I thought of my father today for a moment or two. Wondered how his death had felt to him. Imagined him in the narrow room off the kitchen in the Budapest apartment, the room designed for a maid, the room that had originally belonged to my great aunt Dora, my grandmother’s sister, the designated artist. The family has lived in this apartment for over 80 years.
My mother told me that when my sister visited there recently she objected to sleeping in that room because my father had died there. My aunt had responded that it was impossible to find a room in that apartment where no one had died.
I just thought of my father being the first and the only one of us five to die, to have crossed over that mysterious border. My father, whose reputation amongst his wife and children, holds little dignity, yet he’s done what none of us have done. That’s what I thought this afternoon.
I remember the small room off the kitchen where my father slept in a single bed against the wall, in the corner. Above the bed hung an oil painting he was proud of because his cousin had painted it. He led me to believe that this cousin was a well known painter in Hungary, something I don’t think is true though I have been in that man’s home and seen that he was a true artist, devoting his life to it.
My father also had on the wall framed black and white photos of his parents in their soft, handsome youth.
The window of this room let in the only direct sun of the whole apartment, and only for a few minutes in the morning. My father pointed this out to me and spoke of how he wanted to plant red geraniums in the window boxes.
My mother had red geraniums in window boxes when I was little. She brought them into the dining room in winter. I did not like their furry leaves, the unrelenting red color.
Living in Athens 25 years later I saw balcony upon balcony filled with geraniums in pinks and fucia, and when I returned to Manhattan I sought to duplicate that profusion on the tiny balcony overlooking Washington Square Park, and at every place I have lived ever since, welcoming geraniums, even red ones, so willing to bloom and add color.
Though my father only made me angry on that trip, always caring for things I did not care about, insisting and pushing, we were frequently at odds, blowing up at each other one night like lovers, him storming out the door, we reunite in the morning, catching the train we were scheduled to catch, saying nothing of the night before.