Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It's just terrible.

My friend Karen and I met in about 1982 or 83, when she moved to my small, midwestern hometown from Raleigh, NC (via somewhere in Ohio, I believe).

My first memory of Karent was me begging her, in my silly fashion, to have a bite of her snack outside by the bike racks. It was a big, roundish brown cookie, and I took a HUGE bite. Only it wasn't a cookie at all. It was Kibbeh. I believe I spit it out. We were both embarrassed, I think.

Karen's dad Alfred was Syrian, which is why she had such an exotic snack with her, and as I grew closer to Karen and her family, I learned to love Kibbeh. (I've never done kibbeh-nayye though...raw meat. Blech). I also learned to love Al.

Al was Karen's best friend, I think. They had a relationship that transcended any other parent/child relationship I had seen before. Al was Karen's top adviser and her champion.

Karen and I also roomed together in college, and one of my main reasons for picking my graduate school was that I knew Al and his wife, Karen's mom, Dorothy would be close enough by for me if I needed them. A second pair of parents, you could say.

Al helped me buy the only car I've ever bought from a dealership. Al was hilarious. He was just FULL of good-natured teasing, often with unexpected results. One of the stories I always heard was his restaurant classic response. When the server came by and asked how things were, Al invariable put on a stony face and said "It's just terrible!" Of course the server's response would be to rush to see what to do about the situation, but Al didn't let them hang for long. He had a great big smile that clued them in to his joke, and he would let it shine!

Al passed away on Saturday after a month-long stay in the hospital. Karen had mentioned he was in the hospital, but I think I never really understood the severity. I thought about going to visit, but as usual in that situation, I talked myself out of it. After all, the hospital is stressful as it is without visitors to contend with. And Al was a hale guy. He had had his brush with severe illness years before and pulled through, so no way was he going to succumb this time. No way. Apparently he went downhill really quickly. Karen told me yesterday that she had made it back here to spend time with him and to let him spend some last time with her two babies. So that part is good.

I'm going to miss Al, and this time? It really is terrible. I love you, Al.