‘Come on, Minnie,’ Frank says when he catches me moping. ‘Times it might seem like our cup’s half empty but it ain’t. Cup’s always half full for you and me, girl.’ Then he gives me a peck and a squeeze and puts his pocket hanky into my hand.
Felt like no time since we’d registered Elizabeth Grace before we had to go back and say as how she’d gone. Four years, that’s all. She’d watch with them big silent eyes as I sewed, happy to sit by my side while her brothers were running up and down the alley. I know’d she was coughing, but I didn’t worry until I found them rags under her bed. And then, even when I see’d the blood, I didn’t want to think about it. When you don’t say a thing you can make out to yourself it ain’t happening, but ignoring something don’t mean it’ll stop.
Losing a little-un weren’t uncommon then but that didn’t help none, and I confess I couldn’t see no way forwards for a bit. But Frank, he thanked the Lord for what time we’d had, short as it were, and said how our cup was half full, even then. And though it weren’t easy I watched our three fine boys, what all needed me, and knew what he meant.
When the cholera come, I prayed like I never done before or after. And for a while I thought Almighty’d spared us, on account of losing our Lizzie. Then Alby and Little Frank were taken bad. Both gone in a day. That sudden it were. The smell hung on longer than they did. Scrubbed ‘til I was raw, burned the sheets, bleached the floor, but that smell wouldn’t shift. Sickness left their bodies like old mens’; not my strapping lads at all. Then it were just me, Frank and Walt. It took me the longest time but in the end I found me smile again. Got to, haven’t you? Life’s for the living after all.
The day Walt come from the yard, face white, cap turning in his hands, all urgent like, well, I see his lips moving but all I heard was my Frank’s voice: Half full, girl, half full.
Since then, it’s just been me and Walt. He does what he can, and he does me proud at that, but he’s courting now and it won’t be long before he makes his own way. And it wouldn’t be right for me to keep him from it.
Now, more and more I get to thinking about the hugs and the pocket hankies and everything that’s happened, and how I got to accept it’s all part of the Lord’s plan. And I tries me best but, blow me Frank, it don’t seem to matter how I looks at it. Without you, I’ve only got half a cup left.
And it don’t hold nothing.