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Chuck Brooks: Fond, fun memories of 'Eun'

The View From My Room

You might remember a few months ago when I wrote the column referencing Thomas Hardy's notion of "You can't go home again." After the last couple of weeks, I realize I may have left out one perspective regarding his philosophy. You can go home again under certain conditions, but that emotional return shall be a fleeting one.

I lost my 98-year-old friend on Easter Sunday. I shared with you my relationship I had with this woman here not long ago. Her name was Eunice. Losing her made Easter a sad day.

It wasn't like her death was a complete surprise. Because of the fall she took before Thanksgiving, her declining health was in rapid mode. Eunice's daughter shared with me a month or two earlier that she didn't believe her mother would see another Christmas. Her death on Easter Sunday was an appropriate day to leave this world because of her unending devotion to her faith.

About mid-week, I was notified by her daughter the funeral would be Monday, eight days after her passing. Her only grandchild could not return to attend his grandmother's funeral until the weekend before. He is 23. I hadn't seen him since he was probably 6.

There was never a question as to whether or not I would return for the funeral. I realized it would be small since most of the people who were connected to her had gone to their reward long before now. I hadn't seen Eunice's daughter or son in nearly 20 years. It would be an emotional reunion on several levels.

To risk repetition, Eunice was someone I met when I was 18. I was in my town's summer community production of Hello Dolly. The music director for the show was the daughter. She had several gatherings at her mother's house after late-night rehearsals. Her mother, a widow by then, was someone who enjoyed young people. And a group of theater geeks getting together at someone's house was usually more about laughing than creating trouble. That's how I met Eunice. Little did I know this woman, 37 years my elder, would become one of my best friends ever.

That fall, my friends, including her daughter, were off to college. I worked during the day, and I'd spend many a night at Eunice's house. I always felt like I had more in common with adults as I grew up than I did with folks in my own age bracket. Euns and I got along marvelously. We'd go to lunch or dinner together. We'd sit outside on beautiful fall nights chatting about whatever entered our thoughts. She was a voracious reader. She loved classical music. And she had a real knack for knowing how to play, even as an adult. It was one of the reasons we got along.

We'd play Spite And Malice, a card game requiring four decks. I'd often beat her, and once, when doing so, I taunted her endlessly in the final minutes of the game. When she finally lost, she threw the cards at me and when I didn't stop, she picked up the letter opener knife from her coffee table and chased me around the first floor of her small home. We would laugh and laugh about that for the remainder of the time we were in contact.

We fell away from each other for too many years. It was no one's fault. It was both our faults. Regardless, her daughter reached out to me two years ago, informing me of her mother's failing health, in case I would want to rekindle the flame of our friendship. I will be forever grateful for that phone call.

Her son couldn't attend his mother's funeral. She died in his home with his partner and his sister all by Eunice's bedside. His health, however, put him in the hospital a couple days later and he was only released on the morning of the funeral. Another friend who was a large part of those days in the mid to late 70s and early 80s flew in from California to attend the funeral. Seeing her for the first time in 20-plus years was powerfully emotional. For a few hours that morning, seeing both women brought back many fond and fun memories. Along with Eunice, we were quite the quartet.

I shall miss my 98-year old friend. I'd call her at random times and chat briefly. She sounded no different. Her COPD shortened our phone chats, but while we spoke, it was like old times.

Did I know then such a friend would contribute so much to my growth as a person? I did not. I owe her more than I have space here to describe. I felt, however, compelled to recognize her here.

She was a special friend, and I hope I gave to her half of what she brought to my life. Thanks, Euns.