I Want to Be Like You

We had just returned to Thailand after visiting Singapore and Hong Kong when we got the call no traveler wants to get. “Your mother isn’t doing well,” our brother-in-law told Phil. “It’s probably time for you two to come home….” Mom was 101.

              Tima Ayala Nov 21, 1912 - May 3, 2014

Tima Ayala – Nov 21, 1912 – May 3, 2014

Twenty years ago I fell madly in love with Tima’s son, Phil. There were many reasons for that but what sealed the deal for me was when he told me that, in his family, they revere women and put them up on a pedestal.


When I went to his family home and met his mother, I could see why they put women on a pedestal. I put her on a pedestal as well, and for 20 years that is where she has remained with me.

the first meeting

A number of things impressed me about this family on my first visit. I was awed by how large and loving it was. In watching, I realized that Phil’s mom and his dad John were the maypole from which all of these people sprang and learned how to live their lives and raise their children.

Older couple having fun

Everyone in the family gave me such a warm welcome on that first meeting. For example, when I entered the house and Phil introduced me, grandchildren jumped up and hugged me right off. Later that day a young granddaughter said to me about Mom, “I want to be like her when I grow up.” I was awed that these grandchildren were so loving to others and admiring of an older person.  I thought about what it is that creates that kind of behavior in a family and realized that these must be wonderful people.


Tima was 81 years old when I met her that first day. She was dressed in a flowing black silk skirt and a black sleeveless top, with cute sandals and long red hair perfectly coiffed. She had on lipstick and mascara and was bejeweled with rings and bracelets and necklaces of silver and turquoise. The woman was glamorous. I thought to myself, if she can be this glamorous at her age, then any of us can. And that’s when I too said “I want to be like her when I grow up”.



My mother came from North Carolina to visit with us at Phil’s parents’ house one summer. We parked our little RV in the yard and Mother and I slept there while Phil slept in the house. My mother was largely blind with macular degeneration but could see just enough to tell what was going on. Everyday we would go into the house and visit with Tima and John.

Mom Dad Mama and Me

Mom and Dad with my Mama and me

When Mother returned home to North Carolina, she told tales about her visit. The story she loved to tell was about witnessing Phil’s parents sitting on the couch after dinner, the TV on, family all around. “There they were,” my Mother would say, “holding hands and talking to each other like there was no one else in the room. They were just like lovebirds.”

And that’s when I said, “I want Phil and me to be like them when we grow up”.

Mom and Dad as lovebirds


going to new mexico

Mom and Dad liked to go to Albuquerque New Mexico each year. Mom was born near there so she liked to visit relatives, shop for turquoise jewelry to add to her collection, and get sacks of New Mexico’s famous green chile to bring home. Mom didn’t like to sleep in unfamiliar places so Dad would drive the entire 15 hours from LA to New Mexico without stopping for the night.

Phil and I started thinking that at 85 years old this might be too much driving for Dad and maybe even dangerous for him and others, so we cooked up a scheme. “What if we go with you”, we offered, “and Phil could drive the RV and we’d all have a good time together?” It was in part a sneaky way to get Dad off the road. They loved the idea so that’s what we did.

Mom in RV in curlers

In the RV Mom could leave in her curlers

Dad rode shotgun in the RV and Mom and I would sit at the dining room table, chatting the whole way. Coming back we would cover the table with newspaper or plastic and she and I would peel gunny sacks full of chile for the 15 hour ride back. The best part (besides having all my chile peeled and ready to freeze) is that Mom would tell me stories, about her life, her childhood, her family. Every tale she told always put others in a good light. I never heard her speak badly of anyone and to me she embodied the saying, “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all”.


call me “mom”

She did get after me once, however. For some reason I started calling her “Tima”. She told me in no uncertain terms that I was to call her “Mom”. So from then on “Mom” it was.

Mom passed on May 3rd, 2014 while holding her son Phil’s hand, a man we both love. Remarkably, it was the exact same day on which Dad, her beloved husband she married 80 years ago, passed away 7 years previous. Was that a coincidence or some Divine Plan?

Mom and Dad in garden

Mom and Dad passed away on the exact same day 7 years apart

thank you

So Mom, thank you for your love, your kindness, your example of how to live and love, and for your son Phil who I promise to love and cherish. Like your grandchildren, I still want to be like you when I grow up. You know, I hope we can all be more like you.  We love you, Mom. Rest in Peace.

Mom at 101 years old

60 responses to “I Want to Be Like You”

  1. Alicia says:

    Hello Aunti & Uncle. It’s a very warm Sunday morning for March here in San Diego. We are having a heatwave. I opened up my email this morning and noticed your new “travel post” but I’ve had grandma on my mind a lot in the last week or so and decided to re-read your tribute. I realized the one year anniversary of her passing is coming soon and that is probably why. I realized this morning that it is probably also because my mom’s (Tima’s eldest child) baby just turned 50 years old! Yesterday we had a nice immediate family gathering and as you know “immediate family” is still a pretty good size party! We all gathered in our usual fashion but it was the first time, in a long time, that people were noticing and commenting “oh that is so Tima!” Rick and Christine call me Tima whenever I do something or sound just like her. Most people would roll their eyes as if it were an insult but not our family! “We all want to be like her when we grow up” Well now we are grown up and have our own children and grandchildren. We enjoy telling their stories to our children so grandma and grandpa are never forgotten. It’s so cute and heartwarming to see our children laugh at the stories! I felt she and grandpa both were there with us yesterday in spirit. I needed to read this tribute again and I want to thank you so much for writing it. Is there a way I you or I can print it on hard copy? Just the original without the comments? Love and safe travels from both Rick and I. xoxo

  2. Lori says:

    You never cease to amaze me CarolSue. Your love just continues to blossom, grow and through your writing…it just pours right out of you. What a gift your mother-in-law was to you. I’m glad you had such a special relationship. How nice to have such a wonderful role model. I’m sure she will be missed but you will get to keep those marvelous memories forever.

    ….and I’m sure she is looking down from heaven right now at you and her son Phil (the little lovebirds)

    • CarolSue says:

      Thank you, Lori, for such kind remarks. Mom was very special and I was blessed to have her in my life. I hope things are going well for you! Luv, CarolSue

  3. Susan Ullis says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your “mom”; a greate celebration of a life well celebrated. What sticks with me most is that in the stories she told to you about her life, she never said a disparaging word. What a lovely soul. Must make for a long and loving life. It is easy to see how much she will be missed. My condolences to you both.
    Susan Ullis
    PS. I have just returned to Washington State – one-way ticket – to spend time with my 91-year old mother. She seemed to be ailing, but now it looks like her physical health is good, but that dementia is setting in. Oh, dear.

    • CarolSue says:

      Susan, thank you so much for your remarks about my mother in law – truly a special woman. I understand about your going to be with your mother. You will be happy you did, in my view. I wish I had spent more time with my mother before she passed unexpectedly at 93. I miss her so very often. Here’s hoping you get to have some quality time with your mom. Kauai will wait for you! Best always, CarolSue


    Hi, Carol. It didn’t seem as though my last “comment” was posted, so here I am writing again.

    Thanks for such a beautiful description of our Mother. I know you loved her — and she knew it, too.

    The greatest tribute you gave her, over and over, was whenever you asked her advice — on how to make Philip happy, cooking, and the many other ways in which you made her feel as special as she was — every day.

    Thanks also to your Mom, who was adorable!

    Your Sister-In-Law, LOLLY

    • CarolSue says:

      Thank you, Lolly, for your kind remarks. Your Mother was very special to me and I will miss having her in my life. I am sure you and all the family will, too. She and Dad had a beautiful relationship so it was only natural to ask her for advice about Philip. The way they loved each other was adorable. Take care, Sister, and enjoy your life and love. My best, CarolSue

  5. Kathleen says:

    Wow, what an amazing woman an inspiration! So glad you had the time with her that you did. Let’s ride when your back on Kauai!

    • CarolSue says:

      Dear Kathleen, you are right. She was an amazing woman. I would love to ride with you when we come to Kauai in August! See you then. CarolSue

  6. Walt says:

    Your gift, on the words you write, truly is special, sorry for your loss but what a wonderful life she was able to have. We should all be so lucky….

    • CarolSue says:

      Thank you, Walt. So good to hear from you. And you are right that she had a wonderful life. She was such a good person and I am blessed to have been loved by her. We are coming to Kauai in August and I hope I see you. Take care.

  7. Linda says:

    What a wonderful tribute to a beautiful lady. What r your plans for this summer. I am spending summer in anacortes Wa., near my son, looking forward to having few friends up to see me and being with family. Have met mice guy and he drove up with me but he heads for lake chapala, Mexico each summer- hopefully absence will make the heart grow fonder??? I plan on going back to palm desert in September. Hope to cross paths with you and maybe welcome you back to MCC. Best regards, Linda

    • CarolSue says:

      Hi Linda, thank you so much for your comment. Sounds like things are good for you. Glad you met someone you likr. We may indeed see you back at the luxurious MotorCoach Country Club this winter. Our plans are not yet set. Take care and drive that big coach carefully. I never did get my lessons on driving the Big Rig from you….:)

  8. Pat Troxel says:

    So sorry to hear of Tima’s passing. My sympathy to you and Phil. What a wonderful little story you’ve written about her, Carol – sounds like there’s a book there somewhere. Thanks for sharing with us. I leave for Iceland and Norway next week and will be meeting a desc endent of my maternal grandmother when I get to Norway. He’s taking me to the homestead where my grandmother was born and raised.


    • CarolSue says:

      Pat, thank you so much for your kind words about Tima and about my story. I am so impressed that you are going “back to your roots” – to Norway. I hear that Iceland is a fantastic place to visit. There is a buzz about it in the travel blogs. Enjoy. I can’t wait to hear about that trip. Hope to see you soon. Luv, CarolSue

  9. Melissa says:

    Aloha Carol,
    Just saw your post about Phil’s sweet Mother. You and I were blessed with amazing Mothers in Law. Reading your sweet words about Tima reminded me so much of Ron’s Mom, Peggy.
    Sending thoughts and prayers to both of you. Take care of each other. See you during your next trip back “home” to Kauai.
    All the best,
    Melissa and Ron

    • CarolSue says:

      Melissa, thank you so much for your kind words. Yes, we were blessed to have great moms-in-law. Phil and I are coming to Kauai August 10 and look forward to seeing you then. Take care and enjoy our Paradise! CarolSue

  10. Erna says:

    Aloha Phil and Carol Larry and I are sorry for your loss of your mom. Have been reading about all your travels you both look so happy.
    When are you coming back to Kauai? Miss you both.

    Lots of love Erna and Gator 🙂

    • CarolSue says:

      Erna darlin, thank you for your comment and your kind sympathy. Phil’s mom was very special. Happy you have been following us and our Happy Trails. We are going to be seeing you, I hope, around August 10! Look for us. Luv to you both. CarolSue

  11. Misty De La Rosa says:

    Carol and Phil,
    My deepest sympathies to you.
    Thank you for sharing your story about Aunt Tima. It was such a loving tribute to her.
    I didn’t have the pleasure of being around family when I was young but I did as I got older. I loved Uncle John and Aunt Tima so very much. I can still remember Uncle John stopping the train so Danny could talk to the engineer. He would make me laugh. Aunt Tima would ask who we were and was always so sweet and kind. I could feel the love that was always present. I amblessed to have gotten to know them and have them a part of my life too.
    It was so fun at her birthday party last year. I am glad we got to be a part of that.
    I am thankful for the chance we have had to spend time with you and Phil. I hope we get more opportunities soon. We would love to have you come to Vegas soon if it works into your schedule.
    Than you again for sharing such a wonderful tribute to Aunt TIma. We will miss her.

    • CarolSue says:

      Dear Misty, thank you so much for your kind words. So glad you like the story about Tima and I am glad you got to know them. They were a blessing to anyone who did. Phil and I ARE coming to Vegas for a few days next month because I am getting an award for my previous career! Can we get together then? Maybe I can see some more of your beautiful photography. That would be super. Best always, CarolSue

      • Misty De La Rosa says:

        I would love to see you both!! When will you be here?
        Congratulations on your award.
        Looking forward to seeing you soon.

        • CarolSue says:

          July 21 is the date for Vegas for us. We may come a day earlier. Will be in touch so we can for sure see you guys! Yeah. CarolSue

  12. Donna Carrick says:

    Dear CarolSue,
    You have captured Tima’s spirit in your beautiful story. What a great impact she had on her family and on her beautiful daughter in law, whom she first met when she was 81! Wow! She inspires me, through your story, to sail through the golden years with a loving heart, a little style, and a great hairdo ;))
    Love and hugs to you and Phil,

    • CarolSue says:

      Dear Donna, thanks so much for your sweet comments. As we grow older may you and I both have a great hairdo! You already have a loving heart and style….Luv u

  13. Wan Ping says:

    Hi Carol,

    I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Your mother-in-law is such a wonderful lady.

    I am Wan Ping from Singapore. My friend Siew Kin and I met you and your husband at Tim Ho Wan Restaurant in Hong Kong. Can you still remember us ? It’s really great to have met you and your husband in Hong Kong. I really enjoy reading your travel stories. Let me know if you are coming to Singapore again and we can meet up.

    Take care.

    Best Wishes,
    Wan Ping

    • CarolSue says:

      Wan Ping, yes! I remember you and Siew Kin. You told me all the good things to order at that fabulous dim sum eatery. The best baked pork buns ever! We will certainly contact you when we return to Singapore. I would go there again for the amazing SuperTree Grove alone – I felt like I was inside the movie Avatar. Singapore is a cool city, as is Hong Kong. Best to you both and thank you so much for reading my story and posting such a nice comment. Please stay in touch. Best always, CarolSue

  14. Iris Burman says:


    What a sweet tribute to an incredible woman. I would have loved to have met her. I too love the image of the maypole for a free flowing but totally connected family.

    I have enjoyed reading about your travels and hope one day to be able to take such a meandering journey myself with Ed (who just turned 81 a couple of weeks back, can you believe it!)

    I was wondering just a couple of weeks ago about MIchael Gilotti and whatever happened to him as we were ordering tables from Pisces for our students and I noticed that he was no longer connected to it. Nice to hear of his next adventures too through his own comments.

    My sympathies to you and Phil and the rest of the Ayala clan. I love your heartfelt stories of your time with her. It must have been so amazing to travel with such a story teller as she, listening to her tales of a century of life. And now we get to hear about them in the words of another fabulous storyteller- you. Tima lived 101 years and seems to have had a great journey along the way. May we all be so blessed with long life and joyous rememberances.

    I’m still waiting for you make it to the east coast and to share time and space with you and Phil. Is that in your plans anytime soon? Sure miss you girlfriend.

    much love, iris

    • CarolSue says:

      My dear Iris, long time fabulous friend, thank you for your sweet comments. Yes, you would have loved to have known Tima. I know how you appreciate “Real Souls”. Please say Happy Birthday to Ed for Phil and me. I would love to see you both. I know we have been saying we are coming to the East Coast, but when my mama died it sorta took that wind out of my sail. But I want to come and see you and others I love there. There are just so many places to go….Keep a light on for me, love. Til then, your forever friend CarolSue.

  15. LeEllen & Ed Baker says:

    So sorry to hear about your loss.

    We love to read about your adventures. You are so special.

    Ed and LeEllen Baker

    • CarolSue says:

      Thank you, LeEllen and Ed. I am glad you are enjoying our adventures. I remember so fondly our visit at your lovely place in Alaska and especially your warm hospitality. You know that you were two of my favorites each winter at the Hawaiian music events on Kauai. You are special, too. Much love, CarolSue

  16. Phil says:

    Thank you for your wonderful tribute to my mother. She always had a special place in her heart for you.

    • CarolSue says:

      Thank YOU, dear husband. Your mother had a special place in her heart for YOU and so do I! Love always, Me

  17. Ally says:

    Oh my what a beautiful tribute to your mom in love. Sending our love to you, Phil and your large loving family. What a beautiful life and legacy she leaves.

    • CarolSue says:

      Thank you, Ally. Your words are so true. I am blessed to have had her in my life – and her son! Luv to you and your beautiful family. CarolSue

  18. Jim O'Hara says:

    Lovely, Carol! You have captured so eloquently that which we happily owe our elders: love and respect. Is that why I’ve considered retiring in India, where elders are respected rather than being invisible? And for those of us who are elders (or “elderlescents” :)) I would urge us to remember that one of our “duties” is to bless the younger generation.

    The psychologist James Hillman once said something like this: “If today you have not encouraged at least one younger person, you have missed your calling as an adult.”

    Blessings, Jim

    • CarolSue says:

      Dear Jim, what a beautiful comment. Yes, love and respect was indeed Mom’s due and it is exactly what I felt for her. I LOVE the term “elderescents”. I will be using that again! Thank you for sharing. Today I feel that I did “encourage one younger person” so your words were spot on for me on this day. I will take that to heart and see if I can practice it more. You are STILL the best teacher….Love always, CarolSue

  19. Renee says:

    I remember sitting with grandma and grandpa watching tv at night while grandma put her rollers in.
    If grandma had to go somewhere during the day , she would make sure that grandpa would watch her shows( soap operas) so he could tell her everything that happend.
    They were the best grandparents and role models for sure
    I love and miss both of them dearly!
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories of them.

    • CarolSue says:

      This is a beautiful recollection of your grandparents. They were such a delightful couple together. We were all indeed fortunate to have known them. Thank you for sharing your memories. Best to you always, CarolSue

  20. Aloha CarolSue and Phil:
    Given the heartfelt tenderness you both have had for your 4-footed family members, I can’t imagine the sadness at this loss. Though at 101 one would have to say Tima had lived a life filled with blessings upon blessings! And to pass on the very day her husband had 7 years earlier – – that’s bigger than wow.

    So happy to keep up with you this way when we can’t be physically in the same place. Though maybe we will be both on Kauai at the same time in August? 🙂 Hugs and Kisses to you both – – Aloha – Katherine & Jerry – – hey ps. You MUST have a glamour shot or two of Tima in her early days? Add that to the mix! Would love to see her in her prime. Kat <3

    • CarolSue says:

      Katherine dear, thanks for your comments. Yes, it is sad to lose someone so special. And thanks for mentioning my 4-footed friends, the horses, whom we also miss. You know how that is, you had to leave behind a little 4-footed one, too, as I recall. I hope you and Jerry will be on Kauai in August when we are there. Also, maybe we can meet up in San Francisco sometime this summer. It was so fun when we met for dinner last year. Take care and give Jerry my love. Only recently I was looking at some photos of us together on Sheraton Beach in Poipu. Best, CarolSue

  21. Diane says:

    I have tears welling up still. What glorious sentiments! Love to you all!
    Di & John OX

    • CarolSue says:

      Lil Darlin, you are so sweet. I wish you had met her – you two would have had a love affair. You are special to me, you know that, and I can’t wait to see you when we come to Kauai in August! Luvnkisses from your bff, CarolSue

  22. Pat Birge says:

    Aloha Carol and Phil,

    We send our prayers to all the family.
    Familia!! Familia!!! I will always remember your stories about
    the chile adventures to New Mexico.
    When my mother passed away ,I thanked God for having shared
    her with me.
    Love and Aloha,

    • CarolSue says:

      Pat, good to hear from you. Yes, you would know about the New Mexico chile, being a NM girl yourself. That’s how I met you. I came into the room and said loudly, “Whose car is it outside with the New Mexico chile bumper sticker?”
      I remember your mother – a lovely lady. It is so hard losing them. I hope I see you in Kauai when we come in August. I still want to hear about your adventure of decorating the White House for Christmas! Luv, CarolSue

  23. Michael Gillotti says:

    Hi Carol,
    I was very touched by your account of your mother-in-law. In fact I found myself on the verge of tears. Shirley’s mother
    past the end of April, and like you, she warmly welcomed me into her family.
    Since my mother died quite young, she really became like a surrogate mother to me. She was 98 and was the driving force in the family business and all family matters.

    I’m sitting in a apartment in Lucca, Italy, about 45 minutes west of Florence.
    Am scouting out the area in preparation for coming back next year for an extended stay and immersing myself in the language and culture in hopes of coming out the other end speaking pretty good Italian. Shirley and I are both Italian citizens now so it’s only fitting that we learn the language!

    Thanks for keeping touch and congrats on your award. I’m assuming it’s for having the best massage school in the country!!
    Michael Gillotti

    • CarolSue says:

      Michael, so good to hear from you. I still have your email where after many years you wrote “I thought I’d lost you!” So glad we found each other again, even though both of us have long left our former businesses. Thanks for saying I had the best massage school. I think so, too.
      I am so happy that my story about Tima touched you. We are blessed to have had such warm receptions from mother-in-laws. Lucca Italy! I want to go there! Tell us when you are going back next year and we may come visit you. After all, when you are a perpetual travel, you have to be somewhere. That sounds mighty fine to me! Amore back to you both.

    • CarolSue says:

      Michael, Iris Burman mentioned you in a comment on my blog. You might want to see it. Love, CarolSue

  24. Kathy Sheffield says:

    Carol Sue. I want to be like her when I grow up. Condolences to your loving family. You are not the same Carol Sue that left here two years ago. You have grown so much. Happy for you and Phil!

    • CarolSue says:

      Kathy, thank you for your comment. We both still have time to be like her when we grow up! Thank you for your sympathy which I will pass on to Phil. I hope I get to see you when we come to Kauai in August. Best to you, CarolSue

  25. Pete Hueseman says:

    Great story about a great lady. My deepest sympathy to both Phil and you.
    Pete hueseman

    • CarolSue says:

      Thank you, Pete. She WAS a great lady and I am privileged to have joined her family. I will pass your kind sympathies along to Phil. Best, CarolSue

  26. Frank O. Hay says:

    A Hawaiian proverb may be in order [without the diacritical marks]:

    Ua hala na kupuna
    a he ‘ike koli’uli’u wale no keia la,
    in na mea i ke au i hope lilo,
    i’o kikilo.

    The ancestors have passed on, todays people see but dimly times long gone and far behind.

    Me ke aloha,


    • CarolSue says:

      That is beautiful, Frank. Thank you for sharing this wonderful Hawaiian proverb – in both languages no less. The message is so fitting as a tribute to this 101 year old ancestor, now passed. It’s hard to believe she’s gone. Best to you always, CarolSue

  27. Jodi says:

    Thankyou Carolsue for the update and photos of the lovely Tima. My condolences to Phil, yourself and all family members. You write such beautiful stories….every time…. and this one was no exception. I particularly liked the word MAYPOLE; what a great picture it conjures up of family members dancing freely but still tethered securely by exotic satin ribbons.
    I look forward to seeing you when you come to Kaua?i.
    Aloha mai kakou

    • CarolSue says:

      Darlin Jodi, so good to hear from you. And what a poetic description you gave of the MAYPOLE. I loved the image, too, and especially the way you painted it. Thank you for your kind words about my stories. I enjoy writing them when I can discipline myself to sit still long enough….We are coming to Kauai August 10 for 6 weeks! I cannot wait to see you, Victor, and your lovely garden paradise. Luv to you.

  28. Marjorie says:

    Wow! Inspiring. What a special story, woman and family. You do her proud! This is a beautiful tribute. Enjoy those memories and cebration if her full life. Sending you and Phil my love and Aloha.

    • CarolSue says:

      Thank you so much, Marjorie, for your kind remarks. Yes, she was very special.
      I have wanted to tell you that for my entire trip in Asia and India that the knit pants and top outfit I bought from you at your store Palm Palm was absolutely THE BEST. It was my go-to outfit anytime I wanted to look like anything better than a frazzled-traveler-who-hadn’t-yet-done-her-laundry! We’re coming back to Kauai mid-August and I will come in to the store and thank you personally (and see what else you have for me….)
      Best always, CarolSue

  29. Neil says:

    Thoughts and best wishes from Neil and Helen in the uk (halong bay)

    • CarolSue says:

      Hi Neil, and hello to Helen, too. HaLong Bay in Viet Nam – wasn’t that a beautiful spot? And spending the night on that wooden boat was a treat. Thank you for reading my story and for sending me a comment. We promise to contact you when we make it to the UK. There are so many places we want to go now that we have the travel bug. Best always, CarolSue and Phil

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