I just got an e-mail from my Mum: she'd gotten e-mail from Evelyn Carter's niece in New Orleans, saying that Evelyn had died Thursday morning.
Evelyn was… well, she worked for my grandparents as their domestic (cooking, cleaning, and so on), but I always thought of her as being my other grandmother: she'd been part of the household forever, certainly since before I was born, so she fit well as a grandmother in my mind. As a small child, I wasn't used to people having servants (no-one in St. Louis had servants), so I just assumed she must be a family member. When I got older, I realized she wasn't really related to us… but she was infinitely preferable to some of the people to whom I was related, so not much really changed.
She was not very well educated (not her doing: I don't think there were a lot of educational opportunities for black women from poor families in New Orleans when she was young). And she was deeply superstitious, and she was very conservative about some things, and she was a never-ending fount of malapropisms (my favourite was when she complained about her "veryclose veins"), and she had a Nwoyeans accent so thick as to almost sound like self-parody (if you've ever heard me talk about the verb "berl", meaning to heat water until it starts to become steam, that's an approximation of Evelyn's accent). But she was a wonderful woman, and a very sensible and folk-wise one, and she loved my Mum and my sister and me as if we were her own family. (Not that this ever stopped her scolding us or giving us a piece of her mind, mind: we always summarised Evelyn's view of the world as “I'm entitled to my opinion… and you're entitled to my opinion, too!”)
I'd kept in touch with her by phone in the years following my grandparents' deaths: she was really the only person in New Orleans I had any reason to want to talk to. (She'd inevitably ask whether I was married yet: not wanting to get married was a concept I don't think I ever really got across to her.) And she sent me birthday cards and the like. But I hadn't seen her in a long time… and now I won't get to again. I'm sorry for that: I would have liked to see her again, and to say good-bye properly.
But failing that: good-bye, Evelyn. And thanks, and love.