All the Little Things
All the little things are put away, back in their places now that all of the company has left. Jill dries her hands on a dish towel, then stops in front of the old oak hutch. "Such memories," she murmurs with a faint smile as she gazes at them fondly.
With a sigh she closes the hutch doors and takes off her mother's apron. She pushes the hair out of her face and looks back at the freshly-tidied kitchen. She's as tired as she's even been. Martin and Jeremy are outside exploring in the woods, as fascinated by them as Columbus must have been upon landing at Hispanola. Chris is downstairs looking at the plumbing and electrical systems, checking for vulnerabilities.
It's good that they are able to spend this time together, Jill thinks. At home, everyone seems to be on their own trajectory, all in different directions. They come together with the frequency of a lunar eclipse. She wanders out of the dining room and into the living room. Her father is sitting in the recliner, his oxygen cannister at his side, looking at the photo album in which her mother had documented their family history.
"Kitchen's clean now," Jill says quietly. Her father nods absentmindedly, engrossed in the pictures in front of him. It's as if he's not there, but reliving the world that existed when the pictures were taken. Jill looks at him and wonders how long it will be until it's her in the chair, looking at her mom's photo album.
He smiles and makes an odd noise, half laugh and half grunt. "Your mother," he said, "I used to ask her if she didn't have something better to do than fuss with this book." He pauses and takes several deep, labored breaths. "She used to say 'you'll thank me for this someday.'" He closes the book and his jaw clenches several times before he speaks again.
Jill watches him try to get a grip on his emotions, trying to guess how much longer he'll hold on. She takes the photo album out of his hands and opens it to a time many years ago, before she was born, when her father was posing in front of a car. It might have been new, or simply new to him. But the look on his face told Jill that it had been something he'd wanted and buying it had been an accomplishment.
Her father makes that noise again, then coughs deeply. "She was right, you know. When everything's said and done, it's all the little things that remind you how wonderful your life was." He stands with an effort and walks out to the porch, trailing his oxygen tank behind him. Jill hugs the photo album to her chest and wonders what Chris will be able to share with Martin and Jeremy after she's gone.
Props to the CHPercolator list for the prompt