Small-town Alabama in the early sixties. A period of horn-rimmed glasses, Coke fountains, and Johnny Cash on the radio waves.
She married her high-school sweetheart. They did the things adolescent couples do. They sat shoulder-to-shoulder at drugstore counters. They argued loud enough to wake neighbors.
They tried to make a family. But couldn’t.
“Oh, did we try,” the old woman says. “Doctor told me I could take a brand-new ovulation kinda pill, but I never did, I didn’t trust doctors.”
Years went by. They kept trying. No luck.
She goes on, “Finally, doctor just come out and tell me, ‘You just CAN’T have children, honey.’ That was pretty hard to deal with.”
They gave up on the idea of family. They grew apart.
“We were fighting a lot,” she says. “We were just kids our ownselves.”
And things got worse. Their relationship went south. He slept in the guest bedroom. They ate suppers alone. They separated.
After a quiet divorce, they went their own ways. He left town for Montgomery, she stayed.
“We parted friends,” she says. “But secretly, I’s hoping he’d come back.”
But he didn’t. And the hits kept coming.
Six years later, she lost her mother to kidney problems. Only one year thereafter, her father developed pneumonia. He spiraled downward. She admitted him to a hospital. He died there.
They buried him next to her mother.
“I lost both parents in almost four hundred days,” she said. “It felt like a big joke God was playing on me. I gave up hope.”
Her ex-husband attended her father’s funeral. It had been a long time since she’d seen him. They embraced. She nearly ruined his shirt with tears.
She asked him to stay. He did.
For a year, he stayed.
“I needed him,” she said. “He knew me better than anyone. He’d hold me sometimes, and let me cry. I was sorry we ever got divorced, sorry I pushed him away.”
He helped her. She helped him. They talked about things. About life. They talked remarriage.
Before her forty-fifth birthday, she was getting ready for work one morning. She felt sick to her stomach.
“Thought I was coming down with the flu,” she said.
It was no virus. A friend told her it could be morning sickness. It was.
In a whirlwind, they re-married. The ceremony was a small affair in a friend’s living room. They had music, a keg, she wore a green dress, he wore a necktie.
And in the fall she gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
“After all these years,” she said. “I’ve learned to never give up hope. Even when there ain’t nothing left to hope in. Hoping is how a body stays alive, I think.”
A woman enters the room to interrupt us. She is brunette—the spitting image of the elderly woman in her younger days.
The brunette thanks me for interviewing her mother. I tell her it’s no problem. In fact, it was a pleasure.
“This here’s my miracle child,” says the old woman, kissing the brunette. “Her name is Hope.”
Whoever you are, reading this, don’t you dare give up.