She lives in a forty-foot single-wide trailer with her brother. She’s in her early thirties, but seems older.
It’s a nice place. Decorated. Frilly curtains. Laundry hangs in the backyard. Photographs on the coffee table. A few scented candles.
Her younger brother is making a sandwich in the kitchen. He’s skinny, tattoos cover his arms. He walks into the living room.
He hugs her before leaving and says, “Love you, Sissy, I’m working late tonight.”
To him, she is more mother than sister. She raised him. She did all things mothers do: diaper changing, wiping hindparts, and she’s washed enough laundry to populate the county landfill.
Her mother died when she was nine. She and her brother lived with their grandfather in this single-wide.
“I remember when I was thirteen,” she says. “I realized it was up to ME to be a mom.”
On the wall is a photograph of her grandfather. She’s in the photo, too. She is young, blonde. She stands behind the old man—arms wrapped around his neck.
“Cancer,” she tells me. “He was seventy.”
He was diagnosed when she was a sophomore. She cared for him during the last few years of his life.
On his final day, she drove him to the emergency room because he couldn’t catch his breath.
In a hospital bed, he told her, “I’m so sorry, baby. First your mama left you, now I’m leaving you.”
Those were his last lucid words.
I’m not here to write something that makes you feel sorry for her. She’s too exceptional of a person for pity. I’m writing about something else.
She met someone.
He is a fireman-paramedic. When they were first introduced, he asked her on a date. She refused.
“I’d never BEEN on a date,” she says. “I was so awkward and just so nervous that he would even ask me.”
He persisted. She gave in. He took her bowling. The thirty-two-year-old girl had never thrown a bowling ball before. They played billiards. She’d never done that either.
That night, she drank too much—it was her first time being drunk.
“He didn’t kiss me or nothing,” she said. “He carried me home, helped me onto the sofa.”
The next morning, he showed up on her porch with donuts, coffee, and jugs of Gatorade. He asked her on another date. Then another.
The rest is, more or less, history.
Anyway, by the time you read this, she’s already in Pigeon Forge, married, on a summer honeymoon. She’s been so excited about it she hasn’t been able to sleep.
There will be a lot of first times during the next few weeks for this kindhearted late bloomer. For instance, this is her first vacation. Her first time visiting Tennessee—or anywhere, for that matter.
This is the first time she’s left Alabama. The first time she’s been away from her brother.
Her husband is the first boy she ever kissed. And this is the first time she’s been happy.
She also tells me, “This is the first time in my life I feel like God actually notices me.”
Does he ever.