After my father died, I found this photo in his bedroom. It was leaning against the mirror of the vanity where my mother had sat painting her nails in a room dark except for the small lamp, her red nails gleaming in the dim light. She painted them with half moons, her touch was that fine.

The photo was in a cheap frame from our Ben Franklin store. I knew from having worked there for years that the frame came from the counter between the greeting cards and housewares. It was probably 79 cents or maybe $1.29, When a price ends in a 9, my dad said, people don’t realize they are spending more. This was his wisdom and I’ve remembered it.

I’d never seen the picture before.

Because we were there in his house to take the things that had meaning to us, I took this picture. I also took the bedroom furniture and my father’s minnow bucket. I didn’t take the toaster even though I needed one at the time because it had no meaning to me and I didn’t want to think to myself that I so needed a toaster that I would take it from my dead father’s house. Taking the picture was another matter. It meant something.

It was the image of my mother that my father loved most.

He took it from wherever it was kept before she died, a bottom drawer, an old scrapbook, and he framed it and put it on the vanity in their bedroom where he was now sleeping alone.

Today I slipped the old photo out of its dime store frame to put it in a sturdier frame I’d found. On the back was her perfect handwriting; she always labeled every photograph, with her name and the date, 1946. This was my mother two years before I was born. Her open, beautiful face and her glance of a smile. She is unadorned and so lovely, so unknowingly lovely.

No wonder he loved her so.

I wouldn’t have known this had he not left the picture there on the vanity.

My mother’s face.