One of my earliest memories of my aunt Lola involves baby powder on our socks and skating all over her wooden floor. I knew she was very strict with my cousins Riza and Carlitos, but when it came to her visiting with my mom, we got into all kinds of adventures that included “ice skating” across her living room in socks with baby powder. I never asked my cousins if they got in trouble after we left their hardwoods filled with powder!
We would do “science experiments” with Selsun Blue shampoo in their restroom, we played “Happy Days,” with my cousin Carlitos playing the part of the Fonz and using the arm of the living room armchair as his motorcycle. We played in their backyard on their swing set, which I coveted, “house” in our outside washroom, even in the winter, and danced “ballet” and pretended we owned a “fur company” at our other uncle’s house over his bakery.
Lola (Dolores) was married to my Uncle Carlos, my mother’s little brother, whom she loved dearly. My mother was thirteen years older than her brother and he was just a little boy when she married my father. She was very close to him and he called my mom “Madamita,” a nickname their whole family called her.
My mother and Lola were best friends. All those times that the kids and I were playing for hours, my mom, aunt and uncle were lost in conversation over coffee, pan dulce or Pecan Sandies. They never seemed to run out of things to talk about. We saw them every single week, because either we stopped at their house after our JW meeting or because they stopped by our house. Lola and Carlos are a part of almost every childhood memory I have.
The day that our Uncle Ismael died my mom and I were visiting with him at his bakery. He walked us outside to my sister Sarah’s car. She had taken us there to show my uncle her new Chevette. The pay phone in the bakery rang and it was my other sister telling us that Carlos and Lola were at our house. My mom, sister and I said goodbye to my Uncle Ismael, not knowing that it was the last time we would see him alive.
I don’t remember how long after we got home we got the call that something had happened at the bakery, but I remember my mom, dad, sister Hilda, Carlos and Lola all ran out the door and left us kids with the baby Susana and my older sister Becky and her boyfriend Raul, with hardly a word.
Lola and Carlos were there that fateful night that my uncle was killed in a robbery and my mother held her brother for the last time. My sister Hilda, who was a nurse, tried to administer CPR without success. They shared that loss and tragedy with my mother.
As I grew up and became an adult, Carlos and Lola were still constants in my home visiting my mom, always drinking coffee together and laughing at memories from over the years.
Lola would ask my mom, “Tell me again that story about the time Nico went to work in Arizona and you took the bus all by yourself to go meet him there.”
And my mother, the talented story-teller in her own right, would go into detail about the bus ride and the characters she met along the way.
It’s almost fitting that the night my mother died, Lola was with her. She and my cousin Nere, and their daughters, had gone to visit my mom and seeing how sick she was feeling decided to stay up with her after my father went to bed. Little did anyone know that it was the day my mother would die and Lola was with her when she took her last breath. For that I will always be grateful and I thanked her later. She was her best friend until the very end.
Sadly, over the last twenty-one years since my mother died I grew even further from my aunt and uncle. Differences in religion, or lack thereof on my part, probably played a role. I can’t say for sure, but never-the-less we drifted apart.
This weekend there will be a memorial service on Zoom for Lola. She passed away a week ago from meningitis. She was one month shy of her 76th birthday, too young in my book.
The last time I saw her and my uncle was at my father’s funeral three years ago. I had happened to see her a few months prior to that, at a cousin’s funeral. I sat next to her and my uncle in their pew at the funeral home and caught up with them. It was probably the last full conversation I had with them, the winter of 2017.
Although we didn’t speak these last few years, she holds a dear place in my heart. How couldn’t she? She is in every memory I have as a little girl. She and my uncle spent hours with my mother and loved her dearly. I will always refer to Lola as my mother’s best friend. I love her and my Uncle Carlos because they loved my mother, and I wish I had remained close to them for that reason. Goodbye dear Lola, until we meet again.