I know this blog is about writing and fun and frivolous things. I also know that I owe you a report on the Placentia Library evening, which was great. But before I do that, I must take a moment for a memory, and I ask your indulgence.
The lady in the picture is my husband's cousin, Amanda Knox. This photo was taken at my brother-in-law's wedding. Next to Amanda is my husband, Dale, her husband, Charles, and my husband's Uncle Ronnie.
Amanda passed away last Friday. According to Dale, she hadn't been feeling well so she went to the doctor. The diagnosis was severe: cancer ran rampant through her body. She died soon after.
It's the kind of diagnosis that used to happen. Nowadays, you go to the doctor and they find the little cancer immediately and treat it and maybe the treatment nearly kills you but you live through it and live on, possibly for a long time. Not for Amanda.
I don't know anything about her life. Her childhood, her years of study and work, are a mystery to me. I don't even know her maiden name. The facts I know are that she was married to Charles, they have two sons and seven grandchildren, and they lived in Hemet, California. As far as age, I believe she was somewhere in her 70's.
More importantly, I know she was a lady I loved to see at family gatherings, someone I wanted to spend more time with but couldn't. Hemet and Placentia are a good hour apart. We have busy lives. The only time our interests truly converge is when we are thrown together at a family event.
Amanda was a regal presence, confident and gracious. The picture doesn't capture her as I truly remember her: a striking, lithe woman, dressed in a silk shirt and pleated slacks, a la Lauren Bacall, usually wearing a brimmed hat over her silver hair. Her voice was smooth and low, although she could erupt in a full, throaty laugh. She could be stern about the running of her household, but her heart was soft when it came to her grandchildren or her animals.
As is the case with most family functions, you don't often get to sit down and have an intense discussion with anyone, but I ended up one 4th of July alone with her while we went on a search for something around her farm in Hemet. Briefly, in between pointing out a patch of flowers or one of Charles' sculptures, she told me of the prejudice she endured as a young woman trying to find work in Los Angeles.
"We don't have anything for a colored girl to do here." Her voice turned hard and flat as she repeated what they had said.
I look back at the woman I met 18 years ago, who was so poised and self-assured, and marvel at the way she took those experiences and used them to her advantage, instead of letting them defeat her.
I wonder how many family gatherings it will take me to stop looking for her face among the crowd. I'll miss just knowing she's walking the planet with me. Good-bye, Amanda. Please know how much I admired and adored you.
Thank you for letting me take this moment.