I have been thinking about – and missing – my friend Kathy Allen a lot lately. In truth, I think about her, and Fred, every day, but on some days, more than others. I still have blink moments when I think, “We’ll see them for dinner on Saturday, or next time they’re in town, or I’ll call her later and catch up.” And then it settles in. Kathy is gone, Fred is gone, and there is an empty spot that only good memories can fill.

I can’t look in many rooms in our home that don’t hold a reminder of Kathy. Our friendship began in the ’60s when we worked at what at that time, was known as Ma Bell, the telephone office where we were operators. “Operator, number please?” Back when a human voice connected one person with another via a dial-up telephone. Over the years we exchanged gifts. In the kitchen I see holiday trivets I keep up year around, on the patio a tinwork angel, a wooden angel wall hanging in the hall, Christmas ornaments and nativities on China cabinet shelves, tiny books and big books here and there, handmade pot and dish scrubbers in the kitchen, drawers full of handmade scarves, bracelets… These small reminders bring on a smile along with a catch in my throat.

I wrote the poem below sometime ago with Kathy in mind, and posted it on this site long before her passing. I repost it today because I wish for one more walk and chance to talk with my friend. I have so much to tell her, all of which , of course, she may well already know. As a believer, I know there is only a thin veil between this shadowy and insubstantial thing called life, and the people we have known and loved. Kathy loved yellow roses, but what she loved most were the people in her life, Fred, Mark and Marlene, her sisters and their families, her friends. I miss her.

Let us stroll along today and talk.
Tell me what makes you laugh, as we walk.
I want to listen to what you say.
Share your heart with me today.
I want to know what makes you cry.
May I ease your worry, wipe your tears dry?
Share with me your anger deep inside.
I will help you slay that dragon, and turn the tide.
I am your friend come what may.
Please share your heart with me today.

Truth be told

More from the April Writer’s Digest challenge, the brain child of Robert Lee Brewer, a WD editor and blogger at Poetic Asides. The first of these is personal, based on the prompt to write an ekphrastic poem, a poem inspired by a work of art – photograph, sculpture, or some other creation. Words of Art is based on a wooden wall hanging given to me by Kathy Allen for my birthday last year.

Kathy Gift 1








“a good friend
knows all of
your stories,
a best friend
helped you write them.”
So reads the wooden wall hanging
given to me by a dear friend
for my seventy-fifth birthday.
On the backside she wrote,
“We’ve made many stories
during our 55 years
(and counting)
of friendship.
Let’s write more!”

Eight months later
she and her husband were gone.
A terrible accident,
one that took two amazing
people and the stories we
– and they –
would write.
They went from this life
to the most profound
adventure of them all.
Yet, I grieve still.
They were and are a part of my heart.
This crafty wooden work of art
carries wisdom and memories in equal measure.
Take no moment for granted.
Treasure those you love.


Change is a coin,
a thought,
a mind,
an idea,
a life.

Change suggests
being other
than we are now,
influenced by
truths and lies.

Being other
than who you are
right now,
can be better,
or worse,
an improvement,
or cataclysmic devastation.

Who decides if
you will be other
than who you are today?

Surround yourself
with people who
challenge you
yet give you encouragement.
it is the melding of the two
that makes being other,
be you.


If the missive is massive
the meat of the message
may get lost in translation.
Massive experience forms
intellectual confidence…
or does it form massive
pride and disregard for
opposite opinions?
When you communicate,
keep it simple
(not dumbed down)
but understandable,
relatable, perhaps
a touch compassionate.
A few words well said
may make a massive,
life-changing difference
to someone in need
of a voice whispering
in the light.

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In memory – a personal essay

rosesMy sister died unexpectedly but peacefully in her sleep sometime New Year’s Day morning. As far as her caregivers – my other sister and her husband – knew, she was not ill, and yet she quietly made her way out of this life and into the next on a schedule only God knows. She was 69.

Patty wasn’t known to many. As a child, she was diagnosed as mentally retarded, back when that was a common phrase for special needs children.

From the moment I got it that she was different from other children, I thought of her as an angel waiting to make her way back to heaven. She is there now, of that I have no doubt.

When she was little, my parents did everything to help her, to get an answer for how they could make her normal. We had little in the way of money, but they spent what they could on countless trips to doctors in search of answers. The trip to a children’s hospital in Hot Springs, NM (Truth or Consequences), was the last straw for my dad. When they came out after the visit, my mother was in tears, hugging Patty and rocking her. My older brother and I sat in the back seat of the car, listening to her sobs. “No more,” my dad said. “We can’t do this anymore!” We knew enough about our dad to know he was furious, even though he didn’t raise his voice.

It wasn’t until much later that I learned that someone – a doctor or administrator at the hospital – told my parents that children like my sister shouldn’t be allowed to live. It caused too much suffering for the family. My parents loved my sister as much as they loved each of us. She was not disposable because she was different. No wonder my mom wept and my dad was angry.

Patty was a walker and talker. She had boundless energy. My parents stopped taking her out to church or to the store when it was clear her behavior couldn’t be managed. As she grew into an adult, it became necessary for her to have a medication plan, or she wouldn’t sleep.

She could be really funny. She loved the song Silent Night, and would pester my dad to sing it. Now, the family pretty much agreed my dad was no singer, but after she bugged him enough he would belt out the quintessential Christmas song with all his heart. Patty would clap her hands over her ears and say, “Don’t sing, Daddy, don’t sing! You’re hurting my ears!” and then laugh, her bright blue eyes like twin suns sparkling with delight.

Patty made us better people. Because of her, we grew up to be less judgmental, more compassionate, kind, and forgiving. We learned the importance of accepting people as they are, warts and all. Do we live those lessons all the time? Probably not, but we are not angels. Patty was and is.

In memory of my sister, Patricia Louise Conkle. I love you. And thank you to my sister Melissa and her husband Fred, for taking good care of her for these many years.

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