Saturday, July 31, 2010

I Miss Her

On June 26 of this year a very good friend of many years passed away. Maybe "putting pen to paper" will help to ease the incredible pain I feel. I have not kept in touch like I wish now that I had. I can give many reasons why but I guess what it comes down to is that she had her family and career and I had my family and career. She was an award winning writer, an artist, a sportswoman, and a champion fisherman.

I met and worked with Karen in '74 or maybe ’75. After 35years, parts of my memories aren’t quite so vivid. I do remember that we were a great team back then. We went to Oklahoma City to a CB jamboree to meet some of my friends from around the country. That is where I gave her the handle “Somethin' Special”, and she was…always will be for me. We drove through a snow storm to Colorado Springs just to watch a hockey game because she knew that I liked the game and my team was playing.

I was driving a truck cross-country at the time and really wasn’t looking for a relationship, long term or otherwise. We were just friends. If we had stayed together and in touch who knew what would happen, as it was I was just happy that there was someone to make a phone call to, to laugh with, to talk to when I was lonely. I suppose that I should say that she was married at the time. Separated, but married, a fella named Dan Dotts. I never met him. I was just astounded that anyone could be married to Karen and either cause or want to be separated.

Back then I was hauling swinging beef out of Pampa, Texas to Green Bay, Wisconsin from and to a place called Packerland(imagine that) Packing. I would get to see her every week for a few hours or maybe we would just take a road trip and find a likely café and have dinner. Most times it was good, but others either she, or I would be in a funk and it would be a not so good day.

I bought my own truck and went outlaw, or gypo, whatever you want to call it. The hauls were longer and I didn’t get back to Amarillo very often. One day I loaded a load of gift fruit in Mission Texas for Fairbanks Alaska. I had only run the AlCan once before and didn’t look forward to it but it paid so damm good I couldn’t turn it down. I called Karen from San Antonio and asked her if she wanted to go and she said no. A kinda joke between us, she never did go with me on the truck, she was too responsible for that. I suppose this little story is a long way around saying that I didn’t see Karen again for a long time after that. I called her from Delta Junction on the way back, I’ll remember it forever. She told me that she and Dotts had gotten back together. I knew then that our day was done. I thought it was okay to see her when she was alone but I would never think to intrude on her after she went back to him. She really brought out the best in me. I picked up a load of apples in Kelowna BC going to Boston Mass and pretty much stayed on the northern routes of the US and Canada. I called one more time and Dotts answered the phone, so I quietly hung up and didn't call again.

In 1981 I met and married Kelley Jo and went to work in the oilfields in the derricks until the bottom fell out, I went back to driving truck until Justin was born, went to work in the shop, never driving trucks again. In 2000 I suffered a severe head trauma playing ice hockey with the senior leagues downtown and spent a month in the neuro-unit at BSA surprising everyone with my recovery.

Just after being released to go back to work I walked into the Civic Center, a job fair was going on. Karen was at the Pantex booth and she recognized me. I have no idea how and the fact that she recognized me and I did not recognize her will haunt me. Of course when she told me who she was I immediately remembered everything. We talked for a few minutes and said our goodbyes….again.
There are so may things that I think of now that I would have liked to ask her. Just thinking about it, I could have talked for hours. I kinda blame my injury for not asking the things that I would now like to know. She was married with kids, I had been married to Kelley and had Justin to raise. I sent her a couple of emails and we stayed in touch that way for a while, but that was the last time I saw her.

I want to make it plain to all readers that we were friends. We were never romantically involved, sure we kissed and joked and had fun but that was it. I would especially make that point to Kelley or Sam or any who read this. I loved Karen and I am still in love with her memory. I won’t get into the woulda, shoulda, coulda part. The times we had were very precious to me, but they don’t compare to the times I had with Kelley. I do, however, regret not calling her at least once or twice a year just to say hi, how are ya? I wasn’t sure how welcome that would be but I could have tried…. We were too close and I will never forgive myself.

The photos are from her outdoors articles from the Amarillo Globe news, except the one of she and I together. That one was taken in Oklahoma City. We were on our way to a steakhouse called Sleepy Hollow Supper Club, an out of the way place I discovered in the late 60s when I was transporting race horses. Funny the small things a man can remember and the large things he can't. The picture was taken by Sonny Blevins, my best friend in the world. I don’t have far to visit either of them, they now reside in the same cemetery.

I suppose some will say this is the ramblings of a bitter old man feeling sorry for himself. I suppose that’s true to an extent. The world is a poorer place without her in it and I believe that I am a better, not bitter, man for having known her.

I began this by saying I thought that writing it down would help…. It doesn’t.

I miss her.