The newspaper didn’t say much about her. It listed visitation times and the year she was born.
It could’ve said more.
It could’ve said that she was a single mother who worked three jobs sometimes. Or that she never missed work.
She’d been a receptionist, a cashier, a waitress, a factory employee, a custodian, a disciplinarian. She’d cleaned houses for cash under the table.
She was above nothing, below no one.
Her skin was dry from too much smoke and caffeine. He hair was wiry. She was beauty wrapped in service uniforms.
There are pictures. Black-and-whites photos of a slender teenage girl who became a mother of three.
A photograph: she’s bouncing a child on her hip, holding the hand of her oldest. She’s wearing a fast food visor.
Another: she’s sitting in a miniature train, it’s Christmas, a baby in her lap. Two older kids are in the picture. Her hair practically screams 1970’s.
That photo was taken just before her husband died.
Her kids don’t remember him. They don't remember the hell she endured after him.
All they recall is her. Her, standing
before a closed casket. Her, pumping hands with a hundred wearing black.
The night they laid him in the earth, the kids slept, but she didn’t. She was up all night, staring at her checkbook register.
She must’ve burned through half a carton, worrying herself.
Before his body was cold, she hustled a job for herself. She walked into a car dealership and begged. They gave her work. She answered phones, made coffee, cleaned toilets, mopped the showroom floor.
It didn’t pay well, so she took babysitting gigs. She worked at a grocery store. She waited tables at a restaurant. She put together CB radio circuit boards on an assembly line. She sewed women’s clothes.
She put her son through college. She bought braces for her daughter. She pieced money together from dry air.