Not far from the water tower in Grove Hill, Alabama, sits Bertile’s. It's an old burger joint with hand-patted burgers and homemade biscuits.
Miss Liza stands behind the counter. She looks much younger than she is. There is gray in her hair.
She’s worked at this fast-food hole-in-the-wall for thirty years.
“She needs a day off,” one young employee tells me. “Miss Liza, she works EVERY day.”
“But I only work AFTER church,” Miss Liza says. “My husband is a preacher, we can't skip church.”
Miss Liza and her husband have managed to muscle through thirty-five years of marriage, raising two boys—working overtime. He's an electrician and preacher. She manages this burger joint.
She is a faceless working-class woman you'll probably never hear about—there's no reason you would, unless some fool were to write about her.
She's having a rough time. Her mother is dying. She has dementia. Liza makes the long drive to Meridian as often as she can to visit, but there's not much
“Visited last week,” she says. “When Mama saw me, she throwed her arms out and say, ‘Come here, Liza.’ My mama don't always remember me, so that was a blessing.”
Liza wipes her eye.
So do I.
“But, I ain't complaining,” she says. “We poor, but my children turned out to be good adults, God blessed me.”
Blessed. For a woman who has spent her life working her fingers into nubs, Miss Liza has the disposition of a ten-dollar Hallmark card.
I ask when she took her last vacation.
She laughs. “My last WHAT? No sir. Ain’t got time. My husband, he got the asthma, and health problems. I don't do vacations.”