As the last of the dishes are dried and put away, I find myself struggling to keep my thoughts from drifting to Frost. To the mounting medical bills that weigh heavily on Gran’s shoulders. Being at home for Christmas has her in a much better mood, but the worry lines etched on her face seem deeper, a testament to the stress she tries so hard to hide. I can’t bear to see her like this, the weight of the world resting on her frail shoulders.

In an effort to distract us both, I suggest we go through the family photo albums, a tradition we used to enjoy during the holidays. Gran’s eyes light up at the idea, a glimmer of the old sparkle returning to her gaze. She retrieves the albums from the bookshelf, her steps slow but steady. The worn leather covers are soft beneath my fingertips as we settle onto the vintage couch, the faded scent of old photographs mingling with the aroma of the key lime pie that still lingers in the air.

I take a deep breath, steeling myself for the flood of emotions I know will come. The first page falls open, and I’m greeted by a picture of my parents on their wedding day. My mother’s smile is radiant, her eyes sparkling with joy and love. My father stands tall beside her, his arm wrapped around her waist, his face beaming with pride.

I swallow hard, trying to keep my chest from erupting in anguish. It’s been a long time since I’ve allowed myself to really look at these photos, to confront the pain of their loss head-on.

I flip the page quickly, my vision blurring as I blink back tears. The next photo is of me as a child, gap-toothed and grinning, my hair in pigtail puffs. I’m perched on my grandfather Sal’s lap, his strong arms wrapped around me, his laughter lines crinkling at the corners of his eyes.

Beside him sits my grandmother, her dark hair pulled back in a neat bun, her smile soft and warm. They look so young, so full of life and love. It’s hard to reconcile this image with the reality of their loss, the empty spaces they’ve left behind.

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