I was perfectly serious yet quite pleased when my observation regarding the death of Cousin #3 caused her sister, Cousin #2, to laugh for the first time in days. As you may recall, I spent the summer traveling with Cousin #3 in the California Gold Country, Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. She passed away April 7 when her liver and kidneys ceased functioning due to congenital problems of which we were unaware until recently. She would have been 65 next month.
More than 35 years ago, I thought I had lost Cousin #3 when she was traveling in Guatemala during a 7.5 earthquake that killed and injured many thousands of people. That was in 1976. I remember thinking how strange it would be to live without her in my life. I feel the same way now.
It was weeks (months?) before the family heard that she was OK. As Americans returned from Guatemala to the U.S., they were armed with lists of phone numbers of families to call to let them know their relatives were still alive. Shortly before the call came to deliver the much welcome news, my Uncle Glenn was about to charter an airplane to fly down to Central America to look for her. How he intended to locate Rene was never made clear. I imagine he felt helpless and wanted to do something, anything, no matter how futile.
Cousin #3 was the best travel companion ever. She established the standard by which I judge other guests. Should you spend time with me in the RV, you’ll soon notice I say things such as, “Rene did it this way,” whether referring to washing the dishes, making the bed, doing the laundry or setting up the BBQ.
As we are first cousins born only six months apart, I can’t remember a time I didn’t know Rene. Of all the women in my family, she was the most feminine in her youth and into her 30s. There’s a photo of all the cousins taken in the 1950s when we were in Tijuana. Rene is in a pretty little dress and practically curtsying in front of the camera. Cousin #2 is staring defiantly at the camera and I look as if I was almost caught picking my nose.
When Rene and I were young women and in the presence of men, they were always attracted to her (vs. me). Unfortunately, her choice in men was not always good, nor were some of the other choices she made in her life. Which led me to what I said that made Cousin #2 laugh:
“She’s going to have a lot of explaining to do when she sees your mother.” If you knew my Aunt Betty, you’d understand.