from ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow” by William Maxwell

“When my father was an old man, he surprised me by remarking that he understood what my mother’s death meant to me but had no idea what to do about it. I think it would have been something if he had just said this. If he didn’t it was possibly because he thought there was nothing he or anybody else could do. Or he may have thought I would reject any help he tried to give me. As a small child I sometimes had the earache, and I would go to him and ask him to blow cigar smoke in my ear. He would stop talking and draw me toward him and with his lips almost touching my ear breathe warm smoke into it. It was as good a remedy as any, and it was physically intimate. One night – I don’t know how old I was, five or six, maybe – bedtime came and I kissed my mother good night as usual and then went over to my father and as I leaned toward him he said I was too old for that anymore. By the standards of the time and that place I expect I was, but I had wanted to anyway. And how was I to express the feeling I had for him? He didn’t say then or ever. In that moment my feeling for him changed and became wary and unconfident.”

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