Memories Of an Extraordinary Friend

It was a warm sticky summer afternoon in 1974.  I was 18.  I was at a party with friends when I spied this pretty lady in the kitchen.  She had creamy skin and beautiful blue eyes.  She had long brown hair.  She was doing what she did best—cooking and preparing in the kitchen.  I just had to know who she was.  We were introduced and a really sweet relationship ensued.  We became engaged.  We traveled together.  Discovered so much together.  As high school sweetheart relationships generally go, we ultimately went our separate ways—yet we remained fabulous friends in the decades to follow.  We just didn’t have enough in common to go on as a couple. 

Her name was Robin.

Robin in 1975

Robin A. Kramer was as good as they come.  A heart of gold and a sweet gentle demeanor.  She was that way all of her life with everyone she knew.  Ironically, Robin never had it easy yet remained positive and optimistic through it all. She went through an abusive marriage that didn’t go well.  She always pulled her own weight.  She earned her living as a checker on her feet for most of her adult life.  She bought her own home not far from where she worked and managed to make ends meet. She learned to tough it out on her own and never asked anyone for anything.

Robin and I stayed in close touch for years following our courtship.  We followed each other through life’s many ups and downs.  Sometimes, she’d cry.  Other times, it was me who was in tears.  We held each other’s hands through a lot of tough moments.  During a call in the early 1990s, Robin told me about a nice man she’d met and was falling for.  She loved his huge heart and sense of humor.  Terry had been through a lot in his life and needed a safe harbor. 

Robin was a perfect fit. 

A part of me felt a twinge of jealousy.  I was at a very dark place in life at that time fondly remembering Robin and me in more youthful times.  I thought to myself—lucky guy—and he was.  Robin and Terry spent a lifetime searching for one another.  They were crazy about each other.  They loved sports and spent their time rooting for the Orioles, the Nationals, and the Redskins.  Being a Redskin fan could not have been easy either.

Terry was a butcher and Robin was a checker for the same grocery store chain in the National Capital area.  They both worked very hard for decades doing what is traditionally very hard work. They worked long hours on their feet for not much money. They’d come home exhausted.  When it was time to retire, they migrated to Hagerstown up in Northern Maryland and settled in for some peace and quiet.  They both had surely earned it.  They enjoyed a lovely home on a quiet street backed up against the rich Maryland woodlands. 

They treasured one another’s company for 24 years.

Robin and Terry both struggled with serious health issues.  Terry had a genetic heart defect.  Robin fell ill to a virus that attacked her heart and required surgery.  She suffered from Muscular Dystrophy, which presented huge physical challenges for her.  She underwent heart surgery to repair damage done by the virus, which improved her health for a long time. They expected her to live five years. She lived over a decade.   Terry continued to put off his heart valve surgery like a lot of us might have. The idea of heart surgery frightened him.

During a visit back to Maryland many years ago, I went to breakfast with Robin and Terry, and we had a nice visit.  Terry’s breathing was labored.  He didn’t look well.  When it was time to say goodbye, Terry and I engaged in a deep embrace—with both of us in tears. It was a very emotional moment. We looked at each other and we both knew—we’d never see one another again. 

Three weeks later, he was gone.

Robin and Terry in front of their Hagerstown, Maryland home.

Terry entered the hospital to have a CT scan of his heart and get his surgery scheduled.  He coded on the table.  Healthcare professionals worked feverishly to save Terry’s life.  It was not to be.  They were not able to revive him.  Robin got the shocking news Terry had passed. 

Because she and Terry were soulmates—the news was devastating.

For the first week, Robin was in utter shock wondering what to do next.  Then—she went off a cliff emotionally.  She’d lost everything – the love of her life, her home, and her dignity. Paralyzed with grief, she couldn’t speak for months.  Psychiatric professionals worked hard to save her life. Thanks to their professionalism, she managed to hang on but was never the same. With medication and grief therapy, she survived as the tough survivor she always was. In time, she recovered – yet she never got over losing Terry.

Losing a soulmate is like that.

Robin’s tough tenacity and commitment to survival enabled her to hang on for five more years. Last fall, she suffered from a bad fall and broke her leg and foot. She never told anyone about it. No one but immediately family knew the trouble she was in. During my last conversation with Robin, she didn’t sound good to me.

Robin passed peacefully in her sleep in early February. She had given up the fight and passed on to take Terry’s hand in eternity.

May they always walk together… 

4 thoughts on “Memories Of an Extraordinary Friend”

  1. At least she made it out alive to die a natural death. We lost a quite a few, some unexpected, to the perils of the era. And the ones with family horror stories you’d never have seen coming? Whew. Nice eulogy for a lifetime friend.


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