most defining memories was watching him sitting at a sunlit dappled table on the lower deck of our restaurant in Hout Bay. He appeared to be sipping a glass of white wine and watching the sun seared, lazy ocean swell. What he was really doing however was waiting for customers.
It was our opening day and the restaurant was empty. The expression on his slightly wizened face was one of inscrutable complexity, unless you knew him well. On the outer surface of his skin there was calmness and irreverence while in the muscle was displayed concern and weariness. In his bones however, a deeper emotion lived, a sense of dignity.
That was what saddened me. For months he had been working with my mother, building this place, drawing the capital from some abyss that only he possessed the keys to. They had relocated from Johannesburg, along with most of the family, travelling across the country to Cape Town. They came with a dream.
And now, the dream was being tested and the car park remained empty. He sat there until after dark, nursing one glass of wine, patient and determined. At last he got up and walked slowly back inside, his shoulders arched ever so slightly.
Now as I sit beside his bed in this dank and morbid hospital, as he hovers on the edge of some lightless place, his face seems to register the same emotions. In his posture he is resistant and hopeful, showing off for me. In his eyes I read confusion and fear.
His eyes are blank in a way I have never seen them before. His spirit seems to be passing into me, as if he is staying awake long enough to make sure that I get his power. I have fought to be in this position, beside his bed. A life time of anger had to be released and forgiven.
He is holding my hand. It is like holding a piece of cool, damp bark. He has never held my hand before. Through his skin I can feel his bones and, like that moment in the afternoon sun, years before, I can feel his pulse. I don’t know if he will make it through the night but whatever else happens from this point; his dignity will pulse in time with mine.
I love you dad.