My Aunt Barbara

Dear Barbara,

Since you passed away Sunday night, it’s been difficult dealing with all these emotions that we have within us. I think the best way to do so is to talk about you. There are too many stories about you to tell. I’ve been receiving calls and emails all week from people who knew you who had no idea that I was your nephew; each person seems to have their own story about you. I’m sure during the months and years to come, we’ll remember even more. I really need to tell a few of them right now. I apologize if I mess up parts of these stories; you know how we Carr’s are prone to bouts of exaggeration.

The other day Uncle Roger told me a story about you from your childhood days. Hanging out at the Dempsey Pool in Price Hill, an older girl came up and bullied him around. He went and told you about it and you, despite being much shorter this girl [I don’t think you were ever five feet tall, were you?], beat the girl up. Then you warned all the other kids that if anyone else messed with her brother that they would have to answer to you. And Roger said that after that, no one dared touch him. I can’t believe you were such a punk! You were so cool. And so Westside.

You always wanted everyone to feel special. On my brother Chris’s birthday you threw him a party and invited our cousins. I guess this wasn’t grand enough for you, so you invited a bunch of kids from your church and your neighborhood to come too [I guess it didn’t matter that Chris didn’t know half the kids at his own party!]. You decided to take everyone to the park in your van. On arriving you realized someone was missing. It was me. Aunt Barbara, you had remembered all those kids and drove off without me, leaving me at your house! I was four-years old at the time, left Home Alone. They later made a movie about it. It starred Macaulay Culkin. I never saw a dime of that money. I’ve told that story a lot though, so thanks.

When our parents left town for a weekend getaway and needed someone to watch us, we always asked for you. You’d take us to Supreme Nut and Candy on Glenway Avenue and give us a dollar to spend. Speaking of a dollar, you could stretch one like Silly Putty. You knew how to get the most fun at the lowest possible price. We always had the best times when you were took care of us.

I always saw you at the North American Christian Convention because of Uncle Gary’s job. When we were playing Bible Bowl, you always offered your hotel room as a place to hang out [did you have to wear those old pajamas though?]. At the convention, I usually participated in the preaching competition. You’d show up and listen attentively and tell me what a wonderful job I did. I did so bad sometimes that I was sure you were lying. But I know you were sincere. You were just proud of your nephew.

Every once in awhile you’d give us a kiss on the cheek while wearing the brightest red lipstick ever invented. That lipstick was impossible to get off. I have to admit that it was icky. But for some strange reason, we didn’t seem to mind as much because it was from you.

Just recently you stopped by my brother and sister-in-laws house. My nephew Samuel loves pickles and you made sure to give him one. Who stops by someone’s house to give a kid a pickle? Only you.

Thanksgiving will never be the same without you. One Thanksgiving years ago my brother Tim was showing off the new stereo he had in his room in the basement. It quickly turned into a dance party when you got involved, dragging the rest of the family in there. Only you could have had Grandma dancing around on a waterbed while Billy Ray Cyrus sang, “Don’t Tell My Heart, My Achy, Breaky, Heart . . .” Somewhere there’s a video tape of this. It would be priceless to watch. Thanks for proving that we Carr’s have rhythm.

Another Thanksgiving, just a few years ago, my sister Becky was complaining of some pains. Now Becky, even to her own admission, can be a tad dramatic at times. It soon escalated to the point that she was writhing on the kitchen floor in pain. Dad, in tune with how Becky was, told her to stop playing around. But you went over, holding on to Becky, saying that they needed to rush her to the emergency room. Apparently she was passing some kidney stones. I guess you were right. Even if Becky wasn’t sick, you still would’ve reacted the same way.

While there are tons of other stories out there, this is the one I will cherish forever. Growing up I was a huge Pete Rose fan, but since the Reds traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies in the late seventies, I had never seen him play in person. I guess you knew how much I liked him because when I was seven years old you, Uncle Gary, Grandma and me went to Riverfront Stadium to see him play when the Phillies were in town. I remember it was a school night and it was probably the latest I had ever been allowed to stay up. Afterward we went to the Frisch’s on Central Parkway. All of this so I could see Pete play ball. I’ll never forget that night as long as I live.

If I could pick one object to describe you and what you meant to the our family, it would be Elmer’s glue. Over the past twenty-five years our family has been through a lot. Through thick and thin, you were the constant, trying to keep everyone together. That was so selfless of you. You always cared about other people. You were such an includer, not wanting anyone to feel left out. No matter how bad things were, it was impossible not to smile when you were around.

Your personality was magnetic. Your laugh was intoxicating. Your smile was illuminating. There will never be another Barbara. Our lives have been truly blessed to have had you in it. I’m sorry I never told you this while you were with us. But I know you know how I felt. I’ll miss you more than you could ever have imagined. I’ll do my best to keep the stories alive so that other people can see how truly amazing you were. I love you.

See you soon,

*** If anyone reading this has a good Barbara story, feel free to add it by clicking on the Comments button below.