I had absolutely no right to cry over the death of Mrs. Howard. She wasn’t family, and I hadn’t seen her in more than 20 years. That didn’t stop me from crumpling onto the couch and howling like a kitten hurled from a moving car when I heard the news last year.
Between the damp, snotty sobs, I wracked my brain to figure out why word of Mrs. Howard’s death had struck me so squarely. I hadn’t kept in touch with my mother’s friend once I’d graduated from high school and fled my unhappy hometown life.
I poked at the space her loss had left, like examining the socket where a tooth was once firmly lodged. She’d had a dog, Piper, of which I was quite fond. She’d let me practice my piano lessons on her electric organ, and that was awfully nice. She’d taken me to the mother-daughter Girl Scout dinner…oh…
That was the raw nerve causing the ache. She’d filled in during at least one of many school-sanctioned mother-daughter outings when my mom was unable. It’s what lots of sisters, aunts, friends, neighbors, teachers do when they see a child in need of care and comfort. And Mrs. Howard did it for me.