The prompt was "Write about 4 things that never change." As is often the case, I didn't really end up doing that.
People who are dead never change, except in our minds, where they can go through dramatic transformations. Joel knew this, because he'd once thought his father was a great man, a man who could move mountains, a man who had nearly infinite power and wisdom. Even in adulthood, Joel had believed that his father was one of the best men he'd ever known, that he was kind and strong and honest.
Then he'd died, and Joel had stood at the graveside holding his mother, small and frail in his arms, as she' clung to him and silent tears ran down her ashen cheeks. He knew she would be feeling lost without the man who had always stood beside her for nearly 50 years of marriage.
That had been several years ago now, and she'd learned to move on without him, and Joel finally felt as if it was okay to go into the attic and start sorting through some of Dad's old boxes of junk and decide what was worth keeping, what could be given away, and what could go into the garbage. Until this year, Joel's mother had still been hurting enough that asking to toss out anything that had once belonged to her husband would have been cruel.
But a week ago, when they were having their weekly lunch together, Joel had carefully broached the subject with her, and she had agreed that it was time. There had been no tears in her eyes, but Joel had seen how her lips pressed together and her chin trembled slightly. She'd tried to smile, but hadn't quite pulled it off.
She was a strong woman. Maybe more so since Dad's death, or maybe that strength had always been there, eclipsed by his shadow.
Joel had kissed her on the cheek and pressed her into a hug, her body still so frail in his arms. He could feel her bones through the designer dress she wore.
And so now he found himself in his rattiest jeans and an old USC t-shirt, brushing dust off of cardboard boxes that had been packed by a dead man decades ago.