Today my cousin Carmen died. She had been quite ill now for two years, in and out of hospice often. In her 70s, I don’t really consider her to be old. Dad is 90. Now THAT is old. We all knew her passing was eminent, yet when it actually happens, life feels different. A veil of sorrow descended on me. Another gracious and glamorous woman in my life has gone away. There have been so few that I admired like Carmen.
When I was a child I used to play with her daughter, Ettienne. We were both very bossy and strong willed. Sometimes we hit an impasse as to who was in charge of our playing, who was determining what we were going to play and how. We both had strict ideas of how we thought things should go as we played. I remember the friction was only occasionally, and I was aware that I didn’t want to fight with her.
Carmen was glamourous. Tan and shapely with streaked blond hair and very sparkly eyes, she was a knock out. I idolized her looks. She also had that heavy , low Southern drawl that we all took for granted. She was eloquent, well read and the empress of her home. She had a command of English that bespoke good breeding and education. Yet, Carmen was down to earth, too. She taught an African American kid reading after school at her house, she took in ailing animals, especially cats. She took risks. She did what she thought was right whether it was “proper” or not.
Now that she is gone, I treasure my memories of her. She wrote me a letter about two years ago when I was having an awful time. I had closed my business, lost my home and was about to move back to my childhood home. She wrote about how Etteinne and I had washed our doll’s clothes and hung them out on the bushes to dry. This upset Etteinne’s Grandmother with the impropriety of it all.
I tried once calling her when I moved back home, and Charles answered the phone, saying she wasn’t there. Then he hung up on me. I was really startled. Then I heard that Charles had dementia. How sad now. Who will take care of Charles? I imagine he is crushed. It is a sad time for our family, yet one that is unavoidable.
We will all meet at the church and the graveside. We will say our goodbyes and shed our tears. Does she know how much she will be missed? I don’t know.