“Beyond Harm”
Sharon Olds

A week after my father died
suddenly I understood
his fondness for me was safe—nothing
could touch it. In those last months,
his face would sometimes brighten when I would
enter the room, and his wife said
that once, when he was half asleep,
he smiled when she said my name. He respected
my spunk—when they tied me to the chair, that time,
they were tying up someone he respected, and when
he did not speak, for weeks, I was one of the
beings to whom he was not speaking,
someone with a place in his life. The last
week he even said it, once,
by mistake. I walked into his room, and said “How
are you,” and he said, “I love you
too.” From then on, I had
that word to lose. Right up to the last
moment, I could make some mistake, offend him, and with
one of his old mouths of disgust he could re-
skew my life. I did not think of it,
I was helping to take care of him,
wiping his face and watching him.
But then, a while after he died,
I suddenly thought, with amazement, he will always
love me now, and I laughed—he was dead, dead!

Advertisements