I can never forget his hands now because I only have to look at my own to remember the shape and texture of them. What shocks me still is how I only really took them in the last time I saw him alive, and it was such a surprise – to notice, to see this inheritance of mine. They were elegant and spoke of tenderness, the skin brown against the white sheet. The skin; it is my skin, the only skin I recognise by touch. First there was his, then there was mine, then my daughter’s. The first time I touched her I thought: this is my skin. It is strange, coming up against something so belonging to oneself but in another, and recognising it for the first time – because you can never know your own skin like that. And we are connected – not just to each other but to some place on earth that the people who were our ancestors inhabited. The people had skin like ours and we would know each other by touch. I sometimes wonder if there is a place in southern Spain where our lost relatives walk, holding each others’ hands, touching the baby’s cheek, with no idea that one of their people is here on this island that the Anglo Saxons and Normans made their place. One of their people is here, wanting to go home, which is the skin of her father’s hands.
I have a crystal heart. It’s the only thing I have that belonged to him, and it was something I gave him once for his birthday. He kept it on his desk, a small treasure. I tell myself this: that by holding it I make it warm, and as it warms so do we, my father and I, the substance and essence of us, always touching. Sometimes I fall asleep with it still in my hands and I wake in the middle of the night and it is there; warm as blood against me.