My sister-in-law, Carmen, left us a year ago in early September. The timing of her departure coming as it did in early autumn was in keeping with her life.
For the previous twenty-six years, following the death of her first husband, when October rolled around, Carmen and three close friends climbed in the car selected for that year’s jaunt and headed for parts unknown. Their wanderings took them in all directions—to Savannah one year, to South Dakota and the Mount Rushmore Monument another year, to Santa Fe and Grapevine, Texas and Kansas City and St. Louis. The women talked, laughed, shopped, ate, and went sight-seeing. Carmen had an impish sense of humor and a wonderful zest for life. She enjoyed new experiences. Above all, she loved traveling, especially with her three special friends. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago in her late eighties that she finally acknowledged feeling old.
During those twenty-six years of October expeditions, their group didn’t change members and they never missed an autumn journey. Two of the women remarried during those years, and when their departure date arrived, they packed their bags and left their new bridegrooms to hold down the fort until they returned.
Carmen was a quiet woman, a determined woman, a woman who managed to meld two adult families into one after she married my husband’s brother. It was a second marriage for both of them. Eldon had two sons. Carmen had a son and a daughter. All of the adult children had families of their own. She enjoyed and cherished each member of her new extended family. When my husband and I retired and had more time for travel, Carmen and Eldon came with us several times. She tucked me under her wing and served as surrogate mother and sister as well as my beloved friend.
At Carmen’s funeral her daughter blindsided me with my Christmas gift that Carmen bought for me before her death, a beautiful hummingbird box. I went into the church’s hallway and wept until I couldn’t see. I still to this day weep inside when I think of Carmen.
The twenty-six year old tradition faithfully fashioned by these ladies of autumn finally had to bow to the realities of time. Carmen tried to organize one last outing in Oklahoma City for her and her friends. But schedules and physical problems intervened and that final trek to a dinner theater never happened.
Then it was September.
So, Carmen, my sister, my beautiful lady of autumn, my long distance traveling friend, God speed. You are missed.