We 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.
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.
I 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.