“Three days later, in Paris,

Dr. Juvenal Urbino received a telegram during supper with friends, and he toasted the memory of his father with champagne. He said: ‘He was a good man.’ Later he would reproach himself for his lack of maturity: he had avoided reality in order not to cry. But three weeks later he received a copy of the posthumous letter, and then he surrendered to the truth. All at once the image of the man he had known before he knew any other was revealed to him in all its profundity, the man who had raised him and taught him and had slept and fornicated with his mother for thirty-two years and yet who, before that letter, had never revealed himself body and soul because of timidity, pure and simple. Until then Dr. Juvenal Urbino and his family had conceived of death as a misfortune that befell others, other people’s fathers and mothers, other people’s brothers and sisters and husbands and wives, but not theirs. They were people whose lives were slow, who did not see themselves growing old, or falling sick, or dying, but who disappeared little by little in their own time, turning into memories, mists from other days, until they were absorbed into oblivion. His father’s posthumous letter, more than the telegram with the bad news, hurled him headlong against the certainty of death. And yet one of his oldest memories, when he was nine years old perhaps, perhaps when he was eleven, was in a way an early sign of death in the person of his father. One rainy afternoon the two of them were in the office his father kept in the house; he was drawing larks and sunflowers with colored chalk on the tiled floor, and his father was reading by the light shining through the window, his vest unbuttoned and elastic armbands on his shirt sleeves. Suddenly he stopped reading to scratch this back with a long-handled back scratcher that had a little silver hand on the end. Since he could not reach the spot that itched, he asked his son to scratch him with his nails, and as the boy did so he had the strange sensation of not feeling his own body. At last his father looked at him over his shoulder with a sad smile.

‘If I die now,’ he said, ‘you would hardly remember me when you are my age.’

He said it for no apparent reason, and the angel of death hovered for a moment in the cool shadows of the office and flew out again through the window, leaving a trail of feathers fluttering in his wake, but the boy did not see them. More than twenty years had gone by since then, and Juvenal Urbino would soon be as old as his father was that afternoon. He knew he was identical to him, and to that awareness had now been added the awful consciousness that he was also as mortal.”

– Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (p. 113-114)


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