Monday, March 15, 2010

Goodbye to Kathleen

I grew up in Willmar, MN but when my dad died and my mom moved to Minneapolis, I didn’t think I would ever get back to Willmar. No friends or family there anymore. Not that I was sad about it. Small town Willmar wasn’t always a happy place for me. I did go back for the funeral of my brother-in-law’s mother.

Me in front of the Willmar house I grew up in.

And then last Sunday, the mother of my best Willmar school friend died. As I got ready to head back to Willmar for her funeral, it hit me. I will get back to Willmar, probably more and more now, for the funerals.

About my best Willmar school friend. She lived two blocks from me, and we spent so much time together that her family became my family and my family became hers. We really grew up together, and had the kind of relationship where I never knocked at her door and she never knocked at mine. We just walked in.

I had a dream the other night that I was in her house. It was exactly as I remembered. In my dream I just walked through, examining all the rooms. There was no one there with me. Even though it wasn’t the house I grew up in, in my dream I felt at home.

My friend’s mom Kathleen was a hoot. Mom to seven kids, my friend the youngest, I was in awe of her brood. I was the oldest in my family, so I looked at my friend’s older brothers and sisters as fascinating celebrities from another planet. Kathleen communed among them so easily, playing cards and golf, a cocktail in her hand. Her wit was famous. She had a straight back with an upright lift to her, so her head was always set back on her neck slightly. That ramrod straight posture gave her a regal air, and so she could always catch people off guard with her hilarious sense of humor. Example: I grew up during the red dye no. 2 scare, when it was discovered (rumored?) that red dye no. 2 caused cancer. One afternoon we found Kathleen in her kitchen, decorating sugar cookies with red frosted crosses. “They are my red dye no. 2 cancer causing cookies,” she explained, with a completely straight face.

So it’s back to Willmar, and goodbye to Kathleen. I will always remember her as one of the wonderful fixtures presiding over my childhood. And even though it will be a sad day for that family, I’m looking forward to seeing my friend, and being among the fascinating celebrities from another planet again.