“That’s my grandson over there. You see the blanket movin’? The one with the most black hair. There, he’s kickin’ again. He’s my first. I know. I know what you’re thinkin’. That Maurice Exum’s a rickety, old man, but I tell you there’s a reason.
“You see, me and Delphena, that’s my wife, well, she’s dead now, not around to see this beautiful, black-haired,grand baby. We wasn’t married until I was near fifty, and she was goin’ on forty. I managed the farm, a little spread abouts thirty-seven acres. By the time we got hitched, I was bent and creaky. You can see it in my wedding picture. Me, in my suit, arms and ankles stickin’ out. I looked like a scarecrow in a gale leanin’ into her.
“Well, Delphena, she was an angel. She gave me the best year of my life. Yes, sirree, I saidyear. Sin-gu-lar. She got complications giving birth to that there baby’s mama. My daughter, Penny. We called her Penny, but–Ican tell you guessed it–her name is Delphena Jane. Kinda like a junior.
“Well, Delphena, my wife, she got that toxemia poisoning. Um um.Somewhere’s in her placenta it all wentl wrong. I was with her after the birth, and she said she had a mighty headache, and, my gracious heaven-at-the-pearly-gates, she started up with the worst convulsions that ever could be. All of her muscles seemed to have intentions of their own, her face twitching every which way and each joint in her fingers movin’ like spider legs.
“I couldn’t hold her down. Doctors come in and took one look at her. A young one said, ‘My sweet Jesus.’ Well, that’s when I knew it was bad. Delphena, my wife, she went down and down, and me, just cryin’ helpless like, trying to lift her out that hole she was fallin’ into.
“Late on the third night, hospital empty and black, that young doctor told me to go home and shut my eyes. I shouldn’t’a listened to him. Soon’s I walked in the door, phone rang telling me she was gone. From then on Penny and me, we fended for ourselves. Thicker than water. Thicker than blood.
“I tell Penny stories about her mama all the time. It’s almost like I can remember every day of my year with Delphena.A lifetime all scrunched in our time of ma-tri-mo-ny. Um, um, we was happy.
“But I don’t tell Penny everything. Can I share a secret with ya? I don’t mean to be dispiriting, but I got six months. I ain’t sad. Well, I’m sad to leave Penny and this beautiful boy behind, but I ain’t fearful. Done made up my mind. Sold the farm. Got a pretty penny. Ha. Now ain’t that funny. I got a pretty penny a couple ways. That there baby boy be going to college.
“Would you look at him eyeing at me? Hello, little fella.
“Ha, I think my mama and daddy fell in love with Delphena ‘bout a minute after me. Did I mention she was an angel?”