A photo of us a couple years ago out west next to the saguaro cacti. Charmaine is taller, on the right. When she called me she always said “hello, Lynnie” in the sweetest voice imaginable. A friend of 30 years at least. All those years ago, my husband, village president at the time, hired her husband Larry as police chief. The first time I saw her–Larry was dropping something at the house–she was sitting in the car and I thought”wow, she is so beautiful.” She looked like Nanette Fabray to me. And she was beautiful, but her physical beauty couldn’t hold a candle to her inner beauty.
People tend to emphasize the good in people when they are gone. So let me give full disclosure and admit we were human and had one altercation. We had one exchange of words in thirty years and it was over silly crap as most things are–and probably was mostly my fault.
And now she’s gone.
Not from a stroke or heart attack or even an abduction, murder, or suicide–at least then we’d know what the hell happened. (I almost used the “f” word, but Charmaine would not approve, would never have said such a thing–she never once even swore, not once– or said an unkind word about anyone. I never heard her.)
But it’s true– we don’t know what the hell happened.
Larry found her floating in the lake after she went down a few minutes ahead of him to swim. Put the ladder down without him, we think. She had a life belt on, a small bump on the head, they say. They regained a heart beat for a bit, Larry says, but then, he says, “she passed.”
It’s times like this that writers know words are ludicrously inadequate. All I can say is I can’t wrap my mind around this so I can’t even imagine how her family will do it.
The world is sadder without her in it. It’s harsher with sharper edges.
I always thought Charmaine needed protecting.
She drove on icy winter roads too fast. She rolled her car over once on them after I warned her to slow down. She drove that way not because she was reckless or an adventurer; she just never thought anything bad would ever happen. At times she seemed oblivious.
She had other car accidents. She was accident prone in general, one felt, but it was more than that. You knew she didn’t have that survival thing, that edge some of us have, that orneriness. You had this feeling you needed to pull a warm blanket around her, pull a hood up, stand between her and a world much too cruel for her. Pull her close. Because if there was ass kicking to be done, she didn’t have it in her to kick.
What the hell happened, Charmaine? HOW could you let this happen to you? But moreover, why weren’t we there shielding you? You know that’s what Larry is thinking, what her kids are thinking. And you know they’ll go on thinking it way, way too long. Yet, nobody can be there all the time. And maybe we’re wrong anyway.
Maybe she was the strong one and we only think we are.
I know they loved her. I loved her.
That’s all we could do–any of us.
And she loved us back.
I don’t know if it’s enough when something like this happens, but I guess it has to be.
Rest in peace, sweet Charmaine.