I got the call last night; Libby had died. She was in her mid-nineties, and I hadn’t seen her in almost twenty years, so our relationship was mostly birthday cards and flowers at Christmas. Still I appreciated the call.
I hung up the phone and paused, recalling what Libby meant to me as I sat in the dark. I always knew this moment would come, but I didn’t know how I would react. After all, Libby was the yin to my own mother’s yang. When the latter and I locked horns, it was Libby who helped unlock them. When my own Mother, whose job required that she travel, left town it was Libby with whom I stayed. With whom I poured out my heart about a teenage boyfriend or a geometry exam.
St. Louis, Missouri. Little Rock, Arkansas. Chicago, Illinois. These places were home to Mother and me. And always, Libby was there. Sometimes we lived down the street; other times, we just made a point to get together.
Our last bonding occurred twenty years ago as my Mother lay dying in Conway, Arkansas. Libby, my Aunt Alice, and I took turns being with her during those final months. But it was on Libby’s watch that the inevitable happened. She called me in the middle of an April night to say my Mother had passed away. You have no idea how grateful I have always been for her being there.
And here I am, twenty years later, mourning Libby quite possibly more than I mourned my Mother. And smiling that just as she called me, her niece did the same.