top of page

Why Did You Stay? By M.S. Blues

August of 1999 

When Jim Gradferd died, everyone in the bloodline had rushed to the chapel, even those who weren’t speaking to him during his lifespan. 

Mammilyn Gradferd, the feeble widow of Jim Gradferd, had taken a seat in the back row of the church, staring at her husband’s solemn portrait that was displayed on the left side of the casket. His black tie looked more faint and his limpid eyes looked more cloudy under the gleam of the pristine chandeliers. 

The Pastor had captured her attention moments later, as he introduced the mediocre church band that would perform Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd. 

“Dear Lord,” Mammilyn sighed inaudibly when she saw the lead singer’s goatee, before coming to the conclusion that she had seen enough for the day. There was no desire she could find in her heart to sit through something so preposterous. She quietly got up from her seat and exited the building, avoiding the few stares she received. 

The sun was rather active on this day, beaming down on her with its glow. She groaned at the radiance and found shade from the sultry air under a waving tree nearby that overlooked the wheat fields of the Tracy outskirts. She crossed her small arms and stared out into those golden fields. Someday she figured they would be gone; replaced by bustling sidewalks, people, and so many buildings. 

The evolution of humanity was inevitable, and she hated it. She knew Jim would hate it too, even in the afterlife. She could almost hear the words he’d spit out from his mouth. “The world just got itself in one big goddamn hurry, Sonny Jesus, Mother Mary, and Christ!” 

Oh Jim, Jim Gradferd. 

He was a contemptuous man with a heart as gray as his thinning hair, and he never knew of a thing called patience. He despised everything in life, with the exception of ale and chewing tobacco. He openly affirmed the opinions that were on his mind and could give less of a jack how one felt about them. Heck, he had told the Pastor to go pound sand before. Oh, Jim Gradfred. Lord, he had worsened as he grew more senile with age.

Mammilyn remembered when they had met at the dance club in ole Frisco. What times it had been when the Motown records spun and the cheap little lights illuminated their youthful faces. Golden age, she’d call it. 

He had asked her to dance and she said yes. They danced away that summer night. After, when their feet burned like lava, he had taken her home and declared his love for her. Mammilyn remembered her hesitance to concur with him, but she did anyway and the two impulsively tied the knot in May of 1966; in order to solidify their commitment to one another before he would leave to serve in the Vietnam War for four years. She had worn an elegant white dress and he wore his army outfit. They said their rather rushed vows and then shared a kiss with the cheers of their close friends in the background. 

However, a month later when Jim had already been overseas, Mammilyn learned that she was pregnant. She remembered how anxious she became, especially since she would be the only one raising and providing for the offspring until his deployment finished. She did figure it out though, despite the struggles. 

Then came 1970; the return of Jim. God, the war messed him up. Of course Mammilyn had already been aware of the disposition he had, but she wasn’t prepared to face what the war brought out of him. He had become meaner, colder, intolerant, and furious when he found out that Mammilyn birthed their daughter. 

“But Jim, it’s your child.” 

“I’ve been overseas! How in the hell could it be mine?!” 

It was futile to argue with the stubborn, Mammilyn came to that conclusion. “Oh Jim, you were a handful.” She murmured with a sigh. 

She allowed her lips to part, as she was intending to mutter something else. However, the sound of footsteps stopped her. She turned just a bit, but turned back around when she recognized it was her daughter, Caroline. 

She remembered when Caroline was just a small little thing wrapped in a wool blanket, in her arms. She had been so fragile and precious. Now she was a thirty three year old woman with a family of her own. Time flies, indeed. 

“Hey, Caro.” 

Caroline stood by her mother, setting a gentle hand on her shoulder. “It’s been quite the day, huh?”

“Yeah, it has. I just couldn’t handle that gimmick they have going on in there, so I stepped outside.” She shook her head. 

“That’s why I decided to join you. It’s ridiculous.” Caroline agreed. 

Mammilyn kept to herself for a few seconds, then spoke again. “How’s Aidan and the kiddo handling everything?” 

Caroline answered, candid. “You know they aren’t grieving him much, Ma. Dad didn’t claim me as a daughter and the few times he did, he was reluctant. Therefore, Aidan didn’t know much about him and Sadie didn’t either.” 

Sadie was Caroline’s six year old daughter. 

Mammilyn sighed. “I’m sorry Jim did that, honey. I really am.” 

Caroline sighed too. “It isn’t your fault. You did the best you could. He was just another breed and there’s nothing you could have done about that,” She chuckled. “However, I have always wondered…” 


Caroline sighed again, her eyes poignant. “Why did you stay?” 

Mammilyn put her head down. She hated that question. Her own mother had asked her that on her deathbed. She didn’t have an answer then and despite how much she’d pondered about it for years, she didn’t have an answer now. 

She looked at Caroline, a content smile on her face. Then, she looked at the sky, at Jim. (Give me an answer, hun

“I don’t know, Caro. But I loved him and I still do.” 

Caroline nodded and rubbed her mother’s shoulder. A look of sympathy washed upon her face. “I hope you know that you’re free now.” 

Mammilyn looked at her, bewildered. “What did you say?” 

Caroline repeated herself. “You’re free now, Ma.” 

Freedom wasn’t something she was looking forward to when Jim died. That didn’t mean it was something she couldn’t embrace, though. 

She glanced again at the sky and the fields, closing her eyes. 

A tear slipped through them. 

Caroline hugged her mother, emphasizing her point yet again. “You’re free.” (I’m free)

Mammilyn held herself in her arms, but melted in her daughter’s. She rested her head against her daughter’s chest. “I’m free.” 

Maybe she couldn’t fathom why she stood with Jim Gradferd for thirty three years, but that was okay. She was free now and that’s what mattered.

6 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

"A Porcelain Symphony" By Stacia Kokoletsos

Her eyes were shiny and still, like glass. Her skin, now the texture of porcelain, and devoid of any life; pale as the face of a ghost. The frequency of a thousand shattering dolls rang through the sp

"Misfortune" by Zi Chen

Jade thrusts the marinated fish into the wok before instinctively flinching. The oil jumps up from the wok immediately, just as she anticipated; one pop after another. The little girl struggles to kee

Shap Shifter & On Grief by Richard De-Graft Tawiah

Shape shifter This would be the first time I’m saying that every opposing side knows their rights and has their lefts stashed in courage. Just like people at the end of the war will see six out of nin


bottom of page