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Unexpected Visits Connie Shannon “When you open the tennis can and it whistles, buy hmb mass think of me” -  Karen The other morning, buy hmb mass an old friend came to see me. She and I and some other members from my tennis club were seated at a church service, buy hmb mass in my dreams. Dreams are funny. They feel so real at the time we are dreaming them. I haven’t thought of Karen in a while. Life moves us forward and memories of those who’ve left us are eventually placed on our memory shelves, buy hmb mass until those times we are compelled to remember them. It was one of those dreams that stayed with me after I woke up. Karen was a friend of mine I met at my club where I play tennis. I wouldn’t say she and I became fast friends. She was older than I was and a better player. I remember when I first met her, buy hmb mass I was intimidated. Buy hmb mass On the court and off, buy hmb mass she could be tough and no nonsense at times. Buy hmb mass   In the same breath, buy hmb mass she was the first to laugh at herself, buy hmb mass and had this naturally light, buy hmb mass gracious demeanor.  And more than (almost) anything, buy hmb mass Karen loved tennis.  She was a terrific doubles player and formidable competitor. Buy hmb mass Everything Karen did, buy hmb mass she did exceptionally well. And for someone new to town, buy hmb mass who primarily joined the club to socialize and meet people, buy hmb mass Karen’s strong alpha presence was something I had to warm up to. Which is one of the reasons why taking up tennis has been so good for me. Sports teach us a lot about ourselves and about others. I guess you could say I didn’t get to know Karen well until she became ill. She was playing out on the court one day and fell and fractured her hip. The injury led to her finding she had Stage four bone cancer. After she had been diagnosed, buy hmb mass some friends at the club and I began to take dinners to her house once a week (which grew into more evenings as time passed) , buy hmb mass which turned into welcomed weekly get togethers for everyone.  One various weekdays, buy hmb mass I would take her two terriers for a walk.   To be more accurate, buy hmb mass it was the terriers who walked me.    They were small, buy hmb mass but incredibly strong for their size and equally enthusiastic for a run around the neighborhood.   At times when the chemo and radiation sapped her of almost all of her strength and energy, buy hmb mass we would take turns driving Karen to the hospital for treatments. During such times, buy hmb mass we’d catch up on the typical things happening over at the club - what matches were going on, buy hmb mass  who was playing well and any club gossip she may have missed. Buy hmb mass We’d talk about how the chemo treatments were going, buy hmb mass which ones had worked, buy hmb mass which ones weren’t, buy hmb mass and how she was feeling. Buy hmb mass   Interestingly, buy hmb mass in knowing others who have gone through chemotherapy, buy hmb mass Karen actually looked forward to her treatments which seemed to make her feel better. Buy hmb mass   They seemed to give her energy. It was only when her blood count would become too low that she couldn’t receive treatments, buy hmb mass which was difficult for her in many ways namely because of the cancer spreading. Buy hmb mass   At other times, buy hmb mass Karen would tell me about her days in the working world as an Advertising exec, buy hmb mass of which I have no doubt she was probably the best in her field and/or at least her division. Buy hmb mass   She did mention on a few occasions stories of being a female in a very male world, buy hmb mass and shared some stories of things she had to put up with at the time, buy hmb mass as being the only woman at her level.   There were other things we didn’t talk about too much, buy hmb mass but things she and I both understood. Karen had been in a long term relationship with another woman, buy hmb mass whom she spoke of rarely, buy hmb mass more or less in passing.  She had mentioned to me she had joined the club not long after her break up with her partner. I can’ t remember how long exactly they had been together. Buy hmb mass They had been together quite a while. Buy hmb mass To Karen, buy hmb mass the break up was pretty abrupt and unexpected.  One afternoon I was over helping Karen get the upstairs cleaned up in her home. Buy hmb mass   We were cleaning in the bathroom, buy hmb mass and I went to unplug a curling iron sitting on the counter which curiously was on, buy hmb mass but Karen didn’t use a curling iron.  She stopped me before I could turn it off.   The curling iron belonged to her ex and Karen kept it plugged in and turned on since the day her partner left  some years before. The curling iron stayed on until Karen died.  For some reason, buy hmb mass this has remained with me. I remember the ex partner failing to make it over to visit Karen when she was ill, buy hmb mass or when she was dying.  That has remained with me as well. Ironically, buy hmb mass if irony is the word, buy hmb mass it seemed to be the chapter in Karen’s life which brought her to the club, buy hmb mass and to us for a time being.    In the eleventh hour of Karen’s time here, buy hmb mass she even managed to make us laugh. Buy hmb mass Two nights before Karen passed, buy hmb mass our crew of friends were over trying to help Karen get things as situated as possible.  Before the illness took over, buy hmb mass Karen was always very organized and orderly. Buy hmb mass   However, buy hmb mass as the illness progressed and her body weakened, buy hmb mass she was less physically able, buy hmb mass needless to say to move up and down the stairs to get things done.    By this point, buy hmb mass Karen was bed ridden, buy hmb mass on oxygen full time and extremely weak.     We were searching for the title papers for one of her Vespas which she was giving to her niece and nephews.   As the search was proving unsuccessful, buy hmb mass Karen was becoming frustrated to the point that she exclaimed the best she could, buy hmb mass “I’m not going anywhere until we find those papers!” While we finally found the papers and she felt at ease, buy hmb mass we teased with Karen that, buy hmb mass if she was not going to leave, buy hmb mass then there was no reason in finding them.  I’m glad Karen came to see me the other morning, buy hmb mass if only in my dreams. Buy hmb mass It prompted me take her memory off the ’shelf ‘and pay tribute to a wonderful person and spirit, buy hmb mass who was incredibly full of life and enthusiasm while she was here.  Karen lived by her own standards and passions, buy hmb mass fell deeply in love with a woman at a time and in a working world where it was anything but fashionable, buy hmb mass and she fought her illness as hard as she fought her opponents on the court.   She held the bone cancer at bay for a while too - longer than many. Buy hmb mass    There was one point during her illness that she was feeling better, buy hmb mass the chemo was ‘working’, buy hmb mass and she would take her beloved Vespa out for a spin and would drive to the club to watch the drop in doubles on the weekend. Buy hmb mass   I remember Saturday she was there.  She mentioned to me how incredible it was to smell the cut grass as she was driving over that morning.  She had tears in her eyes when she talked.  Whenever I smell fresh cut grass, buy hmb mass I always think of Karen. Buy hmb mass And after writing this, buy hmb mass I’m reminded to remember her when the tennis can whistles.  Love you Karen. Buy hmb mass