My father sent me a postcard of the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. On the back, he wrote:
“Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow
Speak gently, she can hear
the daisies grow.”
Oscar Wilde’s lines, but I knew “she” meant my mother. We both still ached from her death a year ago, though he had divorced her a decade earlier and I was a grown man myself. Then as now, he had no words for me that had not first passed through another’s lips.
I arranged to visit him while on a business trip in France. We met at a café near the airport, surrounded by other men eager to be elsewhere. Both of us ordered espresso, black, no sugar. His face was a softer, thicker version of the one I saw in the mirror each morning.
I laid the postcard on the table between us like a peace offering. “I think we should no longer be strangers,” I said softly.
He lowered his eyes, looked away. “I’m sorry, but it’s just… My brother lived with us, before you were born. I know there are… tests…”
That was the last time I saw Paris.