ON NEW YEAR’S EVE, Dad and I broke into the cemetery to paint tombstones. It was the year he returned from ‘exile,’ sporting a bald patch, a potbelly and looking a lot like the image of my grandfather in the watercolour portrait that hung above the box television in his living room. It was the same grandfather whose tombstone we began with. His name, etched onto the concrete headstone, barely persisted under the generous glob of paint that I flushed back and forth against the concrete plastered stack of cinderblocks – an act that I regarded with much amusement, perhaps derision, of squatting over a man I had dreaded all my life.
“Always care for your ancestors,” Dad said, “so God may not neglect you.”
I nodded and fished out the thin piece of wood that he’d stirred the paint with. I broke a piece off the dry end, and then traced through the etchings until the name glared back at me through the quiet new colour.
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