Sunday, November 01, 2009

Remembering a dear friend

Kathy Arena in 1991Kathy died of cancer October 29, 2009. Kathy died at her daughter Darcey's home. According to Bess Obercoe, a mutual friend, one of the things Kathy lamented shortly before she died was, "why do people have to die over holidays?" She did not want to spoil her family's Halloween celebration.

Kathy died surrounded by family; also in the home was Darcey's husband Mike, Kathy's other daughter Kayla, and Mike and Darcey's children.

I met Kathy in 1991, at Bess's 40th birthday party, not long after my first wife passed away. Kathy and I became good friends shortly after that. It was a friendship that lasted many years. I was transitioning into being single after having been married most of my adult life. Bess and Kathy were the first people to teach me what it was like to be single and to have single friends of both genders.

Kathy taught me how to have fun again. Kathy's daughter Kayla is two years younger than Kenneth. With a two-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy, plus my older boys, we all would go on family style adventures in amusement parks or go to the beach. Sometimes at night, after finding sitters, she and I would go to dinner, maybe movies or out for drinks; sometimes with other singles.

Kathy worked at a travel agency when I met her. I sometimes accompanied Kathy to events for travel agents. Kathy planned an airplane trip to Disneyland for my sons and I. She worked out all the details for us. It was my sons' first flight.

Kathy was widowed. We could talk about our experiences of having a spouse die in a way you can not talk to a friend who has never been married or who may be bitterly divorced with a living ex-spouse. We had both lost our parents as well. We had a lot in common. I think the friendship was good for both of us.

Kathy and her Italian-American family adopted my family and I. We had great experiences at their big parties. The friendship continued after I met Sue. Sue and I still went to some of their family parties. Sue fit right in, she's Italian-American herself. Kathy came to our wedding. When Darcey married Mike, Sue and I were there; we photographed their big beautiful wedding.

Darcey went into real estate. She is very successful at it. Darcey sold Sue and I the home we live in now. One of her associates even sold Sue's mom her home. When we needed a new roof for our home, the roofing company Kathy was then working for did the job. Kathy came by our house and put a big sign in front of it saying, "Roof by Los Gatos Roofing."

Meeting Kathy at Bess's party changed the course of my life and the lives of the members of my family, in so many ways. She, and members of her family, remained connected to my family for many years. As Kathy declined she became very private, she did not want to be seen, that's not the way she wanted to be remembered.

I remember Kathy's green eyes, the way she smiled, the way she laughed, the way she engaged life and most of all; the way she could tell a story. She could take a story and make it her own. After she told you a story you felt like you had been there and had experienced it. Thinking back on her passing has brought back so many memories. I am very thankful that we knew Kathy and that she was a part of the lives the members of my family and I.

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