“Baby,” my grandmother used to say to me, “Now don’t go making mountains out of mole hills. You’ve got far enough to travel without creating your own peaks and valleys.” I’d stand there with my elbows propped up on her knees, nodding my head
like I understood, and she’d laugh; her poufy white hair bouncing in unison. She had come a long way since being born into the great depression. With Wheel of Fortune playing in the background, she’d paint her carefully manicured nails one by one,
reminding my grandfather to “use those nice crystal coasters Jim and Betty got us for Christmas in ninety-two.” He’d scoff and lift his beer the two inches from wood to glass, murmuring about how that “woman” was always telling him what to do.”
Everyone knew that he loved every minute of it. He was a lucky man. In her prime, she was the most sought after woman within fifty miles of Corinth. Coined the “Crossroads of the South” it was there that the railroads running east and west from
Charleston to Memphis crossed the north and south railroads of Ohio and Mobile. The older men used to sit out by the station sipping on their bottled coca-colas, watching the women shuffle in and out of the beauty parlor across the street.
Granny once told me that they used to place bets on the young couples sprinting to the platform hand in hand – hoping to make it on the train before their parents realized they were headed north to get hitched. The day my grandfather proposed
to her, she had to return an engagement ring and two promise rings to three other suitors. One of them was a lawyer’s son, and her Mama told her she must be damn crazy not to choose him, which was a mouthful for an upstanding lady of the church.
She might have been crazy, but only about my grandpa. He was a country boy with a slow drawl and a blue collar. He couldn’t give her much, but he promised her an adventure. He drove a big rig from coast to coast for nearly fifty years, and she’d
pack up herself and the kids and they’d all head out– stopping at different landmarks along the way. Even after he retired, she’d convince him to take a trip up to the city every now and then just to see the lights. He loved that woman more than
I’d seen anyone love anything ever before. And she loved him too with his tall lanky self and early-graying hair. I never saw them kiss, but occasionally I’d catch a glimpse of his stare as he watched her in the kitchen. I hoped that one-day someone
would look at me that way. At twenty-one years old, I’d find myself sitting alone on barstools trying to make eye-contact with strangers accidentally on purpose. I couldn’t have known then that those looks he gave her came from years of feelings I
had never felt before. Feelings he got from their first kiss. The moment that she said yes. The day she walked towards him down the aisle. The night she gave birth to their firstborn child. Those looks came from a long history of love and commitment.
I was in England the day we lost her to the light. As much as I hated I couldn’t be there for my family, I was glad I didn’t have to see that look. The one he would give her before they shut the casket. The one that told her goodbye for the very last time.
I haven’t seen that look since then, but I remember it. The slight smile on the corner of his lips. The way his hand rested against the wall as if he had to hold himself up in her presence. He doesn’t speak of her, but sometimes I notice him gazing into the
kitchen, and I can almost see her too, wearing red lipstick for absolutely no reason. She’s opening another 7Up, and asking if he’d like another beer. When he says yes, she gently coaxes, “Now don’t forget to use those nice coasters Jim and Betty got us.”