|Robert Steinberg, at home in Colorado in February.|
“This is a beautiful house,” my father says, sitting in our living room, looking around. “Everything is so perfect.”
Our house is 115 years old and not at all perfect. More like a tottering jumble. The aluminum siding is dinged and piebald. Paint peels off the radiator in front of him. There are gaps in the scarred floorboards at his feet. The window panes are loose. One stairway banister snapped in half and is inexpertly repaired.
“Thank you Dad,” I say. “We like it.”
I don’t argue with my father, don’t correct him. He can observe the same thing, or ask the same question, over and over, and I reply in a steady, patient voice.
“Thanks Dad. It’s home.”
I first noticed him doing it 10 years ago, when we were visiting my parents in Colorado. Dad got stuck on a book coming out.
“This book, how long is it?” he’d say.
“Two hundred and fifty-six pages,” I’d answer.
Ten minutes later.
“And this book you’ve written. How long is it?”
“Two hundred and fifty-six pages, Dad,” I’d answer.
In February, we moved him and mom here. He started in on a new question.
“When do you think you’ll retire?”
“Never, Dad. They froze our pension in 2009.”
“Are you retired?”
“No Dad, not in the usual sense of the word.”
One benefit of this repetition is that I can play with my responses.
“Do you think you’ll retire soon?”
“... maybe in a couple years.”
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