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  1. Santa Cruz, Bolivia, February, 2010. Dad at his 99th birthday dinner party.

    Santa Cruz, Bolivia, February, 2010. Dad at his 99th birthday dinner party.

    When I arrived in Bolivia to see him on his 99th birthday, he looked remarkably well. A geriatric bicycle (no wheels, just pedals) had given him a bit more of strength. His doctor was happy that he felt healthier and I could also see that his balance was not too bad either. What was a bit concerning was that he seemed to find it more difficult to stand up. For years already he would find it very difficult, if not impossivle, to get up from the floor. There were some relatively slow and harmless falls that he had and he would rather wait for someone to help him up. In any case, I could see that he had a harder time trying to stand up from a seating position.

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    At his birthday dinner he had a good time. My half siblings showed up along with their families as well as my aunt's family and her daughter's family too. My father was happy to see everyone and drank a couple of glasses of wine. It was difficult to tell whether the wine had some effect on him because his balance wasn't as good. We had a nice evening and we left the dinner roughly around midnight.

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    Most of the time he was in a good mood, doing his exercises. For the few days my sister stayed in Bolivia, it looked as if we had gone back in time for a few days. Back to 2000, before my sister left to the US. All four of us were at the same apartment, it was a very nice time and my father was happy to see the four members of our nuclear family together, again.

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    For those couple of weeks that I was in Bolivia I would see that he had aged and was showing that he was truly in his 90s, but not 99. When I left, I was looking forwards seeing him in London again, later that year.

  2. Santa Cruz, Bolivia, February, 2010. Dad at home getting ready to go to bed.

    Santa Cruz, Bolivia, February, 2010. Dad at home getting ready to go to bed.

    For a moment there I felt like I was 17 or 18 again. I could spend time with my father not worrying too much about other things in life. I could give him company while he took a shower and help him get ready before heading off for a coffee. The main difference this time was that a cup of coffee was not as cheap as in 2000. It cost almost as much as a cup of coffee in London. That pretty much washed the taste off of it, for both of us.

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    For a moment, as well, I felt like I was aging as much as he was. Particularly seeing the ever changing aspect of social life in a place I could then barely recognize.

  3. Santa Cruz, Bolivia, February, 2010. Dad in his bedroom at home.

    Santa Cruz, Bolivia, February, 2010. Dad in his bedroom at home.

    One thing I very much miss about him are his idiosyncrasies. There were things that he was idiosyncratic about, like buying deodorants for example. If you were unlucky enough, you would find yourself the subject of public embarrassment. During my teenage years, my family often had Fridays as the "grocery shopping" day, when all things, groceries and others, for the coming week would be bought on that day. My father kept a close eye at what was in the shopping trolley and once he picked up this deodorant can from the trolley while on the till paying for the groceries. With his deep and loud voice, he said: "why would you have to pay X pesos for something a lemon can do?". I looked around and everybody was looking at us with the type of smile that borders a full blown laugh. "What a barbarity!". That was his expression!, in dismissal and critique, denoting his opinion on something that lacked common sense or culture. To him, anyone's choice to buy deodorants was a lack of common sense. Never mind buying fragrances. He said to me once: "Women like the rough smell of men". I now think about it a bit more, and wonder whether he was actually bothered by the smell of fragrances and deodorants, or that particular part of hygiene culture, or the fact that people were willing to pay to smell nicer. In any case, he was in his 80s when he said that and I am sure he had no reason to even consider caring about it.

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    On another occasion, while two of his grandchildren visited us in Bolivia, we went to a nice restaurant. We were eating outdoors and while we all finished our meals, my father saw a fly landing on the salad bowl where everyone sourced salad from. He grabbed the serving spoon and began to smash the fly, vigorously, on the salad itself. The noise he made prompted everyone around us to stare at our table. He then shamelessly clapped his hands, very loudly, calling the waiter in a manner that no one does today (let's remember his age). When the waiter came, my father asked for the salad to be taken away and asked for the chef to be complimented for such a good meal. He said this while keeping a serious face.

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    Let's all remember again: "Don't take life too seriously".

  4. In August 2010, my parents arrived in London and my father wanted to go back to Hungary again.

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    While in London, I saw that he was more tired than usual. His incontinence was also worse. His mood was good, as usual. The weather was overall nice and we were able to go out to central London quite often. We had a chance to eat a couple of Korean restaurants so my parents would try something new.

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    After some days in London, dad and I left to Hungary. We arrived in the early afternoon and he took a nap when we got into our hotel room. The following day we went to the passport office to request a renewal of his passport. As it took a while to do this (and he could not take a short nap while that was getting sorted out) he got a bit tired. To make the best of the nice day, I proposed to walk back to the more central area of Budapest to go for a coffee, pushing the wheelchair. That day we were supposed to leave to his hometown, Szombathely, to see Mrs Pippy and her family. We were invited to say at hers while we were in Hungary. We were supposed to spend most of our time in Hungary there.

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    At the coffee shop, I brought the coffee to the table and asked him if he wanted to take a nap in the hotel while I went to the station to get the train tickets to Szombathely. He said he felt tired and asked me, in a rather unusual manner and tone of voice, if we could stay another night in Budapest at the hotel. I said it was fine and so we spent an extra night in Budapest. The following day we left the hotel and went straight to the train station. We got two tickets and, unlike the year before, my father said to me: "Buy first class". I did and we left to Szombathely in first class. Although he said this several times in previous trips when we took trains, in recent years he never asked for first class train tickets, so this time it felt rather unusual.

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    I thought he was feeling nostalgic. When we arrived in Szombathely, we went straight to Mrs Pippy's house. Unfortunately, we only stayed at hers for one night. Although my father accepted to stay as a guest at hers, he was uncomfortable enough on her sofa-bed that he hardly slept. For that reason alone (and it is a very good reason), we checked into a hotel. It was difficult to explain the reasons for us to retire our agreement as guests to say at Mrs Pippy's, but with plenty of apologies it was decided that going to a hotel was best.

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    I get a funny feeling today thinking of those minutes in the coffee shop when dad requested to stay an extra night in Budapest. It still feels unusual and I get very sensitive when thinking about it because I had this strange sensation when I unquestionably agreed to his request without thinking, just feeling that something was in the air.

  5. London, United Kingdom, August, 2010. Dad drinking his coffee before going to sleep. Dad woke up a few times throughout the night for a few minutes and he would often just sit down or take a leak. During these "breaks" he would sip his coffee which he almost religiously had on his bedside table every night. Sometimes he would even have some small bread nibbles to go with it.

    London, United Kingdom, August, 2010. Dad drinking his coffee before going to sleep. Dad woke up a few times throughout the night for a few minutes and he would often just sit down or take a leak. During these "breaks" he would sip his coffee which he almost religiously had on his bedside table every night. Sometimes he would even have some small bread nibbles to go with it.

  6. Arriving in Hungary, August, 2010.

    Arriving in Hungary, August, 2010.

  7. My father knew that, should he leave Szombathely, he was not going to be able to come back to it again because of his age. I think it was the first time that anyone would hear this, when he said to me: "I think this is the end of these long journeys. I am too tired". I said it was quite sensible that he realised that making intercontinental journeys was too much for someone his age. Just to manage getting on three international flights at the age of 99 deserved enough recognition. So, planning another journey back to Hungary at the age of 100 would have been too much.

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    I updated my blog on the first week of September with photographs of this trip. There were, too, reflections on how I saw my father age and the fact that he was overall feeling more tired than usual. Gabo emailed me after I emailed the blog link to my contacts. He wanted me to get in touch with him. Throughout our time in Szombathely we relaxed, went on walks, visited coffee shops, drank and ate Hungarian food and wine all throughout, courtesy of Mrs Pippy. We visited the Jewish cemetery once more. Some years before this visit, he had commissioned a tombstone with the names of his family members that died in the Holocaust. My first memory of that cemetery was when he and I visited it in 2005. I was beginning the series of photographs you now see. Then, while looking at the tombstone with the names of his family members,  he said to me: "Here are all of them. The only one missing here is me".

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    At almost midnight on the 6th of September, the night before we were scheduled to take the train back to Budapest, my father collapsed on our hotel bed. When I turned around, I saw that he was lying down on across the bed, but his legs where on the side of it as if in the sitting position (the last position I saw him in). I got up and reached for his hands to help him get back up. I asked: "What happened? Come on, I'll give you a hand". He did not respond and I got him into a sitting position while calling for him when I noticed that he was not breathing anymore.

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    For 45 minutes, paremedics tried to revive him. While they did so, I had a strange feeling that all was OK. I thought that if he was to come back, it could have been worse.

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    He aged a lot in his last year of life. He often felt cold, had a hard time getting up from a sitting position, his balance was not good and had to wear diapers to avoid rushing to the nearest toilet when on the go. He often wore a vest to keep him warm. He wore a hat whenever he went out. It was difficult and often dangerous for him to have a shower, especially if he had to step into a bath tub to have one.

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    My mother and one of my best friends arrived on the 8th while Zsuzsa and I were trying to sort out the paperwork for the burial. My father was in the morgue all that time and my mother and I asked if we could redress him before he was buried. My father was in a glass fridge covered in dark, purple, velvet-like curtains. My mom and I redressed him; changing his pajamas for a white long sleeved shirt, a pair of cream trousers, a brown leather belt, a pair of white socks, the shoes he liked the most, his warm beige hoodie sweater and the hat he bought in London before the final trip to Hungary. We dressed him with his hat and beige sweater because he would not go out without them. He was afraid of being out and feeling cold. The morgue was cold and the fridge was colder, so the natural thing was to dress him accordingly.

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    Dad had a thing for picking up coins and money from wherever he found them (in the house or on the streets). His hat had two little pockets in which you could put coins in. To be honest, the hat was double faced. It had a pocket in each face as if they were pockets for weed. Dad collected roughly five pounds in London and had them there. He then told me he had seven pounds and asked me to buy them for ten pounds. I gave him a ten pound note and then he added forty pence to that, which I think he found on my desk. At one point I added another pound. He left with eleven pounds and forty pence in his hat.

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    I can't ask for him to have lived longer. It would have been too much and really, it would have been selfish of me. I am happy for him and I applaud him, too. Having lived for so long, abroad, survived many diseases, made the final trip home, passed away peacefully and be buried where he set up that memorial tombstone for his family....what else could one ask for?