I'd always heard that love - or rather the loss of it - could drive a woman crazy. Push her plum to the edge, and sometimes, even push her over it until she was in a free fall that landed her slab-dab in the middle of crazy.
But, I never believed it until it happened to her.
Then, all that I had never believed, had never fathomed could possibly be true, I came to believe as strongly as I believe in a sun that rises every morning and rivers that run to the sea.
He loved her. That much we all knew. You could see it in his eyes, even when she exasperated him beyond words. He'd shake his head, roll his eyes and, ever once in a while, irritation would creep into his words. Fire would flash in her Irish, green eyes then slip quickly to pain, and sometimes, she bit her lip and simply didn't respond. Sometimes, she did. And woe be unto anyone standing too close to that torching exchange of blazing words.
She complained mildly that he spent too much time with the boys and not enough with her. And that part was mostly true, because there was always a good time that beckoned and a beautiful girl that called.
But he always came back to her.
Every night at 6 p.m., he walked through the door, asking "What's for supper?" and she gaily responded with a list of many things, too much for two people to eat.
She often recalled how she loved him the first time she saw him. "I never seen a cuter anything in my life than that boy was," she'd remembered wistfully. "Right then and there, I fell in love with them hazel eyes."
Though he wasn't always exclusively hers - over the years, she had to share him with a bevy of beauties - he was always there when she needed him. He washed her car, filled it with gas, cut the grass, moved the furniture as much as she demanded and there were even the times that he would spend a full day shopping with her. For that's how much he loved her. He was willing to do what men loathe the most: slump in a chair outside a fitting room, tap his foot and try to pretend that he is patiently waiting.
The night he left, no one knew he wasn't coming back. She later recounted, time and time again, how normal the evening had been. She'd made fried chicken, biscuits and gravy and had thought of making his favorite apple cobbler, but, instead, settled on left-over banana pudding. She never forgave herself for not making that cobbler.
"If only I'd knowed," she moaned quietly, each day edging closer to losing her mind after it all ended like it did. He had given her a peck on the cheek and rushed out into the night.
No one ever got all the details, but this much we know: The sheriff, a cousin of hers, knocked on her door somewhere around midnight. He recalled how he waited for the lights to come on and when she opened the door, she was disheveled, clutching her robe together with one hand. He pulled back the screen door and that's when she screamed with a pained anguish he said he'd never forget. She didn't care to know the details of the wreck. She knew all she needed to know. She had only had 23 years to love him.
She didn't go crazy over night, but it came pretty quickly. Within months, her mind slipped away and, like him, never returned. She went shopping in her bath robe and slept in her Sunday clothes. Once she even spray-painted her grass yellow, because she liked yellow better than green.
Crazy, that's what she was.
But, they say that's how every mother feels who buries a son.
Ronda Rich is a best-selling Southern author. Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com.