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Karen's Story

Karen's Story


....as told by someone who has not seen, heard, nor spoken to her in over 20 years.


I married early, to my high school sweetheart Eric, and we spent 5 years of marital 'bliss' which included infidelity, drugs, partying and general debauchery. Joining us in many of these pursuits was his sister, Karen.

The last time I ever saw or spoke to Karen we both did a line of meth and she was insisting to me that there were bugs jumping off her jeans.

There were no bugs jumping off her jeans.

I remember thinking "wow, she might have a problem". (glass houses, stones, yep).

I kicked Eric out of the house when he had a affair with a co-worker of mine and he went off to Texas, while I stayed in California. I didn't think about Eric or Karen again for 20 years. I got my act together and have a successful career, a nice house, and haven't done an illegal substance in over 20 years.

It was Dave's death that started it all.

Dave Kirk, Eric's best friend and 'partier extraordinaire' died. It occurred to me that Eric should be informed of this. It's been over 20 years, after all and we've all moved on; maybe we can actually have a conversation now. So, I started casually searching for him. I began the search with his father, who had a very unique name (Elwood), figuring he would be the easiest to find.

Found him quickly at a cemetery in Clute, Tx.

Elwood was a large, stoic, very quiet and extremely intelligent man. I felt sad, remembering this patriarch of the family. Now I had another reason to talk to Eric. I want to tell him I am sorry about his dad. Then I see the line in the obituary for his father that states that Elwood was buried next to his beloved son, Eric.

Whoa.

What the hell happened?

And now I want to know why Eric is dead at way too early an age. This is when I started wanting to talk to Karen. There were two options to finding out what happened to Eric - Karen, and Eric's mother Sarah. Sarah absolutely adored her son and I am not going to call her and say "Hi, I haven't seen or talked to you in 20 years, but can you please tell me why Eric's dead"? That is just too cruel. But, Karen is an option. After all, we were buddies.

That's when I saw the obituary for Sarah.

The obit for Sarah gave me a married name for Karen, and the (I guess you can call it an obsession) began. Is there a word for a casual obsession? Every month I would casually start searching for Karen. Maybe she's in Facebook. No luck. Okay, whatever.

Karen's life since I'd seen her last began to take shape in my mind.

I saw her sitting at her kitchen, getting her two kids off to school and kissing her husband on the cheek as he went off to work. I saw her sitting in the empty house then, reflecting on her entire family being gone. I'm sad for Karen... I want to call and tell her how sad I am that her entire family is dead. But for all the luck I had finding information about her family, there is nothing about Karen.

I start remembering Karen, and how she was. She was very pretty, but she should have been born a man. She would go out of her way to make sure every man she met knew that she could do anything just as well as they could. She was a tiny little construction worker that all the other construction workers wanted but couldn't have. You would never catch her in anything frilly or lacey. She even had a walk that said "Don't F- with me". But she had a great sense of humor and was very fun to hang out with.

Another month, another search. Nothing.

And the next month, nothing still; Karen still sits at her kitchen-in-my-mind, sad for her
brother and father and mother.

A year of casual where's Karen searches go by, but Karen remains seated at the kitchen table,
softly crying for her lost family.


Today was search-for-Karen day. Today I found her.

Sort of.

I found a legal case against her, brought by the board of vocational nurse examiners to remove her nursing license. And Karen's life unfolded in front of me.

1983 - drunk driving arrest.
1985 - drunk driving arrest.
1992 - drunk driving, 4 days in jail, $500 fine.
1993 - resisting arrest.
1996 - arrested for theft of over $50 but less than $500. $600 fine.
1996 - Observed sleeping while on duty at a nursing home abandoning patients assigned to her.

Her license was revoked - she didn't show up for the hearing.

The Karen-of-my-mind is shattered into little pieces. The kitchen-of-sadness exchanged for a
glass of vodka and a jail cell.

I don't know why I'm surprised.

I guess I should be glad that I saw her in my mind in the best possible light. As having kicked all those stupid habits and having made it into a happy life. Maybe that says something good about me, that I saw her as I wanted to remember, with all the flaws removed.

And now the fact that Karen is quite possibly dead as well enters my thoughts. I don't know why that thought never occurred to me, but it honestly did not. I no longer have an ancestry.com account and so I cannot check, but it would not surprise me. The obsession with finding her is gone.

I'm sad again, for this family.... for the Karen-of-the-kitchen in my mind.

And I think, what a strange world we live in, that I can see so much of what happened to this family without ever having left my chair.

I think I'll go sit at the kitchen table for awhile
 

Risky Thicket

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That was a nice piece, thought provoking. I enjoyed reading it.

After 20 years were you maybe, slightly, still carrying a torch for Eric? If he had gotten his act together and was not married had you considered that if you found him there might have been a small chance of seeing him again?

Why do you think you were able to break free of your misspent youth and Eric and Karen were not? You must have wondered about that. What made brother and sister slaves to addiction rather than responsible adults with party animal pasts?
 

Faydra

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No, I wouldn't have wanted to get back with Eric, I think I have a great need to connect with people from my past. Not entirely sure why.

There was a woman that fell out of our tree that I hadn't seen since we were like 12, and I hunted her down and found her on facebook.

That part of me I should probably explore to figure out why I have that need. :)

As for Eric and Karen, I don't know why they couldn't break out. I really wish they could have, especially Karen. She was so tough outwardly but I knew she was very fragile inside. I regret that I didn't keep in touch, maybe I could have made the difference.

Thanks for the kind words, Risky Thicket :)
 

DiAnna

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A moving reminiscence, and a reminder that life lived well is not guaranteed to all. Bad choices can break lives, destroy families, destroy people. You were so fortunate and strong to have found the fortitude to recognize your bad choices, and remedy them early enough to allow you to pursue a life well lived. I too feel your sadness at what you have learned.

Thank you for sharing your story.

Di
 
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