I have a dear cousin named Hazel. We are separated by enough years that we are almost in different generations and when I was growing up she was my model of beauty and sophistication. Looking back she kind of reminded me of the Audrey Hepburn of the 1950’s with her short dark pixie haircut and brown eyes. Her favorite perfume was White Shoulders and when I would visit she would let me dab some behind my ears.
When I grew up we became friends as well as relatives and although I moved to California in my 30’s and she remained in Pennsylvania – in fact, except for a couple of trips to New Jersey to the casinos I don’t recall her ever leaving the valley – we have always kept in touch.
I remember about ten years ago when I had flown back home to clear out my mother’s house so it could be sold, Hazel and I were at the small local airport waiting for my younger son to arrive. It was about 11 at night and bad weather had delayed his plane. Now this is a really small airport and at that time of night there was nobody around – not even in the coffee shop or ticket counters.
It was right out of the twilight zone and before long Hazel and I were laughing like lunatics. About 45 minutes later, a mysterious voice came over an intercom saying the plane had landed. Suddenly, magically, people started to appear all around us – at the ticket counter, at the luggage wheel, on the concourse – everywhere but the parking lot.
After Jason loaded his luggage in the trunk, we discovered that there was no one attending the parking check out. The swing arm gate was down and locked and the lights were going out in the terminal. After taking a vote, we decided to drive around the attendant’s booth and gate, through the flower bed, over the curb and on to the exit drive. It was a memorable evening and one that she and I both enjoy reminiscing.
I haven’t been back to Pennsylvania since my mom died but Hazel and I talk a few times a year. In fact, I talked to her last week and told her about my 50th high school reunion coming up this summer. We discussed the possibility of my journeying back but I don’t know that I am able to travel alone any more. During our long conversation, Hazel brought up the proposed trip several times, each time as if she had forgotten we had talked about it.
Yesterday there was a message on my answering machine from her. She said she didn’t know if she had been dreaming it or not and was trying to remember if I had told her I was coming home this summer. If I was I could stay with her. She had to run an errand but would call me back later that afternoon. She never called. I guess she forgot.
It is very poignant to recognize that someone you love is slowly slipping away – in mind if not in body. I am so grateful for the many memories she and I have created, memories that soon I may have to treasure alone.