The stocky little woman leaned on her cane as she picked her way gingerly toward the graves under the mesquites. She lay a few wildflowers on three rock-covered graves, one unmarked, one marked for Joe, and a third for their boy, Johnny. “I’ll be here sleeping beside you soon’s I can, Joe. I’m tired and the folks can get by easy without me now.” She thought back on the last eight years since Joe collapsed one morning at his milking. They’d had more than forty years and six children together. It wasn’t enough.
Little Joe had married and stayed on to farm with Joe. The cabin had become a seven room house over the years, filled first with their children, then Little Joe’s. Sally had married a a farmer and lived on the next section. She was so sweet, Anya couldn’t help being partial to her. Rose Anya had taught school till she married a storekeeper in Talco. Her boy Jules was a preacher. Rose Anya had wanted her mother to come live with her in town after her pa died, but Anya couldn’t bear to leave the farm. Betsy come along just a year after Sally and married Emma’s grandson, making them truly family. The twins didn’t come along for five years. One of them farmed the hundred sixty acres Joe bought a few years after they married and the other was a lawyer in Dallas. He didn’t get home but a couple of times a year. Johnny, the one they lost came when she thought she was past child-bearing had struggled to breathe for three long days. Losing him nearly killed Joe.
Anya’s mind was fuzzy and she lived more in the past than present. It pained her knowing all she was good for was rocking babies, stringing beans, and peeling potatoes, though Joe’s wife, Mary, tried to fool her into thinking she was useful. Whenever she could, she slipped out to talk to Joe.
As she stood talking to Joe, Mary caught up with her. “Mama, you had me worried to death. I didn’t know where you’d got off to. You had me worried to death. It’s blazing hot out here. Come out of the sun and let me git you a drink.”
“Joe’s gonna be in for supper at four. I better git in and make him some biscuits. He always did love my biscuits.” Anya told Mary.
“You don’t have to get started just yet. Let’s get you a cool drink.” Mary said, leading Anya to a rocker in the shade of the porch. “Just sit here and cool off and I’ll be right back with your drink.”
” I git so tired of her fussing.” Anya said to Mary’s big backside, watching her head for the kitchen. In no time at all she was nodding.
“Anya girl, ain’t you gonna cook me no supper?” Joe laughed as he touched her shoulder. He looked as he did when she first knew him, well-muscled and lean with a full head of hair.
“Oh no, I ain’t even started! You are early.” Anya told him.
“I’d say I’m right on time. Come on along with me.” The years fell away as Anya took his hand and stepped lively as a girl.