Let Me Tell You About Barbara

imageWe met Barbara at a very needy time in our lives.  We were a young family, newly transplanted from Philadephia to a faraway place we had never been to before, San Antonio. We knew nobody. We had left all our friends and family back in Connecticut and Philadelphia. While my husband was busy with the new job he had been hired for, developing and setting up a police department for Trinity University, I was left at home with a baby not yet two, a five-year-old and a seven-year-old. Though I was excited about our new adventure, I was also terribly homesick.

Then one day, my husband introduced the children and me to Barbara, whom he had met at the Trinity library. She was the assistant to the director. We fell in love with her immediately, and the love was mutual. She had one son who lived halfway across the country and no grandchildren. So she adopted us. That was thirty-three years ago.

Barbara was one of the smartest women I ever knew. She knew so much about so many subjects, especially the arts. She had fabulous parties with fascinating people from the community, artists and journalists, and patrons of the arts, and she always included us. Our children were usually the only children at these events, but she made them fit right in. I know being around Barbara and her friends shaped so much of our children’s attitudes and gave them knowledge and wisdom beyond their years.

Barbara and our youngest son, Ben, on date night.

Barbara and our youngest son, Ben, on date night.


At my graduation in1989

From the time our youngest was about four, she began taking each of them on “dates,” one at a time. They would dress up and she would dress up, and she would take them to a fancy restaurant or a show. Each of them felt so special getting Barbara’s individual attention. Barbara was with us for every birthday and holiday, school concert, and even my graduation from Incarnate Word University when I earned my Master’s degree. It was unthinkable to have a celebration without Barbara.

Then one day she told us she was moving to Florida. Her son and daughter-in-law had moved to Gulf Breeze, near Pensacola, and she was going to take her elderly mother and join them there. Her brother lived a few hours away on the east coast of Florida. We were devastated. How different our lives were going to be without her. Of course, by that time we had lived in Texas for quite a few years and had made many good friends, so we weren’t alone like we were when we had first moved there. But that didn’t matter. We had many friends, but we wouldn’t have our Barbara. We missed her so much that first year, when summer vacation came, we loaded the kids into the station wagon and headed to Pensacola, a twelve-hour drive. We stayed with her in her condo and had a fabulous time being together again. We hated to leave and vowed to come back. We did just that—for ten years in a row. Even after the kids grew up and were in college, George and I kept going for a few years more.

The visits stopped after awhile as our vacation time was taken up with visiting children who had left home, and our only contact with Barbara was through letters and phone calls. Her life was so much different after she moved to Florida. She had lost her circle of friends and never made the connections in Gulf Breeze. She lived a much quieter life, but I hope she was content. She was devoted to her son, and it was important for her to spend her later years with him. The last time we saw her was four and a half years ago when we were moving here to Virginia and we stopped in to see her along the way.

imageI have so many memories of Barbara, I can’t begin to recount all of them, but one of my favorites was her at her piano. She had a ton of old sheet music from the forties, and she would play it beautifully while we all stood around the piano and sang. I have a binder full of those old songs she let me copy, and every time I play them, I think of her and those parties.  The best memory I have of Barbara, though, is how much we loved her and how much she loved us.   Barbara died yesterday at noon. She was eighty-four.

About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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34 Responses to Let Me Tell You About Barbara

  1. Pingback: As Time Goes By | Coming East

  2. pattisj says:

    Barbara sounds like such a sweet lady, almost family. May you be comforted in those moments your thoughts wander to visit with her again. .

  3. Robin says:

    This is a beautiful, loving, tribute. I’m sorry about the loss of your friend.

    • Coming East says:

      Thank you, Robin. The most wonderful compliment I could ever have gotten was from the mother of my little 4-year-old friend. After she read this post, she texted me that I was their Barbara. Made me cry!

  4. Pingback: The best gift we can give our children might be the friends we keep | My Pajama Days

  5. This is such a wonderful tribute to an amazing woman who clearly left her mark on the hearts of your family.

    • Coming East says:

      Thank you, LWTTD. It’s hard to believe she’s gone. Each of the five of us were able to send her good-bye letters before she died, and her son told us it meant so much to her.

  6. dorannrule says:

    I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. We also lost our friend, Terry, on April 10th. I have been trying to write a blog post about him, so yours is inspirational. I will try again. Friends like these are so sorely missed.

  7. Amy says:

    So sorry for your loss, Susan. It’s a beautiful tribute to Barbara. She is more than a good friend to your and your family… that is difficulty to let go.

  8. Patti Ross says:

    What a lovely tribute. Those we chose to be part of our family are just so special.

  9. Dianna says:

    My deepest sympathy in the loss of your friend, Susan. Barbara sounds like a wonderful person and a great friend. How many adults would take the time to take little ones on individual dates??

  10. SuziCate says:

    So sorry for your loss. Those are the type of friends who are family. Your family and Barbara were equally blessed by the relationship.

  11. Rosalie says:

    I am so sorry to hear about Barbara. I know how much she meant to all of you.

  12. What a beautiful tribute to your friend Barbara. She was obviously a blessing who was placed in your life at exactly the moment you needed her the most. Something tells me that you have “payed it forward” in your own life!

  13. Angeline M says:

    A beautiful tribute to your dear friend. Amazing how the Universe puts certain people in our lives to enrich us. Blessings to you, and may you continue to feel her warmth through the memories.

  14. Shary Hover says:

    What a loving tribute to a special person in your life. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  15. Lovely story and tribute.

  16. Huffygirl says:

    So sorry for your loss. How wonderful that you were able to make her part of your family.

    • Coming East says:

      Thanks, HG. It never was planned. It just happened so naturally. When the kids were growing up, they couldn’t think about doing things without inviting Barbara.

  17. Al says:

    Sad news for you and George. However, the warm memories will live on. Very nice tribute to a very giving individual.

  18. Illiana Quimbaya says:

    This was beautiful.

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