“Saint” Karen

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My friend, Karen P., was a one-to-one aide at my special needs school, long before I

‘nabbed’ her to become my teaching assistant. She had what I call ”the patience of Job,”

with a little child (age 3) with autism. With this child she worked by using both sign

language and verbal cueing. She learned also, through workshops and the therapists, to

use positive reinforcers. His special pleasure was playing with tractors. Casually, you may

have heard the word, ‘fixation,’ when his parents talked about his tractors. He was quite

an independent child, which was hard to explain to his parents that his ‘shrieking’ was

not because of his being ‘rebellious.’ I would consider Justin’s intelligence level to be

found somewhere on the Asperger’s Spectrum; as ‘higher functioning.’

 

When I think of friends, I remember that old Girl Scout song, which was a ’round’ which

repeated itself. It goes like this:

“Make new friends, but keep the old,

One is silver and the other is gold.”

 

The nine years I had dear “Saint” Karen by my side, in the ‘trenches, and sometimes

taking all the dirty work, quite literally, make her my Gold Standard of Friend. You will

think we are quite ‘sick in the head’ when I tell you that we still roar with laughter about

one Christopher who threw chairs across the room, we felt he was ‘possessed!’ We were,

in our private moments , just barely able to contain ourselves. Our favorite way to make

light of Christopher, was to say to one another,

“We know that face will be on the “Wanted” posters in the Post Office one day, we just

know it!”

Also, the dirty work, was meant (by me, I reassured her when she came to be my assistant)

to be split fairly. When there were diapers which needed to be changed, we took turns.

But another ‘sick’ sense of humor moment was when “Miss Karen” was stuck with ‘her turn’

AND THE BOY HAD DIARRHEA.

But apparently Jonathan did not just do it in his pants. It went down his leg and into his

cowboy boots! When the expression is “Up to your neck in ‘shit,'” for Karen it had been,

“Up to her armpits!” Poor Karen did not feel well the rest of the day, like she could not

seem to get the odor off her hands. She was incessantly washing until she took the vanilla

air freshener spray and soaked her clothes and hands with it.

 

I would like to tell you a short history of Karen’s life, since she overcame a lot of tragedies

to come out wonderfully.  She taught me many things more than I was able to teach her.

At age 8, Karen lost her mother to an accident. Three of her grandparents were deceased,

the one who was left, did not want her. She was raise by her two elderly aunts. When her

Dad came back and forth into her life, she had to adjust to a wide variety of women, his

alcoholism,  and some verbal abuse. She always ended up calling her aunts, begging them

to come and save her.

She got good grades, wore clean but plain clothes. She met her husband, her only “love

of her life,” while going to community college to be a nursing assistant (STNA). He was

at a bar, he was ogling her, sometimes making loud comments and trying to get her

attention. She was 19 years old, she certainly wasn’t attracted to this wild motorcycle

man,  who appeared much older than she, at the time. The summer she met him, he

pursued her, found her almost each time she and her friends were out in Marion, Ohio.

Karen used a dramatic way to describe Dan: “He was relentless!”

Karen is strong willed, she claims to have broke him of his ‘pool gambling habit’ and

his drinking. Dan, on the other hand, gives her credit, saying that a ‘good woman like

Karen’ can cure anything. They have been married for forty years, raised three kids

and three grandkids.  A fourth grandchild, from their son and his wife, was born this

year. So, this was a new beginning for their adventures, continuing the family saga.

 

On Friday, October 24, 2014, we got together and laughed until we cried. We ate

at the local restaurant, Old Bag O’ Nails. We had numerous refills on our beverages

and ate our ‘fish and chips’ slowly.  We had been apart for 2 years, trying to adjust

our busy lives and schedules to fit our friendship in.

 

Here are some of the subjects covered while we were there for almost four hours:

 

1. Grandchildren, of course.

 

2. “CSI” and cast changes over the years.

 

3. Hilarious episode of “According to Jim,” when both men’s clothes were blown off

when the water pipes in basement explode.

 

4. My divorced husband, what he was ‘up to.’ (She had been with me through 9 years,

through thick and thin,  and only one year, while I was single.) Still no car, working

close to his apartment. Got online PhD in Religion.

 

5. “Camel toes,” when the younger teachers taught us what this expression meant.

 

6. Condoms. My first “Secret Santa” gift as a single woman, in multiple hues and sizes.

 

7. Changing over from my old way of wearing “granny panties,” and our trip to Victoria

Secret. (We had multiple shopping trips for supplies, but our trip to Tuttle Mall was

our favorite.)

 

8. Barney, my famous bachelor gym teacher, who showed up my first Single Spring

Break, in a bathing suit, with a towel and a bottle of baby oil, in hand. We ‘cracked up

all over again when we remembered his announcing, “I’m your cabana boy, Robin.”

I had insisted all the female teachers,  some who were in their twenties,  go out

with me dancing once a month. Somehow, when we ran into Barney, they fell in

love with him. (He looks a lot like Tony Danza, seriously.) Karen was sorely

disappointed in the fact we are not still in ‘touch.’

 

9. The ‘girls’ insisted we attend the football game when Barney coached the

opposition; our main rival. He was on the sidelines when his team played

“our school’s” team.

The Speech Language Pathologist and Trina, who talked me into drinking before

the game. We ran into the Superintendent and hugged him. We ran into 2 parents

and also, a school board member. We found the other girls in the bleachers,

climbing over people to get to them.

 

10. Which of the ‘girls’ have gotten married, which have babies and who is still

single, besides me.

 

Karen will always be my “Hero.”

 

Fred Rogers, Presbyterian minister and the nice man wearing the sweater on,

“Mister Roger’s Neighborhood:”

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility.

It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’

Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people, my heroes.”

 

 

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32 responses »

  1. Here’s to you and your dear friend Karen, Robin. I hope she loved the smell of fish ‘n chips on her hands, and I think the name of the restaurant you chose, the Old Bag o’ Nails, is fantastic!

    • Thanks, Mark for these thoughtful comments. I appreciate the ‘here’s to you’ and also, the excellent reference to how your fingers do get greasy and the aroma of fish does seem to permeate your skin! I do feel the restaurant, which has at least two other locations is well named! Its patio is quite lively in the summer, also the building itself was old, so it had neat things they found inside the walls, which are displayed. I will be going straight over to your multiple posts, reading until I am caught up, Mark! Enjoy the weekend!

      • Thank you for your kindness and thougttulness to your friends the world in your posts, Robin. I appreciate your way so much. You have a great weekend, too, my friend. 🙂

    • Our fingers get to typing and often I am caught adding this sort of thing to other’s comments, asking for them to change a word or two! It is corrected and I will delete this back and forth in a day… just wanted to let you know another thing writers have in common.

    • I appreciate this thought and yes, so grand to have someone who ‘had my back’ along my rocky road. This period of time was quite stressful, my menopausal crazy forties. Every Friday, she would give me a hug, a bottle of wine or wine coolers, saying, “After you finish waiting on tables tonight, have some of this!” She knew that going from teaching to (Master’s degree) classes or waiting tables was really a whirlwind from 2003-2008. Thanks for this and I am sure you have several of these colleagues or best friends! Have a wonderful weekend, Pauline!

  2. Hello Robin: I’ve just nominated your blog for the “One Lovely Blog Award.” There are no rules of acceptance. Simply post and enjoy! Visit my site to see. 🙂

    • Thanks, Kim for this divine nomination! I love being given award nominations. I had planned to write one accepting from Soul N Spirit the same award, so will try to get this out very soon, a lovely combination. Congratulations on your receiving it, also! Hugs, Robin

      • Thank you, Robin. Don’t worry regarding time to accept it. No rush, no rules. I’m waaay behind in a couple of others but since this had no “rules,” I could rush it right out. Have to get going on the others, though. Feeling so guilty. 😦

      • I will be writing this while up at my Mom’s. I started it, which is half the ‘battle’ and put it in my drafts. I appreciate this so much! Hugs!

    • Thanks, Jill. I am sure you stay connected, but it is funny how fast time flies between some special people’s visits.
      I am so glad you enjoyed those Girl Scout experiences, Jill! It is rare these days to find those who have children participating in this fine organization, let alone ones here in small town of Delaware who were in it! (Many of my friends here, were in 4H, which I did enroll my three kids in this great ‘country living’ club. Only one of my children ‘stuck’ with scouting, my oldest daughter, who did have an opportunity to go to horse camp. Her son is a Cub Scout and her little one was allowed as a sibling, to enter a car in the Pinewood Derby. He is excited when he gets out of Kindergarten to be able to join, too.)
      I am glad to help your positive memories come back and hope you have a fun weekend, Jill!

    • Yolanda, excellent choice of descriptions! She definitely was a ‘force to reckon with!’ Thanks for this special thought about our finding each other, somehow things fell into place so well between us. I had had two other teaching assistants in one year before I had her for almost 9 years!

  3. what a lovely tribute to such a special person and a special friend. you are so lucky to have each other. i agree, that is how it is with those special friendships, even when you don’t see each other for a while, it is like you never were apart, when you meet up again )

    • I love how you mentioned this, just able to pick up the conversation where we left off. Also, the ability to still get so amused by all the same subjects. Karen always understood that if I worked on Thursday nights at Cracker Barrel those tough years of juggling Master’s coursework, waiting tables four nights a week and teaching… she would give me wine or wine coolers almost every Friday, saying, “This is for after your second job…” We had toasts with expresso that her husband would grind fresh every morning, ended our days with hugs. Never can repay her for helping me, in so many ways, on so many levels… Beth, thanks for this really nice comment!

    • I do and you should know, you went through many challenges and look how great you turned out, Lorna!! She is one heck of a friend, exactly. Thanks and hope you and Phil have a lovely weekend, my dear!

    • Oh, Colleen, you would love Old Bag O’ Nails! Outside on the patio in the summer, live music, little children dancing, good food and atmosphere. The large booths in the winter time, particularly seem so great, too. Brick walls with old character, along with things they found when they were building this inside the original building walls. The fish and chips is a little ‘steep’ but well worth it at $13.99. We ate almost all of it, she saved one piece of fish and some ‘chips’ or French fries, for Dan. They go to another location of this same Old Bag…. Colleen, come and visit anytime.
      Loved that simple but perfect expression: Thank heavens for ….friends like Saint Karen! Rare and far between…

      • 🙂 We have neighbors who we keep “saying” we are going to the OBON with. We just haven’t made it. 😉

        I’ll have to let you know if we make it!

      • Well, are you in central Ohio? I was not sure of this, until Mark said we should attend the Neil Diamond concert in 2015 together. I was wishing to find someone with the extra money and interest in going next Spring. If you make it to OBON, let me know and smiling at the idea of a concert with the two of us ‘oldies’ but ‘goodies’ swaying to “Crackling Rosie” and “Sweet Caroline!” Smiles and hugs, Robin

  4. Heartwarming story about a great friendship, Robin. Isn’t that really what true friends are – however long you are apart, when you do get together it’s like it was only yesterday and you take pleasure in reminiscing and laughing long and hard. I’ve just arranged to meet up with an old school friend – we’ve known each other since age eleven – and I’m hoping that we shall have as good a time as you did with Karen 😊

    • Hope your visit, Jenny with your good friend since you were 11 will be fantastic. I am sure you have kept in touch, over the years, but once in person, the conversation will come naturally and time will stand still. Suddenly, you will glance down at your watch (or cell phone) and see hours have passed! Enjoy this special time with your ‘golden’ friend, thank you by the way for your comments about Winnie the Pooh. My Dad used to call Christopher Robin, “Robin” which it was such a shock when I found out that cute page-boyed haircut ‘girl’ was a little boy! Smiles!

    • Thank you, Elizabeth and hoping you are doing well. So sorry I fell behind in keeping in touch with your posts. Hope your mother’s health is stabilizing or even better, improving… hugs

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