Loretta’s father drove slower and slower after they arrived at the small-town site of his alma mater. The two had never been close, but Loretta was convinced that it was a good idea for her to go to a school that knew him. One day, she thought, she’d be educated, independent, and married with a family of her own. Well, life happens, and it is for us to decide whether the facts are better than the dream.  

Years later, the facts were more positive in many ways. Sadly, Loretta had no children. But many men had entered her life and most had treated her very well.  

True, there had been bouts with drugs and illnesses. But she had lived in major cities, was educated, and to some extent had used her training. She had experienced so-so family ties. Friends came, then she and they would part, and that was that. Loretta rarely tried to look them up again. The government off-and-on had been her third parent: assistance, tax refunds, job training, you name it. Maybe the problem had been that the government-parent could turn on you harder than a real one if you don’t do what the government wants, like be one of its flunkies in one of its flunky jobs. But even the government’s status as her occasional third parent wasn’t enough to persuade Loretta to accept a federally funded day care job. She probably declined the opportunity because she didn’t like all those helpless whining children. If she had had kids of her own, though, she probably would have taken the job.  

Now Loretta’s mother was dead. In some ways she had been the best friend Loretta had ever had or would know. Yet they had not been close, and it was hard for Loretta to drum up tears.  

The somber preacher stood still and tall behind the lectern. On the level below him was the beautiful closed, silver-gray coffin that Loretta convinced her father, who was retired, to pick up the tab for. She knew she would need her money in a few days to split town for parts unknown.  

After the service, her parents’ friend, Ms. Taylor, and many others stopped outside the church to give their condolences. “You had a wonderful mother,” Ms. Taylor said. “Your family was so lucky to have had her.”  

Yeah, Loretta thought. And her death, and her own departure, might make it even more wonderful.