Sunday, March 5, 2023

A Good Friend and Another Plot Twist

 In October of 2018, I had my first bout with melanoma. The consequent wrist surgery left me unable to play the violin for months. This “plot twist” devasted me, but I resolved to hold my violin differently and work to eventually play again. My arm, wrist, and hand pulsed with pain since they’d had to remove some muscle and bone, but I still practiced for hours upon hours perfecting a new left-hand fingering style. After what felt like a lifetime, I FINALLY sounded good. 

I wrote about this in a local newspaper, saying how when life tries to kick us down, we need to kick back! After reading this article, a musical couple, Ron and Dottie Barrett, reached out to me. Ron started calling every so often, just to check in. He’d battled cancer too, and that’s what first bonded us. But after that, what drew me to him was his wit. He’d tell stories about asking Dottie out on a date. She didn’t want to go at first, so he fell asleep under her car and waited—with his cowboy boots sticking out from under the truck—so she’d know he’d stayed there all night, just hoping she’d give him a chance. (Leave it to an Idaho cowboy to give everything to get his girl! I’m just glad she didn’t run him over.) 

Anyway, the couple eventually asked if I’d come “jam” with them. I got nervous—I hadn’t even played with the band I was in (Rough Stock) since my surgery that previous October. “I’d love to fiddle with you guys, but I’m feeling a bit gunshy,” I said.

“Come on, Little Lady. Get your butt over here, and we’ll fix ya up!” Ron said. So, I visited their house and surprised myself because we sounded great. Dottie played the piano while Ron strummed the guitar and sang. Add the violin, and it sounded professional. Dottie grinned “bigger than a polecat eating dinner” (as Ron said), and the two immediately asked me to join them competing in the Bingham’s Got Talent contest and fundraiser for cancer patients.

That amazing couple raised hundreds of dollars for people fighting this terrible illness—and because of their efforts, we won the People’s Choice Award at the contest! When I first found out I had cancer, it felt devastating. I never imagined that months later, I’d be able to play again, let alone help raise money for people in need.

The Barretts became a huge influence in my life. They even felt like family. I’d go visit with Dottie, and Ron ended up giving my second-oldest daughter, Sky, free guitar lessons for a couple of years. Before Dottie died of stomach cancer, she gave me the People’s Choice Award trophy to keep, so I could always remember her fine piano playing and the day we won.

Time passed, and I eventually set Ron up with one of my amazing aunts. (She looks just like Meryl Streep and is funnier than Amy Schumer, so I knew he’d be thrilled.) After they started dating (wait, it worked?!), I started calling him “Uncle Ron.” I loved watching their excitement as they got to be good friends. He’d call me—like a teenager—to rave about how beautiful and special my aunt is. I loved…seeing them in love. And he said one of the biggest highlights of his later years was “the surprise of falling in love again” and getting to know such a “fine woman.”

Anyway, a few weeks ago, Ron said he had something for me. I could hardly believe my eyes when I spied the brand-new purple fiddle. “I wanted to learn how to play. But I’m not feeling so well. I decided to give her to you,” he said. I knew Ron had felt sick for a while, but I had no idea how serious it was.

I phoned him days later and left a message, gushing about the violin. I have no idea if he got it because I received a call this morning, letting me know that Ron died last week.

I have no words for how hard life can be. I cried today, telling Mike that too many people I know have died. “It feels like once a month someone I know passes away.” 

He nodded, and then he just held me.

“This is how the elderly population must feel, watching all of their older family members and friends die. People should be nicer to old people. They have it really rough!”

I know this is the one thing that’s guaranteed with life, is that all of us will die, but sometimes it’s hard staring this reality in the face, knowing that whenever I talk to anyone, it could be the last time …

I’m so grateful for the memories and the good times. I know Ron and Dottie wouldn’t want me to “wallow like a stick in the mud,” so instead, I think I’ll pick up that purple fiddle and play my little heart out, hoping my song will reach Heaven. I just want the Barretts to know how much I love and miss them. They might just shake their heads and smile. When Ron isn’t pulling pranks on Saint Peter, I bet he’s just happy to be out of pain and grateful to be united with Dottie again.

Here’s more about Ron if you’d like to read his obituary:

He really was one heck of a guy.







1 comment:

  1. I'm so sorry for the loss of Ron. It's so true, at least for me, that the most difficult part of old age, is losing just about everyone you have known and loved for most of your life. But you can't stop, you go on and you make new friends. I didn't know Jeanne, a woman here in the canyon, until I became ill. Just from volunteering and things like that. But she has stepped up, driving me to Bakersfield for all these appointments. She is now my best friend and I love her so much. Worse thing on my cancer journey so far is the estrogen reducing medicine I have to take to hopefully prevent the cancer from returning. No matter how old we are, we really need our estrogen to feel goo and normal. I had no idea. Other than that I'm doing well. I think of you often with love.