When I was little, we spent every New Year’s Eve together. We would take all of the cushions off her couch and make a fort. I’d spread a blue blanket on the floor for the pool and we’d go swimming. Sometimes we’d go to a movie. Always we’d go to Old Country Buffet, Eat ‘n Park, or some other fine dining establishment near her apartment. And of course we welcomed in each year with Dick Clark and a New Year’s Pretzel for good luck.
Whenever I came to Pittsburgh, she would buy me apricot nectar. I never knew how or why she decided that was what I liked, but without fail it would appear. She also brought donut holes to my grandmother’s house—a sinful delight for a child raised on natural foods.
She wore a wig for as long as I knew her. She had plenty of hair underneath—she just didn’t like it for some reason. We were always sort of puzzled and entertained by that, but it was part of who she was. When we saw her in the hospital a week and a half ago, she was not wearing the wig.** She had almost no gray hair.
She came to Detroit when I graduated from high school. Probably rode all day on a Greyhound to do so. Didn’t faze her. She enjoyed chatting with the people in the seats near her.
She came to DC when Jen and I got married. She hopped out of the back seat of my mother’s car ready to go—and helped us assemble fans, plastic champagne glasses, and anything else we would let her get her hands on, but she did insist that she and the other family “workers” were entitled to 15 minute breaks, union rules! When we ran out of tasks to assign, she harassed us for not working her hard enough. She was ready to storm the White House to give Dubya a piece of her mind about the wedding not being legal. Instead, she entertained us all by doing the Jitterbug with one of my karate instructors.
Her birthday was February 29, so we always teased her about being four times as young as she really was. And really, it made sense. She was the youngest 22-year-old I’d ever met. I said to Jen tonight, “You know, I sort of never thought she’d die. It’s so out of character for her.”
If it’s possible, I now wish even more that Coqui had been born in April as planned. I wanted her to meet our child, and wanted our child to meet her.
We love you, Bea. We miss you already.
*A few years ago Bea said, "Dot com this, dot com that. EVERYTHING's dot com now. I'm going to sign my Christmas cards this year Bea.com!"
**Jen was astonished to discover it was a wig – it looked so right, so much like her.