Jack pauses to cough into a handkerchief. “It might sound cliché, but the weather wasn’t that good that night either. Dark clouds covered the stars, thunder rolled, the lightning crackled but rain hadn’t come yet. It didn’t drop until after the car fire got going really well.” He zones out, not seeing me. So far gone in the past that I can almost see ghosts flit across his eyes.
My voice comes out soft and breathless. “That’s horrible.”
“Yep, but it wasn’t like your mom had the best beginning to life either.”
“Well you know how your grandma died with Tasha Raelynn’s brothers and sisters in the train wreck yea?”
“Well she ended up in her grandparents care after that. Her dad was a criminal that was in and out of prison. Your strict great-grandmother swore Tasha would never be raised by him. He died in federal prison of prostate cancer or something.”
“That would explain why I never got to meet him.” I bite my lower lip in surprise.
“Then your great-grandpa still has some PTSD from WWII.”
“I know that. It has gotten better over the years, but he still has some bad days.”
“Who wouldn’t after taking shrapnel from a grenade from the wrong side of Normandy Beach?”
I gasp. “Wait, he took friendly fire?”
“Yes, ma’am. He hasn’t told you?
“No. He doesn’t talk about the war and no one else will talk about family history at all.” That would explain the deafness in his right ear.
“No one thinks it was on purpose, but it still happened.”
“How do you know all of this?”
“Your mom and I did some digging into the family for a school project.”
“Neat.” I saw solemnly.
“Well I better be off. I just came by to say hi to Tasha. If you need me, you know where to find me.”
I give him a quick hug. “Ok. See you later.”
He dusts off his pants and leaves with a quick wave. He stops and turns back, “you know the saddest part of this mess is the wreck happened just one week after you were born.”
“I hadn’t realized it was that soon. I didn’t get any real time her after all.” Shock.
I get up and stretch. “I need to get back to Shayla before your grandparents scar her for life.
Bye Mom, I’ll be back to see you, maybe next year. I will make sure to bring Shayla too…at some point. Probably not until later when she can fully understand death, but still she will come to know you. We have all the hours of home videos for her to go through.” Out of selfishness, I decide that I will keep the gory details of mother’s death to myself.
My little girl never needs to hear of how her grandmother died in a fiery car crash that threw her from the Trans Am because of her lack of seat belt. Or how the drunk driver got away with murdering her and three of her best friends.
One last look at the pink quartz tombstone in the shape of a heart, then I am on my way home and back to my daughter.
Tasha Raelynn Smith
Daughter and Beloved Mother