Saturday, September 29, 2007

Karen Veronica Shortell Johnson

I think, if I were ever to have another girl, I would name her Karen. And she would have beautiful dark hair and grey eyes. She would have an unstoppable spirit and a great sense of fun. She would love to dance. She wouldn't take any sh*t from anyone. She would blaze her own trail.

65 years ago, Karen Veronica Shortell came in to this world in Staten Island, New York. She had an older brother and sister. She would later have two more sisters. They grew up in a white house and went to a Parochial school. The nuns were merciless to them all.

Karen sucked her thumb and the nuns stopped her by putting the cardboard backing of a notebook around her elbow secured by rubber bands. Told over and over, "Your brother is so smart, what happened to you" Karen dug her heels in and refused. to. learn. Her mother, Anna, a formidable power her-own-damn-self went to the school and straightened that mess out. After that, she did fine in school.

Karen was a fighter. Her older brother, whom she adored, would set up fights between Karen and the local boys and then charge admission to the neighborhood kids. Karen got 50% of the proceeds, and usually won the fight.

She hated dolls. But every year she'd get one, and then she'd wait for a truck to come by, throw the doll under the wheels and scream "You hit my sister!" and run like Hell.

Karen met Wayne when she was 19. Karen was well endowed, Wayne dating Carol, her best friend. Wayne was sure she had falsies on. He asked her to dance, and they spent the rest of that Friday night dancing.

He was in the service. Strike one. He was 21 already. Strike two. He looked amazingly like the adored older brother who had died in a car wreck a year earlier. Strike three.
And yet... That Sunday Morning at the family breakfast he asked her to marry him. She agreed and they were married in early May.

Barely 9 months later, the happy couple would have a heart break. Their first child, a girl, was born too early, so small she fit in her father's palm. They named her Karen. They would be blessed with three more children, each wonderful and terrible as only children can be.

Karen and Wayne had many happy years together, fitting together like spoons in the silverware drawer. Wayne died the day after their 35th wedding anniversary. Karen held on 6 more years, but also succumbed to death.

Her children gathered, quietly, to honor her, a small service, but still mourn her passing.

Today I will celebrate all that was good about my mother. She and I had a rough couple of years. OK, several rough years. But today, I will remember the good times.
Happy Birthday Mom


Erica said...

Good to remember the good times -- happy birthday to her in whatever transmigration she floats.

As a point of local pride, I would say that anyone born in Staten Island -- situated between Brooklyn and Bayonne, New Jersey -- by the laws of nature, would never "take any sh*t from anyone."

Hell, with that kind of pedigree, I wouldn't have messed with her, either. Your mom musta been one tough cookie.

Rest her soul.

Anonymous said...

... a beautiful birthday present, to be be sure......


regina kimm said...

My beautiful soul of a sister. We would call her Socrates. She could debate both sides.
Tomorrow is her anniversary. Too many years gone, but in my heart forever.