My grandmother, Laura Jane Payton, was born in 1868. Sadly, she died in 1910, at the age of forty-two.
She died giving birth to her twelfth child. Ten were still living when she died. My mother was only five when her mother died. The family survived the tragedy and the children went on to lead happy, productive lives. But, the longing for a Mother and the emptiness left in the wake of her death never subsided. This was vividly impressed on my mind when I heard them talk in the summer of 1990.
Mother was 85 and Aunt Helen was 83. It was a hot, humid day and the sisters were sitting on the porch. A storm was on its way, but for now the air was dry and still. The sisters looked so old and frail as they sat and reminisced. They were bent and their hands were gnarled. Hair that had once shone like copper, now framed their faces like puffs of cotton. Faces that were once fresh and smooth were now seamed in wrinkles.
For a while they were quiet. Then Annabel spoke. “Do you remember Mommy?”
“Barely” was Helen’s soft reply. “I think I remember when she died. Papa cried. I couldn’t understand why Papa cried. And, I couldn’t understand why Mommy was laying in the parlor.”
“I remember Mommy.” said Annabel. “Her eyesight was so bad. She always had me thread her needles. She called me her ‘eyes’. I always stood by the side of the sewing machine and watched her sew.”
For a while neither sister spoke. They were quiet, alone in their thoughts.
“Mommy was so good to me,” whispered Annabel. I remember she hugged me and she said she loved me. I miss Mommy.”
“I do too,” Helen whispered in soft reply.
Tears moistened the cheeks of these two old women. Then the storm broke and the rain streamed off the porch. It seemed the heavens were crying too for the children that missed their Mommy.
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