Four-year old May had her hand firmly secure in her Dad’s palm as she mischievously walked the path trampling the dried leaves and twigs. Their crunch seemed to elicit an even more conscious attempt to continue the act. Such was fun for a four-year old! Her father walked her and her older brother, Mikael, through a canopy of trees that led them to a gurgling stream. Seven-year old Mikael called out to Mark, “Dad, this is so awesome! You are so cool!” Mark smiled. What could any dad do when he heard those words? He’d told Maggie he’d be one. And she had done everything to make sure that their kids found him the coolest dad ever. But Maggie wasn’t there with them today. Yes, she would
always be in their hearts from now on – but that very reality made it difficult for him to breathe. Right now, his heart hurt and he so wished that Maggie didn’t own such a huge chunk of his heart.
He held her tiny hand firmly as the cawing of the crow among the chirping birds hit his ears distinctly. He looked up into the canopy of trees to spot the birds, when he felt May’s tug. His toothless wonder looked up to him with a broad smile showing him Maggie’s rings he had allowed her to wear around her neck. Somehow it seemed to take May’s sadness away. “Aww May, now they look so awesome on you. Just the way it did on Mom, eh?” “Yep”, May smiled as her gaze caught a green and yellow fluttering butterfly. They stood still. Mikael stopped as well and walked back. “I’m going to catch that for you, May.” “Ca..ch it for me, Mikey?” said a sister in awe and absolutely in love with her older brother. “Wow. I needed this”, Mark thought to himself as he continued to feel the pang of Maggie’s absence. He liked moments like these. Unlike those moments where he felt that he would explode because the pain was stifling his breath. He recalled that fateful moment where he found himself responding to a rather oblivious Mikael, “You don’t play tricks like these, young man”. But before he had completed his sentence he knew that Mikael wasn’t playing pretend. Two months ago, on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, Mikael had walked into Mark’s new home-office and said to Mark “Dad, Mom’s acting weird… she’s not waking up, she not moving, I don’t think she’s breathing, she’s cold…”. As Mark worked his way through the papers and boxes strewn about in his office to their bedroom, he saw Maggie on the bed. Still. The image would often flash before his eyes over the next few weeks. He was already afraid that his memory of Maggie would fade. How do you keep someone’s memory alive? Suddenly everything looked so distant and, yet, felt like yesterday.
“Dada” he felt another of May’s soft tug on his sleeve as he had settled by a tree near the stream. She had helped herself to some carrots that he had carried along. “Watch me” she said with her genuine halted laughter as she bit into her carrot and chewed on it with her mouth open with saliva dribbling. “You filthy little brat” he playfully called her as he scooped her into his arms, stood up and walked up to the stream where Mikael was.
Mikael had already helped himself with a fleet of imaginary warships that he had made out of leaves and twigs. His imaginary pirate and crew friends were in the midst of a major plot that Mikael’s serious expression conveyed. An imaginary mobile and battery charger were among the accessories that made its way into Mikael’s imaginary world. Yes, the Pirate and the crew had mobiles, and yes, they had a mobile charger. Mark couldn’t help sniggering at the conceptualization. “Way to go Mikael! That sure is some creativity out there!, You named the ships yet? “Yep” Mikael replied… “Mine is Tiger”. This was their moment. As they held each other’s gaze for what seemed forever yet maybe for only a few seconds. ‘Tiger’ Maggie endearingly addressed Mikael with that name. Sometimes with tenderness and sometimes like a tigress firmly nudging her cub to step over the curb – ‘Yes, Tiger you can do it’ she’d said in a gruff, firm, tender and loving voice when one-year old Mikael stood up to take his first few steps. His eyes firmly held her gaze drifting to the floor ahead occasionally. Mark had overheard this conversation during his afternoon nap and lifted his head from the couch to watch them. Only Maggie was entitled to call Mikael – Tiger. It wasn’t surprising that Mikael who had made his warships with leaves and twigs, had scribbled Tiger on one of them. Mikael’s gaze drifted back to his make-believe world of warships and pirates. As he heard his dad call him to begin their trek back, he picked up his ‘Tiger’. He walked towards Mark and lifted ‘Tiger’ for Mark to see. “I’m taking Tiger along Dad”. “Sure son”, Mark said, a little unsure of what to say. Somehow, he knew that in the making of Tiger, Mikael had found what he was looking for- he had arrived at the place where healing begins. To allow the memories of his mother to fill his life and enjoy it. Mark knew that his journey would be longer and harder. Yet, he knew for his own sake and that of Mikael and May he had to make that arrival.
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