Mom wanted to stay. She knew exactly what I was feeling: unspeakable loss. She’d had much of that in her life. Much more than mine. She lost both her parents very young, in a car accident. And of course, she lost her best friend, my dear father.

Dad was the most hard-working man of his time and entirely self-made. He ran off and joined the army at seventeen so he could have enough money to marry his high school sweetheart. After being a radio guy for three years and getting some experience in supply-chain management, Johnny left the Army to be a tin-knocker like his old man. He turned their petite carport into a sheet metal fabrication shop that slowly but steadily became a very profitable business venture. After retiring, Dad consulted for his old competitors who knew him by the nickname of “Johnny Hustle.” Nobody worked harder than dad. He could make or fix anything with a pencil, a ruler, a heavy pair of snips, and a Phillips head.

Editor’s note: Click here for chapter 1 in this weekly fiction serial

He and Mom, Flossie (short for Florence) were the perfect pair. She held down the fort when Max and I were little, so that Dad could pound the pavement. She never complained. It was tough on her though. She was always alone, with little money. But, Flossie was blue collar too, and the fact is that she was fully schooled in the art of pressing on.

Forget making lemonade out of lemons, Mom made pate en croute out of Spam and smooshed white bread. She was remarkably creative when it came to feeding and entertaining young children on a dime.

Gas was cheap back then – less than a dollar a gallon. Mom would drive us around in our beat up matte brown Ford Pinto with the music turned up and the windows rolled down listening to eight-tracks of her favorite James Taylor tunes. Consequently, the live version of “Baby, I’m a Steamroller” also introduced Max and I to the F-bomb.

She’d take us on day-trips to Monticello, Mount Vernon, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. Max and I had extensive knowledge of the Civil War for our age. We knew that North Carolina had the second largest casualties at Gettysburg, after showing up to fortify the Army of Northern Virginia (who lost the most). Mom would often make a point of the fact that a 21-year-old Colonel led an entire regiment of The Army of Northern Virginia, inferring that youth is no excuse for not finding one’s passion early on and attacking life. I think that’s why I studied medicine. I knew that such an accomplishment would make my folks proud.

We’d have battlefield picnics of peanut butter and jelly and Yohoo. Not exactly healthy food, but back then nobody cared. That was well before the first lady crowned herself queen of the public school cafeteria and the STEM gods undermined recess. I don’t remember knowing any overweight kids growing up, but we had freedoms back then that would be presently scandalous. We ran, climbed, swung, and built forts, caught fireflies, played kickball, and wore ourselves out. Because boredom was for the small minded.

We saw Dad most on Saturday mornings. He’d take us to 7-11 for a Slurpee and penny candy. Life was good at the Pritchett home. Even better when Dad was home from his eighteen-hour work days.

Dad and Mom had been best friends since childhood. Ever since she moved in next door with her aunt Paula, after her folks died. Dad was instantly smitten with her and decided that he was going to be Mom’s new best friend. I don’t know that he even gave her a choice. But, what girl can turn away such devotion? Even at the tender age of nine, Mom knew Johnny was going places.

They lived on the same block in Silver Spring, Maryland. It was the 1950s, before it was chic to live in Montgomery County. They were married for almost fifty years.

When I say that Mom knew how I felt when I miscarried, it was a gross understatement. She’d had her own issues with unsuccessful pregnancies. She says that back then women smoked and drank coffee as much as they wanted while pregnant, and she would have quit both had she known how sensitive her body was. It took them nearly twelve years to get Max and me. Mom says that God made up for those childless years by giving them two at once. She’s always positive, and never once questioned that she would someday be a mom. I envy her sunny disposition. I wish I was more like her and less like me.


Check out part 3 coming next Tuesday!

Photo by VV Nincic