Mom smashed all the dishes that day.
Even the good, “Gramma’s Sunday night, fried chicken dinner” dishes.
And once it was over, ragged tears, incoherent screaming, shards of porcelain and glass shattered everywhere on the kitchen tile floor…
Mom sat in the corner, knees pulled up tight to her chest, arms wrapped around them – and wept. Huge, sobbing gasps of grief. And in her hands, a wad full of paper, spotted with her blood, tiny cuts from the smashed dishes all over the backs of her hands.
Neither of us kids knew what to do with this keening woman, who, just yesterday, was the picture of maternal domesticity; and yet today, was reduced to a mass of frayed nerves and horrid weeping.
Finally, Jake tiptoed carefully through the minefield of broken dishware, and knelt down close to Mom,
“Mama? What’s the matter, Mama?” Jake leaned in, barely whispering.
“Gone, all gone,” Mom lifted her head from her knees, excruciatingly slowly, as though it weighed too much to support. “They’re all gone, there’s nothing left.”
“Yes, Mama, all the dishes are gone. Why’d you break them, Mom? Are you mad at something – is there something you need?” my brother reached out to brush the bangs out of Mom’s eyes, but stopped just short of actually touching, not sure if he should.
“Gone… all gone” and Mom dropped her head back to her knees, dropping the papers she’d been holding to the floor. Only they weren’t papers – but pictures.
“Jake,” a harsh whisper came from my own lips, ragged and halting, “Come to the living room, now, I’ve got to tell you something.”
Jake looked down at Mom’s hands, gasped and shot his eyes back to me, standing in the doorway, shock clear on his face.
“Come to the living room, Jake. Now.”
Nodding his head, my brother rose and followed me into the next room, glancing once over his shoulder to where our mom still sat, slowly collapsing into the fetal position on the floor.
“Jake, Mom’s not talking about the dishes being gone,” I shook my head in sudden understanding.
“What was that in her hand, Bex? Were those our pictures on that paper? Why would our pictures be on that paper, Bex? And where’s Dad? Shouldn’t he be here? I mean, he came and picked us up after the game, brought us h–…” Jake’s voice squeaked on the last word, raising a shaking hand to his mouth.
“Jake, Dad’s not here… and I don’t think we ever came home…”
We both stopped, turned, and watched… as Mom picked up this Sunday’s newspaper obituaries section… one picture standing out to us both… Me, Jake, and Dad…. smiling in black and white at the camera.