Friday, May 20, 2011

Goodbye, Friend

Karl & I, March 2009: Mini reunion at Barley's

Karl & I, April 1988: New Design Show Choir in Hollywood, CA

Today, my friend Karl lost his 4-year battle with brain cancer. He was 41 years old. He leaves behind an extraordinarily strong and faithful wife, Jennifer, and 3 children: Luke, Rachel, and Anna. I think they're 8, 6, & 4. I'm glad he's not suffering any longer. I'm relieved that he is at peace. I do believe he's in a better place, but I also do believe that it's effing unfair. My heart is breaking for his family and for his dear parents, Vern and Martha. I love them so. Some things about Karl that I'll always remember:

* I was so surprised when I was a sophomore and Karl, who was a senior, noticed me. It was really the first time anyone had noticed me that way. He gave me an envelope with two smaller envelopes inside. The smallest one had a key inside and said something like, "This is the key to your heart. Maybe it's the key to friendship, or maybe something more." I was a smitten kitten after that. Who wouldn't be? I still have those envelopes.

* Karl took me on my first real date and to my first prom. I know he always just thought of me as a good friend, but he was my first love.

* Karl was also my first broken heart. I remember sobbing facedown on the couch with my mom rubbing my back. I thought I'd never be happy again. I thought I'd never love anyone else ever again.

* Teepeeing was never more fun that at Karl's house. He lived (and his parents still live) in this big old beautiful house with tons of huge trees and with two lions at the front steps. During my sophomore year, poor Karl's house got nailed more than anyone's I knew. One particularly beautiful job by Lisa, Tracy, Kim, and me included forking the yard and putting sunglasses on the lions. Vern told my mom that he just sent Martha out every morning to roll all the toilet paper up so it wouldn't go to waste.

* Because of Karl ticking me off one night, I started flirting with his good friend Curt (not one of my finer teenage moments). Curt and I dated over 2 years after that. I'll never forget that Karl's sister Karen told her baby son, "Just think, maybe someday YOU can date Tena too!" Ouch. I deserved that.

* Karl was my date at Curt's wedding rehearsal dinner and at Tracy's wedding. His dancing improved considerably over the years.

* Karl and I danced to Phil Collins' "Groovy Kind of Love" at my junior Homecoming, which he took me to one weekend he was home from college.

* Karl mooned everyone at my 16th birthday party.

* Karl came to visit me after I moved home to Fairfield from Texas. My dad taught him to waterski, and I remember he was there for Matt's going-away dinner before Matt went to the University of Iowa. I fixed steaks and my mom's garlic cheese bread.

* One Christmas when I was home from Texas, I went with my Dad to Des Moines so we could shop. I just knew, don't ask me how, that I would see Karl that day. He was at the mall.

* Karl had a weird little scooter, and he would pick me up and take me for a ride.

* Karl had a really big smile and a deep he he he laugh.

* Karl was an amazing trumpet player... first chair All-State.

* Karl sobbed like a baby when we blocked the Last Supper in our 1988 production of Godspell. We ALL sobbed like babies. I just remember that Karl was really moved, and that was, in turn, very moving to me.

* I remember a Shakespeare on the Green outing the summer of 1988 with Ricco, Sarah, Molly, and Tim. We hauled an entire picnic, complete with a watermelon, over there. I love the pictures of that night.

* Karl, Curt, and Curt's mom Jean drove over for my mom's funeral. One of my very favorite memories was after the visitation, one of the worst nights of my life. I really needed a drink, so Tracy and I went out to Kokomo's. We opened the door and saw Karl and Curt sitting at a table with a pitcher of beer and 4 glasses. I have no idea if those glasses were meant for us, but it was like Heaven sent them at that moment. I'd never been so glad to see anyone in my whole life.

Our lives grew apart as we grew up. Our friendship drifted apart as we became the people we were meant to become. But, so many memories from such a formative time in my life are tied to Karl. A tiny little piece of my heart died today too. I'll always happily remember Karl as a good friend. My prayers tonight are for his wife, his kids, and his parents and sister. I can't imagine what they're going through. It's so unfair for them.

You'll be missed, Karl. Rest in peace, friend.


  1. Karl took me on my first date, too! I wasn't allowed to date until I was 16. Karl and Travis both passed me notes in choir on my 16 birthday...Karl's was folded like one of the little "football" triangles. I still have it. =) LOVE YOU ~ Trace

  2. This is a wonderful tribute. I'm certain, from your descriptions, he was loved by many! Prayers for his family. KToll...

  3. Tena, I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. Big ((HUGS)) to you, and many prayers to Karl's family and other friends as well. He seems like he was a fabulous person. :)


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