I am one of those fortunate people who seem to attract a lot of Carolyns and Carolines into my life. This is a story about one of them.
Carolyn was a woman who loved with a heart as bright as the sun.
She came from the forested part of East Texas with a charming twang and a beautiful soul, one of a gaggle of sisters including a precious twin.
For unknown reasons she kind of adopted me as though I were a niece or younger sister. I’ll never really understand why, but I am eternally grateful that she did. We found each other at a time of increasing uncertainty in both our lives, and though I didn’t know it then, a time of personal rebirth. My parents were going through a protracted divorce. Various illnesses and crises cropped up here and there, major life changes occurred, and none of it was easy.
Perhaps she knew that I needed her — her boundless love, her strength, her listening non-judgmental ear — Carolyn was like that. She could see right through the bullsh*t and into your heart.
Carolyn was always up for a walk amidst the wildflowers in a certain park in Austin when I needed a break. Sometimes she’d just stop by with a word of advice, a warm hug, or a ready smile that always brightened my day.
I loved her southern phrases: “Just because they’re in the oven, don’t make ’em biscuits,” was one. Carolyn laughed easily and called nearly every person she met “Dear Heart” or “Darlin’,” or she’d say, “Bless your heart!” and mean it.
And oh, Carolyn loved babies. “Let me hold that baby!” she’d insist, and everyone always let her because she doted on them so. When my son was just a tiny infant and no family lived nearby, she was the only one I trusted to watch over him one night so my husband and I could have a desperately needed respite. Although my colicky baby screamed the entire time, she rocked him until he fell asleep in her arms. She made me promise not to ask her to babysit again after that, but I’m forever thankful for the gift of that one night.
Soon after, her grandson was born and she spent many nights rocking that little baby instead of mine, which is as things should be.
This time of year I think of her, for it was in April five years ago that Carolyn was killed by a drunk driver while coming home from babysitting that grandson. I’m saddened that she will never read this, and that I can never thank her properly.
And I miss her.
But you know what? I gain a bit of comfort knowing that there will always be a bright piece of her in me that has a southern twang, a ready smile and a pretty good bullsh*t detector. I honor her every time I look at my child or walk amidst the wildflowers in a certain park in Austin.