Another hospital bedside, another father and daughter. (Like I said, a type.) Older this time, and thus with their beliefs and biases about one another more firmly entrenched. Janet says, “I used to tell people that he never spoke regretfully about his life, but that was not true. It was just that I didn’t listen to it.” This story has all the truth and regret that bind families together, the nursing of slanted memories and misremembered grievances. It is a relief to read these things written down, to recognise our ordinary monstrous self-centredness and to acknowledge, as Janet does, the relief that others will make their choices without us and we need simply live alongside them.
Munro’s single-sentence encapsulation of a character is a thing of wonder and this story has one of my favourites: a character seen only in passing in a planetarium is described as “a man with a red face and puffy eyes, who looked as if he might be here to keep himself from going to a bar.”
First published in published in The New Yorker in May, 1978, and available online for subscribers to read here. Collected in The Moons of Jupiter, Alfred A. Knopf, 1982, and then in Selected Stories, Vintage, 1996 and Vintage Munro, Vintage, 2005