Herbert stopped short and just stared. He had walked into the kitchen, grocery bags in tow, where Gladys would usually still be cleaning up after this morning's breakfast; or sitting there reading the paper with the radio on. She always had to listen to that damn NPR, all those know-it-all people going on and on about everything all the time. The two had this same morning routine now for over fifty years. But Herbert had noticed that Gladys had seemed a bit off-kilter lately, struggling some. And the fact that she wasn't here doing her regular thing just stopped him short.
He was so used to it.
Herbert didn't hear anything in the house and called, "Gladys? Gladys?!" No response. Worrying some, he walked up the steps shaking his head and muttering her name under his breath. "Oh, Gladys. Gladys." He walked down the hall toward the bedroom. When he peeked in he saw her sitting on the floor in her nightgown with their old photo albums, a mess strewn across the floor. Everything was askew.
Gladys was frantically rooting through everything and seemingly in a fuss.
"Gladys, Gladys, what is it now?"
She looked up at him, squinting through eyes wet with tears and confusion and uncertainty, and pulled out an old photo from the pile, showing it to him. Herbert walked over and took it from her hand and saw it was gosh, a picture that must have been from the early 1940s. It was of Gladys as a baby with her mother and father, and she was bouncing on her daddy's knee. They were smiling and laughing.
"What, Gladys, what?"
Gladys looked down and put her hands back in the piles of photos and started pulling out those of her siblings and aunts and uncles and children and friends; everyone they'd ever known. She was showing the pictures to Herbert, pointing at the people in them.
"Gladys, what is it?"
Gladys was gasping but managed to say, "Who, who ..? Who are all these people?"
Herbert stopped short and just stared.