My father and I would take an annual walk on the sandbars in Provincetown to take stock of our lives together. After feeling that he was my nemesis for years, I began to appreciate how similar we were. He became more affectionate and emotionally expressive. By the late ’80s, his own mother and father were dead, and sometimes he would burst into tears, crying that he had become “an orphan.” He began talking about mortality, predicting that he would die at the same age as his father, 69. He told me that he didn’t believe in an afterlife and would be “annihilated” after his death, which seemed like an oddly vivid choice of words, as if he was describing the obliteration of atomic particles or an entire city. But his worst fear was becoming an invalid. If I’m ever a vegetable, he would say, just pull the plug.