Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Nov. 2, 2012

Touching base

I knew immediately that it was Amy. The last time I saw her may have been in that same Kedzie hallway 25 years ago, but it didn't seem she had changed that much.

"Oh my gosh! Hi! How are you doing?" I said as I gave her a hug.

She was on her way to Liberal, Kansas for her 30th high school reunion and she had decided to stop at Kansas State University where her oldest daughter is a student in secondary education. She had emailed me a few weeks ago to let me know her plans.

Amy was among the first students I taught at K-State in the early 1980s. I had created an advertising sales class, where students worked with the K-State Collegian's newspaper clients. She was in that class.

"I guess you were one of my guinea pigs," I said, laughing.

Amy, a couple of other students and I also traveled to San Francisco for a College Newspaper Business and Advertising Managers convention. I don't remember much about the convention, but I do recall our visit to Chinatown while we were there. I remember her as a somewhat shy, but very sweet young woman.

I took her into my office and showed her a photo of husband Art, daughters Mariya and Katie, daughter-in-law Lacey and German "kids" Nadja and Tim. Mariya was born in 1986, the year Amy graduated from K-State in business administration with a marketing emphasis.

We met up with my colleague Wanda, who also worked with Amy in the 1980s, and together we toured the Collegian newsroom and advertising office, the photo area and the Royal Purple yearbook office. A few things had changed, including a new heating and air conditioning system, but for the most part, Kedzie looks like it has for decades.

With the 10-cent tour over, it was time to sit down and catch up on our lives. So we went to the K-State Student Union for coffee and a bite to eat.

It has undergone some major renovations over the years, and Amy commented that it looked different.

After graduation, Amy had pursued a few marketing jobs, but she grew interested in nursing when she became pregnant. She had always had a strong interest in science and had even considered a lab tech degree at K-State, but knew she would miss the interaction with the public. So nursing seemed like a good way to combine her interests. She received her RN degree at Mid-America Nazarene University in Olathe.

Wanda talked about her grandsons. I talked about our girls and Art's children from a previous marriage. Amy filled us in on what her three daughters and three stepchildren were up to.

Wanda had to get back to work, but Amy and I continued. We talked first about our husbands and children and she showed me a photo album of her family.

Then the discussion turned serious. I shared what it was like losing my first husband Jerome to a brain aneurysm in 1986. Amy spoke about the loss of her first husband Tony to brain cancer when her girls were small. She knew Jerome and I knew Tony.

It wasn't long before both of us had tears in our eyes. We talked about how difficult it is to lose a spouse and how people cope differently with grief. One of the things that nags a person in that situation is a concern that the person you cared for so deeply will be forgotten. I told her one thing I did was to have people who knew Jerome write letters to Mariya so that in the future she would somehow "know" her father through others' eyes.

Amy started a "team" for Tony within the "Head for the Cure" organization. It sponsors 5K races in Kansas City, Lawrence, Kansas, Columbia, Missouri and Frisco, Texas and raises money to help brain cancer victims and their families. While the goal is a cure, many succumb and she said it's wonderful to see posters commemorating loved ones along the race route - to see that they are still alive in people's thoughts and actions.

We talked awhile longer and then Amy had to be on her way. It was also time for me to get back to work.

As I returned to my office, it struck me what an emotional roller coaster the last hour or so had been. There was the joy of connecting again after a long period with someone you really liked. There were the tears of reflecting on losses that at the time you weren't sure you would survive. And finally, there was the contentment that comes with the realization that things had again settled into a comforting rhythm.

In short, it was nice to touch base, even if for only a short time.

Left: Gloria and Amy exploring San Francisco's Chinatown in 1985; right: Wanda snapped a cellphone picture in the K-State Union of Amy and Gloria while the three were reminiscing.

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