I got up this morning feeling somewhat depressed. I then realized the passing of one of our country's most respected and admired leaders probably had a lot to do with how I was feeling. I got me a cup of coffee and sat down at the computer and clicked on Facebook. Much to my surprise I found one of Facebook's friendship anniversary announcements that I had been friends with Karen Shultz for whatever number of years. That made me even more depressed because my sweet Karen, aka Barney, will have been dead for four years in October. So, it was a rather sad day until I started remembering Barney and all the wonderful times we had together. Therefore, this blog post is about those good memories.
Barney grew up in a little community called Claxton, just outside Clinton, Tennessee. Clinton is just a county over from Knox County. I didn't know Barney as she was growing up as I was growing up too, but in another part of the state. "Barn" went to the local schools and graduated from high school in 1970. I honestly don't know at what point she started working at the Methodist Medical Center in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, but I am pretty sure it was early on after graduation. In any event, she began working there in the administrative offices and was employed there for many, many years. She loved the work and her outgoing personally was perfect for interaction with patients.
While she was working for the hospital in Oak Ridge, I started working for the Tennessee Department of Correction in Knoxville. I was one foster home counselor who covered a catchment area of 17 counties. Yep, it was a lot of work but I enjoyed it. However, I became friends with one of the probation officers in the office, Kay Bettis, and we decided to move into an apartment together. We hadn't lived in the apartment long before we met Terri Allen and Gwen Childress. They were our neighbors and we became friends fast. In an effort to make a long story short, Terri and Gwen had a high school friend who visited them often. Her name was, of course, Barney, and Kay and I became friends with her as well. Needless to say the five of us, plus a couple other girls, started doing everything together. When we weren't at work, we were together having a ball.
Again, to make a long story short, after several years of friendship Barney and I moved into an apartment together in Oak Ridge. At that time I was director of a delinquent girls' group home and it was only logical to move to the big city! Of course I was thrilled with the opportunity to live with Barney as she was so much fun and I knew she would make a wonderful roommate, and she did.
Life with Barney was one big thrill after another. She was always making me laugh. But, more importantly she was always there when I needed her. One specific time of need was when I became deathly ill and had to have emergency surgery. I was not established as a patient with a doctor at that time so Barney took it upon herself and got me an appointment that day with one of the surgeons at the hospital. Had it not been from her getting that appointment, I could have died from a very painful abscess that was infecting my entire body.
I guess the one thing that stands out in my mind above all the things that Barney and I did while we lived together was our cruise to the Bahamas. Now, this was back in the late 1970's, so it has been a while. But the cruise was marvelous. However, getting ready to go on the cruise was a hoot!
Barney drove an orange VW. Yep, the old VW bugs with the engine in the trunk of the car. And, of course, it was a sick shift. When we decided to take her car we knew that Barney was going to have to teach me how to drive the thing. What she didn't know was that I was basically unteachable. My dad had tried to teach me to drive a VW when I was in college, but I never got the hang of it. And, the same held true with when Barney tried. We would go out and get on a low traffic road and she would put me behind the wheel. Needless to say, we would bump, bump, bump our way down the road. Never did get that thing running smoothly.
When it came time to go on our trip Barney felt I was ready for the big road and would be able to help her drive. The trip down to Miami was not bad. We took our time and Barney didn't have to be relieved of driving. The trip back was another story. We were getting close to Atlanta and Barney kept telling me how tired she was and that I was going to have to take over driving. I kept trying to put her off, but the time came that Barney just couldn't stand it any longer. Here we are on one of the busiest interstates in downtown Atlanta at rush hour. She pulls over to the side of the road, gets out, and makes me drive. All I can do is throw up my hands and hope for the best. What happened? Bump, bump, bump....stop. Bump, bump, bump...stop. No I could not get the car to travel more than a few yards at a time until it would stop. And, there are hundreds of cars flying pass us. I was scared. Barney was mad. It was a mess. So, poor old Barn got back out of the car and drove us home. I don't think she talked to me for several days afterward. Yep, the ride back home was a night mare. But, the cruise was fantastic and after she got over being mad at me we both agreed that it was all worth it. Let me quickly add, however, that I did eventually learn to drive a straight shift and did so for many years!
Barney was my maid of honor at my wedding. At that point in our lives we were just like sisters and her place was right up there with me. She was a beautiful maid of honor and was so happy for me. I will never forget our trip to the church that day on July 30th, 1983. Dad drove a van with Mom in the passenger's seat. Barney and I were in the back and being nervous, anxious, and acting crazy like we always did. Now, you need to know that I was 32 and Barn was 31, so we were grown women. But, when "Going To The Chapel And We Are Going To Get Married" came on the radio, we bellowed that song out to the top of our lungs. We sang and sang like we were 16 years old. What a sweet memory!
Barney didn't go on my honeymoon with me, but I would have not objected if she had. She always made whatever the occasion was a blast. However, she stayed home and me and my husband did the honeymoon thing. Unfortunately, during the time we were gone Barney's apartment, we weren't living together at that point, burnt to the ground. She lost everything she owned and her precious cat, Rico, passed away. Barney was rightly devastated and it took her a little while to get a new apartment and to begin getting her life back together. But, through it all she never lost her sense of humor. She was a trooper in every sense of the word.
There are so many more stories I could tell about Barney. But, reliving these as I have written them has made a warm spot in my heart. We had a special friendship and I will always remember her.
The last time I saw Barney was the night of her birthday on September 17th the year she passed away on October 4th. She has just had surgery and was in residential rehab. Me and Cathy Morton, another really good friend, and I took a surprise birthday party to her. One of her brothers and his wife was there. We all had a great time and Barney was so happy to see us. Little did I know that that would be the last time I would see her here on earth.
One of the things that I haven't mentioned about Barney is that she loved Jesus, even more so in her final years. She was a better person than me as she went to church every Sunday and sang in the choir. She even went on overseas trips with the choir. So, I know that when she passed she went straight to heaven, and that gives me peace. I know that I will get to be with her again one day.
Well, that's my Barney. Miss her so very, very much. One of the best friends I ever had.