My Cousin Karen

When I took this picture from the western entrance to Uncle Harry’s farm, capturing a picture of the Lonely Windmill in the middle of the cornfield, the old house was replaced long ago, the barn torn down more recently, and somebody new, not relatives for the first time in almost a century, living on the farm place. And for the first time, the first member of our generation of our family, is now also gone.

Karen died of Covid this week.

Karen was a second cousin. Her father was my great uncle, my Grandma Aldrich’s littlest brother. I was the first born of all Grandpa and Grandma Aldrich’s grandchildren. I was two years younger than Karen. Her brother Bob was only a couple months younger than me, and in my class at school in Rowan, Iowa. My cousin Wanda, Uncle Don’s oldest daughter was a year younger than me and Bob. Then came my sister Nancy and cousin Beth, Uncle Larry’s oldest daughter, a year younger than Wanda. A year younger than Nancy and Beth was Diane, Uncle Don’s second daughter. (the tyke on the trike.) Uncle Larry’s twins, Janice and Jeanette, and my little sister Mary were two years younger than Nancy and Beth. The babies of the four families were Mark (Uncle Larry’s son,) David (My little brother,) Tom (Karen’s baby brother,) and Sandy (Uncle Don’s youngest, the littlest of all of us.) You get the idea. In the picture of the tribe of feral munchkins hoping for either a smile from Dorothy, or an autographed broom from the Wicked Witch of the West, Karen is the tallest one in the back of the group. The group, of course, met for family gatherings on every holiday, birthday party, card party, and scheduled family reunion through the 60’s and 70’s.

Karen was the first of us to learn how to read. I remember the Thanksgiving when she proved it by reading aloud Grandma Aldrich’s copy of The Little Red Hen to those of us old enough to know how to talk and theoretically listen. She seemed to be a lot like the character of the Little Red Hen to me, taking charge of the baking and assigning those of us who wanted to eat the cookies the jobs we were destined to refuse to do. Or do wrong until Karen growled at us and forced us to do things at least twice.

Karen was good at lecturing. I still remember when I tried to commit the crime of telling my cousins that Santa Claus wasn’t real. First she set me straight. Then she told Aunt Wilma on me, getting me into trouble so bad I nearly got spanked. I had to apologize to crying girl cousins and sisters. How could I have believed such terrible things told to me in school by second-graders?

My first memory of the love of her life, Harlan, was when he caught the bully that gave me and anybody smaller than me the hardest of times in middle school, and pushed him around and threatened him until he stopped bullying the other kids, at least whenever Harlan and his football-player-sized friends could possibly see him. They were the perfect pair. The Boss and the Boss with muscles. (And you know which one is Karen without me saying it, don’t you?)

I don’t get to attend the funeral. I am stuck several States away. But I am going to miss her. She’s caused more than a few tears this week. And now that she’s gone, I’m the oldest cousin still living. So, I am probably the next one the Reaper will give that final handshake and escort. There are downsides to getting older.


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4 responses to “My Cousin Karen

  1. You have my condolences. It is tough to lose someone so special. I’ve lost a few of my own.

  2. Robert Hinckley

    Micheal, Thank You so much for the article of Karen, she will be missed very much. You have a way with words to put a smile on my face, will miss seeing you, sorry for your loss also.

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