The Karen Files, pt. 2

There comes a time in every kid’s life when he’s hit with the realization that his parents weren’t born married—that, before they found each other, they dated, danced with, even smooched other people.

It can be a jarring, worldview-altering revelation for a young person.

Our own mom (Karen, as we’ve all come to know her here at Cladrite Radio) was very popular with the fellows. She may not have been a world-class beauty (though who’s to say? That’s so subjective), but she was cute and friendly, fun and energetic—a bundle of vivacious personality.

And over the years, she shared some great tales of her youthful romantic exploits with my three siblings and I. Like the time she went on five dates in one day with five different guys (our father likes to remind those hearing this tale for the first time that, while he can’t be certain he was the last beau she saw that day, if he wasn’t, the last date sure got off to a late start). Or the time she saw the same movie—The Eddie Cantor Story—six times in two weeks with, yes, six different guys.

Or there’s the time that late, great Bob Wills stepped down from the stage in an Oklahoma City dancehall, leaving his Texas Playboys to fend for themselves, while he cut in on my father, who was dancing at the time with Karen. No only was Mom one to dance with the one who, to use the common parlance, brung her, she, in the very flower of young adulthood, was especially disinclined to cut a rug with the hoary Wills, especially after he started letting his mitts wander where they didn’t belong.

There were so many stories, each more entertaining than the last—enough to fill a book.

After the initial shock of learning that our folks weren’t always connected at the hip—that, in fact, for most of their early years, they were total strangers—one grows accustomed to the idea, and moves on to the other great shocks that life invariably holds in store for all of us. (Have you gotten the straight scoop on Santa Claus yet? We were stunned at the news, ourselves.)

The decades zip by and we all grow older, and it’s easy to almost forget our parents ever were callow youth (or, for that matter, that we were)—until that dark day that a parent passes, and one digs deeply into the mementos of her life.

Which is where we are, dear readers, as those of you who are regular readers of this ongoing journal have already learned. And that’s why we’re devoting every Friday for the foreseeable future to a weekly look back at Karen’s life.

This week’s photos were almost as shocking to us as those first accounts of her dating adventures back in the day (well, not really, but humor us). For they depict her in the company of a stranger (to us, that is), a strapping man who is not, unsettling as it is to realize, our father.

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And danged if she isn’t looking into his eyes in lovestruck fashion, too. How dare she? Didn’t she know that she’d be meeting our father within a year or two? Didn’t she know that they’d fall in love, get married, have four kids together, and stay together until death did them part?

And who brought the bottle of Calvert scotch that’s featured in the fourth photo?

So many questions.

We have only just spotted Mom’s lifelong pal Patsy in a couple of the photos. She and Karen met in college and Dad has no idea who the schmo in the photo is (what’s more, he doesn’t seem particularly upset that she had something of a love life before they met), so we’ll see if we can get in touch with Patsy and ask her if she knows who Karen’s dreamboat date was the night.

Keep checking this space for the answers.