"What did you do then?"
"Tried to locate her," he says. "I figured they went back to the Durham, the Raleigh-Durham area. And I went up there two to three times looking for 'em. Maybe more. But I couldn't find 'em."
The former Paquita Herring lives in Raleigh. She is now Dr. Paquita Yarborough. She has fond memories of her father and a fierce pride in what he accomplished before he got sick. She sends him occasional letters but never calls, because Pop has no phone. Paquita's doctorate is in higher educational leadership. She is associate director of the Office of Faculty Professional Development at North Carolina Central, the university where her parents met. She says Sara never spoke an unkind word about her ex-husband, but Paquita is 34 now, old enough to know, and so she is skeptical of the way Pop remembers things. "You don't just come home one day and find your wife and daughter gone for no reason," she says. "Good try, but no cigar."
Raleigh and Wilmington are 130 miles apart. Paquita has never gone to see her father. "That's not a burden that I've chosen to take up," she says. Well, Pop hardly ever visited her, either. He did come up for her high school graduation in Durham. But he couldn't find a ride to her wedding, even though Paquita offered to put him up in a hotel, and anyway he told Grady that someone had stolen his suit.
Pop and Paquita haven't seen each other since 2005, at Sara's funeral. It was a sudden death from unknown causes. Sara was 52. Paquita wasn't sure Pop would be there until she saw him coming through the receiving line just like the other guests. He asked her something like, "Do you know who I am?" Later someone told her he had cried enough that day to wash away the church.
"Do you want to get out and walk on the beach?" I ask him.
"Nah, nah," he says. "They're too fine out there. The women too fine out there."
It's getting toward lunchtime, so we turn inland in search of pizza. Pop is thinking of sausage and extra cheese.
"Do you know what your mother's sickness was?" I ask.
"I don't know what her diagnosis was. But they attempted of diagnosin' myself as a paranoid schizophrenia."