The photo shows a smiling young couple, maybe in their 40s or thereabouts.
Seated on a couch, she’s looking directly into the camera, smiling as she snuggles close to her husband, head resting on his shoulder. Bouffant hair, in that familiar shade of honey blonde, is perfectly coiffed.
Just a hint of a smile comes from his lips, but the twinkle in his eyes is there, shining through the large bifocal lenses. Jet-black hair has only a hint of gray at the temples.
One glance at it brings back a flood of memories.
It’s my mother and father.
The photo, taken decades ago, is among a batch of old black-and-whites discovered recently by my daughter, Mandy, as she was cleaning her mother’s attic.
My mom may have been as heavy here as she ever got, maybe 135 pounds. Her smiling face looks puffy compared to how it’s been for the past 20 or more years. Her weight can’t even match her age these days as she approaches 92.
My father, though. He seemed to always look the same. Husky, muscular. Until the end, that is, when Alzheimer’s took away his mind and his appetite back in the mid ’90s.
Before it took him away in 1996.
Mandy and I are leaving Baptist Village, taking mother out to dinner, when she mentions “Wait till you see what I found the other day, Grandmother!”
She pulls out the photo and hands it over the seat.
Mama takes the photo and squints at it a few moments and then chuckles.
“Oh, that’s me!” she says with a broad smile pointing. “Look at my hair!”
We joke about mama’s hair. A natural brunette, she was a “bottle blonde” all my life, not consenting to let her natural snow-white tresses come out until she was well into her 80s.
“All this white hair just makes me look old,” she would complain good-naturedly back then. She still mentions wanting to get it colored again.
We talk about how much heavier she was then, though not heavy, and then we notice.
She’s staring again at the photo. Her face adopts a questioning look. Finally, she turns around to Mandy in the back seat and points.
“But ... who is that?” she asks plaintively.
I glance around and Mandy’s eyes grow large as she looks at me.
Mama is pointing at my father.
The realization hits like a hammer blow.
Tears well in my eyes.
“That’s Daddy,” I answer softly.
She looks at me with questioning eyes. Then looks back at the photo.
“It ... is?” she says slowly, her face wrinkling, as if unbelieving.
She shrugs and says nothing.
The fact she no longer recognizes the man she loved for nearly a half-century doesn’t seem to bother her.
I hurt enough for both of us.
Robert M. Williams Jr. is an Effingham native who publishes weekly newspapers in Blackshear, Alma, Folkston, McRae and Forsyth. Email him at email@example.com.