I was, in the way children count age, 2 years and 3 months old when Karen was born so I always used to tell her I knew her when she was born. That wasn’t really true as I don’t remember the event although I have a memory of her older brother showing her to me. And maybe that isn’t a true memory but something that one of our mothers told us when we were older. In any event she was my oldest girlfriend. Our mothers were best friends from college and so we grew up together – like having two Moms and two Dads. In fact, her parents introduced my parents, but that is another story.
When we were young, we lived pretty close to each other and spent a lot of time playing together. But at least once I must have gone off to do something with her brother and another friend and told her she couldn’t come because she was too young. I don’t remember the incident but she never forgot it! When we got older and her family moved to California, we started writing letters between occasional visits. We wrote through high school and college maybe not regularly but several times a year. The only time I remember losing touch a little was after she got married, but that separation didn’t last long. We would also talk on the phone when one of us could afford the long distance call (Yes, it used to cost money.) or had something really important to convey.
By the mid 1990s, long distance became much less expensive and we began monthly calls. I had a bad habit of forgetting the time difference between east and west coast and, more than once, called too early. She tolerated my early wake-ups. We talked though her return to college to get her degree and then her Master’s. She talked me through my dissertation. We talked about her divorce and my marriage. We talked about her son’s marriage and our grandchildren. We discussed the tribulations of being adjunct faculty. We talked politics and family and baseball. And we always remembered each other’s birthdays with cards.
I think it was in 2010 when I realized that something was wrong. She repeated herself a lot and barely let me say anything. It was the first time I had to make excuses to get off the phone or she would have continued to talk. And then I didn’t get a card for my birthday. I found out from her brother that she had been diagnosed with a form of dementia and was going into a group living situation. She moved into an assisted living facility where she died at the end of last month.
I’m sad to say that I never made it out to see her after she got sick and that I didn’t send her cards and pictures as often as I should have. I appreciated all the reports from her family and friends on her special page on Facebook. But I never forgot her and miss our phone calls to this day. Just before I learned of her death, I was thinking how much she would appreciate all the snow around our house.
I won’t be at her memorial tomorrow, but I wanted to write a eulogy anyway. I think she would appreciate it.