The interstate is quiet this time of morning. A cattle truck just passed me.
“You Are My Sunshine” is on the radio. Johnny Cash is singing it. I cannot listen to this song without thinking of my mother—who used to sing it to me while I made mud pies in the backyard.
My daddy ended his life in September. By October Mama was so lonely you could hear her cry herself to sleep through the walls.
I’d knock on her bedroom door around suppertime. There would be no answer.
Thus, I would fire up the kitchen to prepare my world-famous culinary masterpiece: tres bowls de vanilla ice cream.
My mother was a shell. Once upon a time, she’d crocheted, quilted, gardened, she even fished. After Daddy, all she had left were overgrown flower beds and two kids.
She worked. Like a dog. To make ends meet, she cleaned condos, ran the deep-fryer at Chick-Fil-A, mopped floors, she threw the newspaper, volunteered at church. She raised kids.
When she got sick, the
world fell apart.
Doctors didn’t know what was wrong. Whatever it was, it was killing her.
She moved in with my aunt and uncle in Atlanta. They took care of her. I visited when I could—which wasn't enough.
One night, I made an all-night drive to Georgia. I arrived at my aunt’s at three in the morning. In the driveway: a frail woman in a nightgown stood in my headlights, waiting. I hardly recognized her.
We hugged and I almost broke her.
“Are you hungry?” was the first thing Mama asked.
She made a full breakfast anyway.
A plastic implanted port poked from her collarbone. Her face was gaunt. Her hair was short. She'd been…