It is my pleasure to share another piece of writing that has been shared with me by a member of our Storycatchers community. I met Ann just this past month at the Ladies Night at the Draw and instantly fell in love with her hold-no-punches but break your heart with beauty style. She writes of grief, family dynamics and finding herself amidst it all with fearless honesty. Without further ado, meet today's community *Spark, Ann Koenig.
A childhood friend died today. Well, rather, I learned a childhood friend died today. One of her conscientious Facebook friends posted the notice on the event of her birthday. Greetings were stacking up on May 15, but she had passed in January. Apparently, few of her friends knew. And her Facebook page lived on….
She was my summer friend who came to my small town from California. Exotic. We shared an unspoken bond. Sandy, a motherless child, an only child. Myself, a late-coming child, an inconvenience. We were alone among stoic adults, expected to grow up at double speed. We were two lone rangers. We didn’t have the comfort of sibling-have-your-back-group-think. We were independent – by necessity. We had more adult mannerisms – by necessity. This made us somewhat alien to other kids. We never spoke of these things. We just kept on marching. Trying to be normal. Hoping no one would notice, but they did. When you meet someone like yourself, there is an odd comfort. You don’t speak of it for fear that once spoken, the sadness would consume you. But during the summers, when Sandy got to my little town, I found relief from the stress of trying to fit into a “regular kid” world.
She was just a toddler when her mother died of breast cancer. Raised by her grieving father – summers presented a child-care problem. So she spent summers with her grandmother in Wisconsin. When I think of it today, I can hardly bear the sadness. A girl, raised without female energy – except for summers with a very rigid and proper woman. Never witnessing a loving partnership. A child alone in an adult world. We had a magnetic attraction - I was able to relate. I am sure Sandy would have traded places with me, but in different ways, all these conditions also applied to me.
I was the assigned playmate (Sandy’s grandmother being my father’s secretary). This solved many problems (for the adults, as well as the children). Sandy and I spent countless hours at the local municipal swimming pool where we were chlorine saturated and thoroughly pruned every sunny afternoon. We went on long walks – grandma, originally a 50’s era phy-ed teacher, didn’t believe in using her 1939 Buick for any destination under ten miles. A special treat was a burger lunch at the local diner. We just had an ease with each other that I never understood or thought about until now.
We found each other online after 30 years. We shared the ways in which our lives were fortunate. And a few other details - she never married. I was divorced and a bit lost. She had no children, only loyal dogs. I decided against children of my own, but had devoted stepchildren. We both had unfulfilled career paths. We shared just enough to know that we were each still stuck, still lone rangers, still tending to our wounded childhood hearts. Of course, we still didn’t talk about it. Just silent recognition. We were raised to not talk about these things.
It seems like she died alone, no family, and not even sharing with many friends that her cancer had returned. Her Facebook page, remains a lonely reminder of how she lived – private, guarded. The only photos posted are an18-year-old version of herself, her dog, her inherited vintage car. A time capsule never escaped. This is a powerful imperative for me…to finally break free of my own capsule.
Thank you, Ann for sharing of yourself and of being a part of our Storycatchers community.