“I’m waiting to be cleared to go back to work. I have a follow-up appointment next week.”

“They still giving you a hard time?”

I give her a look that tells her everything she wants to know.

She shakes her head. “Remember when you talked about starting your own business? That was your dream for so long, Travis.”

My mind temporarily wanders. “Yeah, I do.”

“Have you given it any more thought?”

“Sometimes. But only when I’m having a super shitty day at work.”

She gives me a look once the curse word leaves my mouth.

“Sorry, but you know what I mean, Mom. They can be so…corporate.”

We sit in silence for a moment. “So, what’s holding you back?”

I haven’t thought about it in a while. It just doesn’t seem feasible, considering I have a great job that pays me well. Most people in my class would have died to land the job I did so soon after graduation. Over a thousand people applied for my position. I was the literal needle in the haystack. But I would be lying if I said I haven’t thought about it. Sometimes I look at the people that have been there for over thirty years and pray that I’m not looking into the future. That thought is fucking frightening.

“The risk,” I say after thinking about it a little longer.

Mom laughs. Her whole face lights up, and I realize how much I’ve missed her. “And we both know you’re a risk taker. So, what’s the real reason?”

“Start-up costs, I guess. I wouldn’t know where to begin, and it seems like a lot of work. What if I fail?”

“And that’s exactly how dreams die. Funding isn’t an issue, okay? I’ve got some money put aside that I would be happy to loan you. And I know how much you save. Tell me this, have you ever failed at anything that you’ve really wanted in life?”

I’m not sure how we got on this subject. “Mom, I could never take your money. You’re supposed to use that to get away.”

The laugh lines along with the stress that she’s endured over the years are on her face. My mother is my hero. She’s stronger than anyone I’ve ever met, and my heart constantly breaks for her. But she won’t leave. As much as I beg, she won’t. I’ve offered to pay for an apartment for her. I’ve tried everything over the years. But she’s just as stubborn as I am. Noticing my reaction and sadness, she gives me a sweet smile.

“Everything is okay. Since your dad’s been sick, things have changed.”

I take a drink of water. He’s been sick for a while now. Lots of testing to try to figure out what the issue is, but I don’t want to talk about him, and she knows that.

“He’s not doing well, honey. Last week, we received his test results. He has a pretty aggressive form of cancer.” Her voice drops low, almost to a whisper.

It’s the first time I’ve heard this, and for a moment it catches me off guard. Cancer? I don’t even have the words to explain how this makes me feel. This is why she wanted to have lunch because a conversation like this isn’t one you have over the phone. All the pieces of the puzzle begin to fit together.

“I don’t care.” I know I’m being harsh and stubborn.

Knowing better, she gives me a look. Though he’s not my favorite person in the world, I would never wish cancer on him.

“You’re more compassionate than that. And whether you want to admit it or not, your father is a part of you. When he’s gone, I don’t want you to regret not seeing him.”

“I left home for a reason.” My body tenses and my responses are short. I just want to change the subject while I process it all.

“I know, I know. I’m sorry. I’m just worried about you and him, and it’s a lot for me. I don’t want you to regret anything in your life. There’s a lot of things I wish I would have done differently and didn’t. I don’t want the same for you. Don’t allow your internal anger to stop you from seeing your father while he’s still alive. If any man on this earth has regrets, it’s him. He knows what he’s done.” A single tear streams down her cheek. She wipes it with her napkin then recomposes herself. My mother is practically unbreakable.

I grab her hand across the table. “Mom.”

She looks up at me, and I squeeze her hand just a little harder. “I’m sorry. I’m always here for you.”

“You’re my rock, Travis. Always so strong and brave. I love you.”

“I love you too, mom.”

We leave the restaurant and listen to oldies on the radio on the way back to the house. My phone dings and I smile when I see Viola’s name.


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