Memories in Ink

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Special thanks to Mariahajile and Alex for helping me pretty this up. I couldn't have done it without you. Bornonhalloween and Shalu, thank you for your help with the cover art!

In memory of Katalina and the incredible people who touch our lives, leaving behind a mark that cannot be erased.

Memories in Ink

I looked out into the sea of proud faces and found my mother, hands clasped in her lap, a small smile gracing her lips. Behind the pleased façade, an aura of sadness draped around her, making her shoulders sag. Her smile faltered as I caught her gaze. Beside her, my younger sister texted away, oblivious to my mother's conflicted pain. What should have been a joyous occasion was tainted by the absence of my father. His death had rocked us all. My mother suffered the most, his sudden departure from this world sending hers into upheaval. Today, as I walked across the stage and accepted my diploma, I felt the loss acutely. He was my staunchest supporter, the one person whose wisdom I sought at each fork in the road. Without him on this day, I felt unbalanced. 

Afterward, we went for a quiet dinner at dad's favorite restaurant. Mom tried to keep it together, but the wounds were too fresh. Only three months had passed, and the trip down memory lane wasn't manageable for her. As the only son, I adopted the role of caretaker, stepping into the shoes of the man I had revered. I drove them home while mom sniffled beside me and my sister sat sullenly in the back seat. The click-click-clicking of her incessant texting grated on my nerves. I had to remind myself she was young and struggling to cope, just like the rest of us. 

That night, while my fellow graduates celebrated the beginning of life beyond the protective shield of university classes, I sat on the living room couch with my weeping mother and pored over dad's art portfolio. How my priorities had changed in a few short months. We paused at each page and she would tell me a story, painting a more detailed picture of the man I called my father. I missed him. I missed our candid conversations about life and what the future might bring during our morning runs. I felt cheated out of the opportunity to know him beyond the formative years of personal screw-ups and learning from mistakes. At twenty-five, there lay before me a road untraveled, but I felt lost without the guidance I had taken for granted. 

"He would have been so proud of you," she said quietly, fingers drifting over the lines that created an image of her own face. It was so intricate in detail, it looked like a photograph. 

"I know." 

"I miss him terribly." 

"Me, too." 

I didn't tell her it would be okay or that it would get better. I didn't tell her anything. Nor did she try to placate me with insincere words of reassurance. Instead, I wrapped my arm around her shoulder and we grieved together, me for the father I had lost, her for the future that had disappeared. 

~*~ 

3 MONTHS LATER 

I shelved the still warm plate and grabbed another from the dish rack. The dishwasher had broken yesterday, and mom hadn't known what to do. I called in the repairman. It was one of those simple things dad would have taken care of in the past, but now he wasn't here to do it. Instead, I stopped by a couple of times a week, had dinner, mowed the lawn, and took care of the essentials. It was the new normal.  

"Are you sure you want to put the house on the market?" I asked. 

My mother sighed. "No, but I don't think I can live here anymore." 

"How's Lindsay feel about it?" 

"She told me I was a selfish bitch and locked herself in her room." Her voice hitched, and her eyes welled with tears. That explained my mother's transparent excuse about Lindsay being under the weather when she refused to eat dinner with us. 

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