My best friend from the past has been down here visiting. She is great. I miss having her around but also like knowing she’s out there in the world doing things. She reminded me of this blog when she asked if I still keep one.

I am so lucky to have had the chance to spend some time with this lady for the past 2 Saturdays. I recap to remember: Last Saturday, I picked her up in Mililani Mauka. We drove to Haleiwa Beach Park and stayed there talking, catching-up. It’s never hard to pick up where we left off. Karren is someone I will always feel connected to. We have very similar morals and it’s easy for us to understand each other. I don’t politely accept her views as her own, but tend to actually agree with just about all of them. We’ve known each other since intermediate school–making this the oldest/longest of my friendships.

It was a beautiful day out at Haleiwa Beach Park and for a moment I couldn’t help but think of the time we tried to take my dad to see the ocean. Our family had brought him to this beach park. Karren came home to help care for her grandma these past couple of weeks — which were predicted to be her last. Karren’s grandmother passed away on Wednesday, July 12th. We talked, sitting in the grass beneath a large tree. I wanted to hear about her grandmother and appreciated being able to describe her experience as someone in the position of an end-of-life care-giver. I liked hearing about the advice she was given in caring for her grandma, and the brochure she received. Listening to her describe her grandma made me think of my final days with my mom, and it was good and not sad to talk about it. We snapped some photos of the beautiful mountains and shoreline, then decided to go eat. Since she’s from Makakilo, I chose to go to Down to Earth in Kapolei.

I appreciate that Karren eats healthy. We both rarely eat fast foods. We sat and talked more at D2E, and then I drove us back the long way in the evening… taking Farrington Highway between Kapolei to Waipahu. I wanted her to see the rail in Waipahu. We agreed it looked really off — too large in scale to everything else. We also drove through Pearl City (because I missed the cutoff), and then back to Mililani Mauka. I picked her up around 3pm and dropped her off… around 9 or so.

When we hung yesterday, I picked her up in Mauka a little before noon, and we drove to Wahiawa Botanical Garden. It was my first visit in 20 or so years! It was a beautiful botanical garden. I enjoyed it more than Foster Botanical Garden, and it surprised me that I don’t hear more folks mention it. Karren took a brochure for her mom, and I feel like I will go back again because it was a great place, and free! We walked through the garden slowly, on a self-guided tour. There were many parts of the trail that weren’t really on the map. After making our way around the tour and into some other parts on the lower-level, we came full-circle and ended up by the parking lot. I think we wandered around for about 1.5 hours. We found a nice bench to sit at and continue talking, and left the park around 3pm. I drove us to Lake Wilson on the way out of Wahiawa just to show Karren. We sat on large mossy rocks overlooking the lake for a bit. I recalled Blaine and I would take photos around Wahiawa, and how I missed hanging out with him. We saw a lot of folks out fishing, enjoying the day. A couple of small boats were were paddling along. This place reminded me of my youth since I’d come off-and-on over the years to this spot. Wahiawa is a town Karren didn’t know as well since she grew up in Makakilo. I knew it since Mililani didn’t have a library, and Wahiawa was home to Dairy Queen… a place we’d go on occasion when my dad needed hardware or something out there at Howard’s… I recall shopping for clothing at Duke’s with mom, and some other grocery stores from time to time…and because my mom owned a couple of beauty salons out there. Artistic Hair Studio was the name of her salon. Her first land-lord were the Morioka’s and it was located across from Coronet near Dot’s. Her second location was the former TJ’s salon along Kamehameha Hwy. If you remember it, please leave me a comment about my mom!

We headed to Kapolei for another meal at D2E. It’s one of my favorite places to eat and chill on the west side. We talked some more. A man blessed us with “eternal life” (I think that’s what he said). He thought Karren was beautiful. I do too. I have to say Karren barely ages, and has a unique look that stands out in a crowd. Her style is simple, and flattering and she wore a skirt that looked great on her. Karren, if you’re reading this — I loved the skirt and the Sriracha shirt. I forgot to mention it directly but noticed it! Karren kind of reminds me of Audrey Hepburn, if that gives you an idea of what I mean when I say grace and style.

As we drove back, I took Farrington Highway once again. This time, it was earlier in the evening so the sun hadn’t set. I followed the rail to it’s start point and was surprised to see it ended abruptly and seemed to be extending in both directions. Also surprising was how much more development had taken place in Kapolei out on that end. I never really have a reason to go so this surprised me. We ended up at Ka Makana Ali’i –a new mall in Kapolei! It was my first time seeing it and I was a bit thrown. I knew there was a mall but didn’t know where… and now we both knew! We headed back along Farrington Hwy, through Waipahu and stopped at the old Arakawa’s, which has since become some kind of open market thing. Painted all over with weird colors, I wished it’d remained the blue (was it blue or gray?) that I remember growing up. Seeing Waipahu with another person who remembers old school Waipahu was also fun. Karren knew the area from her youth as someone who grew up in Makakilo. I knew it as a youth growing up in Mililani when it was still really small, so we traveled to neighboring areas a lot. I could almost picture the inside of the general store, and hear the commercial play in my head from the radio. We talked about all the things you could buy at Arakawa’s… clothes, sporting goods, tamarind, fabric.. what a great store it was! We both remembered shopping at Big Way grocery, which was no longer in the spot across the street from Arakawa’s. We were happy to see Waipahu Bicycle and Sporting Goods was still there–holding it down… and the smokestack from the sugar mill.

To round things out, we stopped at Mililani Town Center before I had to take her back to her grandma’s townhouse in Mauka. We both weren’t too familiar with this old stomping ground (right across the street from our High School) anymore. We looked at the shops, remembering some had come and gone. Times used to be Star (and was recently bought by Don Quijote); Walden Books and the florist shop used to be where the CPK is. Loco Moco has been there a long time, but Blimpie subs was long gone. The theaters are still around and showing its age. We saw where Just Tacos was located– a friend had told Karren about salsa dancing there. I explained how Cookie Corner managed to endure through the years (to Karren’s surprise), and we looked across the parking lot at things like the Burger King and KFC… remembering Ryan worked at KFC, and how his brother Jon worked at Star. As we walked around I faintly recalled how it used to look, and also moments there with my niece and sister. As I write this I try to call up images of being there with my mom but it’s hard… despite the fact she worked in the Super Cuts there.

Karren’s family is one I enjoy hearing updates about. I remember both Greg and Mark, and it’s nice to hear they have families and children who are doing well. I remember sitting in the dining area at their house in Mililani, and details like how small their backyard was… How Mark was a freestyle bike rider, and Greg was an artist. I can somewhat hear Mrs. Jeffers’ voice to this day from when I’d visit. I remember sitting on the dining room table with Karren, going through weekly ads and playing that game of: What would you pick if you could have anything on this page … and there was the summer my mom paid Karren to teach me how to sew. And I remembered Karren’s mom planted one of those tiny potted Christmas trees and it became the cutest bush. I was happy to hear her mom still did a lot of gardening.

One thing I appreciated the entire time, is how Karren can break down a situation really well. She is an active listener, and can give great advice. I appreciated hearing her thoughts and insights. Her handling of the final days of her grandma sounded really wonderfully done. She did a hard thing, and did it well. It was neat talking to Karren about morbid subjects such as watching my mother die, and things that happen to the human body as it prepares itself to leave the world. There are some topics that seem too morbid, but I felt able since I knew she was dealing so closely with end of life care. It was good to hear how comfortable Karren was with her role. She served it well, and helped her grandma have a smooth transition into the next world. I applaud her bravery and am so happy Karren could be there for her grandmother in her final moments. It was the most I’ve spoken to someone else (in a long time) about my parents and their lives (and deaths). Karren understood that feeling…. of watching someone suffering, and knowing their pain was finally over. I was grateful Karren could have this opportunity, and her grandma had the chance to be with her. We discussed our own lives and inevitable deaths. We were very much on the same page with our feelings about these things.

We talked about so much. With Karren, I don’t have to go to coffee, or a restaurant or a bar. I can just be somewhere with her and have a great time, and that’s an awesome (and rare) friend to me. At the end, She invited me up to see her grandma’s townhouse, and I was happy I went. It was great to see the home of her grandmother. I admired some of her art, and the peaceful view from the bedroom windows. The photos of family were also nice to see. A glimpse into the life of a woman who lived for 93 years! I loved her tiny crystal piano figurine, carved art landscapes (from Germany, I believe), and her rattan furniture. We both sat and talked some more… this time we ended up talking about relationships. We each had our own really bad relationship in recent years. Karren’s ex-husband, and my ex-boyfriend. I cringe to even call him “boyfriend” and I imagine Karren feels the same about her ex “husband.” I recall when we last spoke we realized we were with similar types of men. Insecure, egotistical, and mean. We are both happy to have gotten out of these bad relationships. In both cases the men lied in the beginning, and then showed their truer selves as time went on. We both had that dreaded walking-on-eggshells feeling around these men. We both feel sorry for any woman who has to endure this kind of treatment.

Where Karren and I differ, is Karren would like to have kids and a family of her own one day. And she’d be amazing! So, I hope she has all these things because she deserves it. I am not sure what I want for myself, but don’t think I can have a child, and feel so established as alone that I don’t know if I want marriage either — though I mused about partnerships, and we agreed marriage makes things easier because of the alliance. I think I’d like to meet a divorced man who already has children. I know I could love another woman’s children, and I don’t know if I want to have one of my own.

We said goodbye, but knew it wasn’t goodbye for long. We’ll always keep in touch. If she goes to college in Utah, I am going to make the effort to go out there to visit. Partly because I regret never having visited her in SF, and also because Utah is very intriguing to me … and Lisa is also there, and she is someone I’d be very interested in visiting. I’ve seen photos of Bryce Canyon, and imagine Utah has a lot of natural beauty. I hope Karren’s plans to go back to school and find a new career go well. I feel like she will succeed at whatever she puts her mind to. Also, since she has such an established background in administration, I think she would be able to easily find a position when looking for work to support herself.

Other random things I learned from her: SF has a big homeless problem and drugs abuse problems contribute to that. Karren currently lives near a gym where she doesn’t go in order to avoid exes (good call!) She had some health issues I hadn’t known about! She was in the ER for her liver, and she also has endo like I do. The healthcare system in SF is REALLY different from Hawaii, and many physicians don’t accept health insurance. Karren was interested in going into nutrition at some point, but saw she’d have to get a Master’s. She’ll be moving out of SF by the end of September because moving in the winter is not something she wants to do. She goes to church in SF, and is going to church today. I was happy to hear she went back. Even though I haven’t been religious since I was 12, I respect people who find peace or enlightenment in religion. It’s kind of how I feel happy for others who are parents. I admire them, and yet probably won’t be a parent. I don’t know about religion. I might become religious one day in the future, but I am not sure if I would go with Christianity, eastern religion, or something else.

This post has become some unwieldy thing, but I guess I don’t want to forget. There are so many things we talked about that I didn’t include, because there’s so much…but I wanted to get some of it in here. I am so happy I had time to spend with Karren. I wish her the best and look forward to the next time we meet. Maybe we will try to make time to have occasional phone calls … though we never did start that up. I think mainly because long distance calls used to cost money. I lost touch with a lot of folks who moved away in the 90s. I am bad about calling my friends who’ve moved away.

I’m so thankful to have met Karren all those years ago. She’s someone I’ll always admire. She’s a smart and kind person who has a lot of skills and knowledge that make her a great candidate for so many opportunities. Her humanity and general good-naturedness are traits that shine through. She’s definitely on the list of people I would strive to learn from and be more like. I feel a sense of calm from her that I wish I could capture and bottle-up. lol! These days the anxiety in me wakes me up as I sleep in spurts. In those moments I could spend with her, I felt young and optimistic again. So, thank you Karren! I really benefitted from you being here. You came to help with your grandma, but just for the record — you helped me too!

You da best, Karren! I Love you!

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