I got up at 4 am yesterday to take Praewa, our remaining houseguest, to the airport. It's about a 2 hour drive without traffic, and I wanted to be sure to avoid the morning commute, which I mostly did. We got to the bridge at about 6:30, and to the airport by 7. I had printed her boarding passes the night before, so all we had to do was check in her luggage. I walked with her to the security area and said goodbye, and I was back in my car 20 minutes after I parked. Fastest airport trip ever.
I had 8 boxes of old textbooks to drop off in the East Bay, so I headed over the other bridge to Hayward. The textbook place didn't open until 8, so I got some breakfast. The textbook place is not to far from where I grew up. It is near where the old dump used to be. I remember going down that way a lot as a kid. It's not that we had a lot of garbage, but my babysitter's husband did some work that involved clean up, so we were always going out there in his old pick-up truck.
I dropped off the books, then drove aimlessly around my old town for a while looking at things. Then I made the unexpected decision to drive up to a cemetery in the hills, where a friend of my mom's was buried. After looking around for a while, I found her gravestone. I used to go up there a lot before I moved away, but I think the last time was more than 30 years ago.
Carol had two daughters--one of them, Sadie, was my sister's age and they were school friends. The other daughter, Suzie, was a little younger. Carol had been married 4 times already, mostly to losers, I guess.
Somewhere around the time my mom met her future husband, Carol also met a guy, and he ended up as husband #5. Unlike her other husbands, this guy was a good guy. He had a good job and a nice house, and he gave her the stability she needed to thrive. Her daughters loved him. Our two blended families became pretty close. We took some vacations together, and were always doing something at each other's houses.
On November 23, 1971, two days before Thanksgiving, Carol was walking down the stairs at home. She collapsed and died. I remember hearing that it was a heart attack or something. She was 32. Even back then it seemed young, but now that I am the age I am, it seems unbelievably young. I think about how when I was 32, I was just getting started.
Her kids were devastated. They ended up going to live with their biological father, and disappeared from our lives.
I remember how much it hurt to realize she was gone, and how I didn't know what to do with that at the time. Now, 42 years later, a few tears come to my eyes as I remember her and think about this story. I remember a shirt she gave me for my 13th birthday. It was a knit shirt, and had about a million different colors. It was definitely a 70s thing. I wore that shirt until it fell apart.
Somehow she touched my heart, and that mark is still there.