Their mother died.
The two daughters gathered around her bed when it happened. In soft voices, they told their elderly mother that it was okay to leave. They pet her white hair, touched her cheeks.
They shared memories in her last moments.
They remembered how they all used to sing along with the radio—especially when Patsy Cline was singing. And how their mother sewed tags into homemade clothes to make them like store-bought.
She was a single mother. She sacrificed. She did without. A saint.
The old woman breathed slower. Slower. One big breath, everyone heard it. And she was no more.
They didn’t know anything about their father. Their mother told them he’d left while they were babies. They agreed that they needed to tell the man—wherever he was.
They hired someone to find him. It took a few days. They learned that he’d moved to New Mexico because of a military career. Long ago, he’d gotten remarried. He had two kids.
The sisters drove to New Mexico in a minivan. They listened to Patsy Cline and mourned. They slept in cheap motor inns, they told stories to one another. Stories about her.
New Mexico—it was a mobile home on flat land. They knocked on his door, introduced themselves. The man took the news hard. He bawled.
They sat in his den. And, when he’d gathered himself, he stared at them with serious eyes.
“Oh my God,” he remarked. “You actually think I’m your father.”
The girls held confused faces. You could’ve heard a gnat blink.
“Hate to tell you this,” he began. “But I’m not your father, and your mama wasn’t your biological mother.”
The air went cold and the girls became sick to their stomachs.
He told it like it was. It was complicated, but here are the basics:
Their mother had once been engaged to another—her high-school sweetheart. She had grown up with him. The boy asked her to marry him.
A few days before the wedding, the worst.
A dark-haired beauty showed on the girl’s doorstep. The visitor was exotic-looking. Slender. And she was pregnant by the soon-to-be married man.
There was a fight between the two girls in the yard. A bad one. The wedding never happened.
Thus, their mother’s lifelong sweetheart married a dark-haired stranger and had two lovely daughters.
The old man went on, “Your mama was a wreck when we met. Fella broke her heart so bad, I thought she’d never get over it.
“We needed each other at that time in our lives. That’s why we got married.”
But their marriage didn’t last.
The following year, the former fiancé was on his way home from Nashville, Tennessee. His dark-haired wife was riding shotgun.
That’s the last anyone saw of them. The charred remains of their car were found wrapped around an oak tree.
The deceased couple’s two infant daughters had nobody to raise them. No family. No friends. The girls would’ve probably ended up going to the state.
But they didn’t.
“She loved you girls,” the old man said. “After the accident, she was DETERMINED to be your mother. Even if it killed her.”
I suppose every story needs an ending. So here’s one:
God bless mothers.
Every last one.