And then there was one...
I was one of four kids - there were six around our dinner table. Daddy died in 1992, Mother 2002, Bill 2004, Rusty 2010, Karyn a year ago today.
As the only one left, I spoke for all of us at Karyn's memorial.
Here's what I said.
To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:
2 A time [to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; 3 A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; 4 A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; 5 A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; 6 A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; 7 A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; 8 A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.
Many of you may not know, but our grandfather was a Methodist preacher and when I say we were raised in the church, I mean it both figuratively and literally. Nammy and Pappy lived in the parsonage provided by the church and the structure itself was our playhouse. Sometime in the early 70s, Karyn left organized religion and chose a more spiritual life. She embraced paganism in the 90s and often times questioned God. She thought He was both male and female (and gave me a sharp elbow to the ribs just a few years ago during a fellowship class we were attending when it was pointed out Genesis mentions two gods). She believed in an afterlife. In 1965, the Byrds released, Turn, Turn, Turn. She loved it – and was quite surprised when Nammy told her it was based on scripture.
We talked about funerals – Karyn wanted big hats, wailing mourners and wanted us to tell stories about her – so here we go.
I am not a public speaker – that was Karyn’s job – but I thought I might be able to read to you.
There are only two people who have known Karyn longer than I have: my cousins Zoe Ann and Bobby. Bobby is here today. Karyn was only 3 weeks older than he is so they grew up together not just as cousins, but as playmates, troublemakers and friends. There are lots of stories he can tell – those are his stories and I’ll leave them to him to share.
This is my story of Karyn’s life.
Karyn was born December 27th in Monticello, Arkansas. I came along 4 ½ years later, Bill 17 ½ months after me, Rusty 17 ½ months after him. Despite the age difference, Karyn was my best friend from the day I was born. She was my idol, my example – not always the example of what I should do – and I did whatever she asked. She taught me to read when I was 3. She also taught me the Ten Commandments and I walked all over the house saying “thou shalt have no other gods before Karyn”. I didn’t. Once Mother was doing laundry and fussed at her about the things in her pockets, said she was going to pick something up someday and it was going to hurt her. She told Mother “if I don’t know what it is, I make Fredine pick it up and hand it to me.” We shared a bedroom, we shared secrets, we shared dreams, we shared our life.
Karyn ruled the roost – and our brothers. She decided one summer we would dig a swimming pool. She marked off a huge space in the vacant lot across the street and supervised as Bill, Rusty and I dug – with teaspoons. Karyn taught us lots of games, always skewing the rules so she would win and then, if questioned, tell us “that’s only on a Tuesday if it’s raining.” We believed everything she said. She was our big sister, our protector. We believed she could do anything – and she could. We thought she hung the moon and stars and, if we’d asked her if she did, she probably would have said yes.
There were four of us – Mother put us in categories: Rusty was the baby, Bill the responsible one; I was the smart one and Karyn was the talented one…….and she was, both physically and creatively. She was a strong swimmer and, as a diver, knew no fear. She was a cheerleader in junior high and a really good tennis player. She had a serve that was scary: when I played with her, I’d shake in my shoes hoping her first serve was a fault because then the second would be easy to return. When she was in high school, we spent many weekends on the Arkansas lakes where Karyn learned to ski, and, like everything, quickly mastered that sport. Karyn needed to be a participant: she didn’t like to watch sports on television, especially football, or even worse, golf, but at some point along the way decided basketball was okay and became a Dallas Mavericks fan. She didn’t care for baseball and didn’t want anyone to know she watched the Texas Rangers during their World Series runs. She didn’t like board games but loved to play cards, anything from playing Liar’s Poker at the Boat Bar with Jimmy Buffett to playing bridge with Mother and her groups to playing Spades or Hearts or Texas Hold ‘em with us. She danced at pow-wows in Oklahoma, she volunteered with the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. She never met a stranger.
Karyn never knew how smart she was; she should have been a surgeon but she didn’t like school. She’s always been a bit of a rebel, whether it was protesting the Vietnam War or voicing her opinion on current day politics. When it came to spelling, Karyn said “I go my own way” which made the crossword puzzles she did every day more challenging. She hated wearing seat belts. She loved rainy days, and if some thunder or tin roofs were involved, even better. She was very well read on a variety of subjects and if there was something with which she wasn’t familiar, she soon would be. I have numerous books that she “read” for me, highlighting the important parts that I would find interesting, my personal Cliff Notes. Karyn loved her cats Frick and Frack – and videos of baby goats. She hated snakes, worms and English peas, thought cilantro was the Devil’s herb and every order at a Tex-Mex restaurant came with a stern “no pico de gallo!” She loved Dr. Pepper. She wanted pizza with white sauce and, yes, thought pineapple an appropriate topping.
I matchmade Karyn and Bob when we lived in Key West. Bob was a Navy helicopter pilot flying search and rescue missions (which I think was the technical term for buzzing the beaches). I dated his best friend Bruce and thought Bob would be perfect for Karyn: she needed someone stable and he needed someone fun. It didn’t begin well. I arranged for us to meet them for drinks at the Officers’ Club but failed to mention to Karyn that she had a date so she couldn’t quite figure out why that guy was following her around. It could have ended then but here we are, almost 47 years later. They were truly soul mates, this hippie girl and All-American boy and without question brought out the best in each other.
Pride and joy is a cliché, but when it came to Kelly it was true: he was Karyn’s joy. She was so proud of Kel, from the boy he was to the man he is. She was his biggest cheerleader and staunchest defender. Karyn was surrogate mother to all of Kelly’s high school friends, sometimes creating a little friction. More than once, he would tell them they had a house and a mother and needed to go home. Karyn was thrilled when Facebook came along and she could renew her relationships with “her kids”, relationships that lasted her lifetime. She doted on Evan and Dustin (she named Dustin, was his godmother) and no aunt has ever been as well loved as she. She loved Adrienne and Lillian and time with them, whether planting tomatoes or coloring pictures or watching them blow bubbles or play in the water.
Mother always said Karyn brought the fun. She was quick and clever, just plain funny. Grandma said she reminded her of Lucille Ball. We went to a Melissa Etheridge concert in Dallas in November one year – it was cold and I was hurrying to get into the venue and she shouted out “slow down! They’ll think we had a fight!” Bob was returning from a business trip and she met him at DFW wearing a cow suit. Mother loved to tell this story: they were in Houston, drove past the Astrodome, and they began a baseball conversation. Karyn asked if the US was the only country with baseball teams and Mother told her no, that there were two in Canada. Karyn got really quiet, then asked “do they just play each other?” She was a self-admitted terrible driver as the gravel still in my knees and elbows prove and called herself a road rage carrier. Once she backed out in front of a car – the other driver jumped out screaming “you have no business driving!” Karyn simply replied “Don’t you think I know that?” There was always a reason to laugh with her and oh so many stories I could tell.
Karyn started painting in junior high school. In the mid 80s, Karyn took up photography and within a few years had converted their garage into a studio. In the mid 90s, she began making jewelry and sculpting. In the late 90s, she began writing in earnest and with her friend published a book of poetry, “He Said, She Said.” Karyn wrote with passion and from the heart, sometimes things better left unsaid….but Karyn left little unsaid. She could do it all.
Karyn was a wonderful cook, anything from great Northern beans to the best chicken fried steak to cordon bleu. She was a traditional southern cook: a meat, two sides and one of them better be potatoes. Her cinnamon pickles and potato candy are legendary. She decorated cakes. We tried our hand at canning a few summers ago – lots of tomatoes in a white kitchen was quite the mess but, as so often, Bob cleaned up after us.
Daddy was a National Guard advisor when we were growing up so we moved every few years and I think that instilled the spirit of adventure in her, one that never waned. Karyn didn’t like to fly so there were lots of road trips in our lives – I can remember one before Kelly was born when we drove from Fordyce, Arkansas, to Arlington, no radio, singing “Long Black Veil” at the top of our lungs, even though singing was not among her talents. She didn’t like confined spaces, especially tunnels, so our journeys often took us hours out of the way to find a bridge. Bob was always so patient, stopping whenever Karyn said “oh, look!” even though there had been one oh-look less than a mile before. One trip from Arlington to Galveston took 9 hours! We took family vacations every summer to some beach house somewhere. One summer she and Bob took the top off her jeep, the Cosmos Mariner, and truly did set out for destinations unknown, driving from Arlington “north until it got cool, then turned left”. Just a few years ago they bought and refurbished a Winnebago and recreated that trip. Of all the places they visited, the Pacific Northwest, especially the Oregon coast, spoke to her heart the most.
Karyn, Bob and Kelly lived all over the world and Karyn quickly adapted to the local culture, whether it was Okinawa or Bermuda or California or Canada. Karyn had an eye for design and no matter where they lived, from their first home, an apartment in Key West over what had been the morgue, to their home in Galveston, it was perfectly appointed, magazine worthy. She was meticulous in whatever she did. It took her weeks to put up a Christmas tree because she hot-glued every ornament or icicle in just the right place. Her gift-wrapped presents were a work of art. She loved tedious tasks, like beading, and would work for hours until a project was finished. Evan reminded me that when Karyn was stressed, she would turn on GEM-TV. She said the sparkly things made her relax. She could spend hours watering the plants or hosing off the deck. Being still was hard for her: she equated that with being lazy and lazy in her world was a true four letter word.
Bob’s job with Bell Helicopter let Texas became home base in 1981 and gave our entire nomadic military family a place we could call home. We are very close-knit – Karyn said we were like the Bravermans in Parenthood – and when you married one of us, you married all of us as Rachel, Bob and Becky can attest. For that I will forever be grateful. We were together in crisis. Our holidays were epic: whether birthdays or Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter, even the 4th of July, we were together. Jill might remember a 4th celebration at Joe Pool Lake – nighttime picnic on the ground, fireworks over the lake. Our family was the envy of many. Karyn was preceeded in death by our parents, Joyce and Fred, our brothers Bill and Rusty, her mother- and father-in-law Doris and Howard and sister-in-law Nora. Those left lost without her include not only Bob and Kelly, but her nieces and nephews Evan, Jill, Rachel, Dustin, Odie, and Tyler, grandnieces Adrienne and Lillian, our sister-in-law Becky, her brother-in-law Ron and cousins and friends so dear to her.
There are several people here today because they lost their best friend.
I lost mine.
She was my sister.
I miss her already.
Love never dies.