anne_mikolay_120Let me tell you about my friend, Deneen.

Deneen loved to laugh and could find the humor in most any situation. One morning, she couldn't wait to tell me about the dinner she had at her boss's home. The meal, she said, was not quite as memorable as the trapeze suspended from the living room ceiling in the man's stately mansion. His wife, it seemed, was somewhat of an acrobat and used the trapeze for exercise. We laughed heartily over that one, as we did when the same gentleman came to work “with the barn door open.” Deneen immediately alerted him to his fashion faux-pas and cautioned him not to let the horse escape.

In the early morning, before the hectic office work began, Deneen, my boss, and I would challenge one another to see who would be the first to finish the daily word jumble in the newspaper. An avid reader, Deneen won the challenge everyday. She also did the New York Times crossword, something I absolutely never attempted. She worked hard during the day and studied equally hard by taking college classes at night. It took her years and years for her to obtain her business degree, and when she did, she was understandably proud of her accomplishment.

There are so many little things I remember about Deneen, and all make me smile. She introduced me to lemon zinger tea. Each afternoon, around three or so, either she or I would go to the coffee shop and buy two cups of lemon zinger tea to share together. To this day, lemon zinger is my tea of choice. She taught me to use minute rice instead of regular rice. She liked tater tots, Stephen King, and Billy Dee Williams. She enjoyed the program “Dynasty” and thought it was hilarious when the main characters' physical altercation landed them in a swimming pool. She, like many other people back then, daily wondered “who shot JR?” Deneen wore her hair the same way for years, and I can't envision her without her perfect up-do. She adored her grandmother, who raised her, and was utterly devoted to her father, the spitting image of James Earl Jones. She gave my son his very first video, Disney's “Aladdin,” which he watched over and over and over again. Deneen and I ate lunch together everyday for years, and she confided many heartaches that shaped her into a sensitive, caring person. And she confided her dreams. She hoped to someday use her business degree and open a small shop, perhaps a gift/card shop like the ones we often visited together on our lunch hours. I dreamed of writing books, and Deneen promised to sell my novels in her store someday.

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My dear friend, Deneen, with my son.

Deneen's sensitivity and reserve belied her resilience. She was a tough cookie. If crossed, she did not hesitate to put the offender in his/her place. Her fortitude served her well in later years when she was diagnosed with leukemia. While others were raising their families or forging careers, Deneen was in and out of the hospital, battling disease. She had several rounds of chemotherapy, developed heart problems that required a pace maker, lost considerable weight. At the hardest point in her life, she met a special man, Willy, who stayed by her side through her hardships. They planned to marry. Tragically, Willy was diagnosed with cancer and passed away quickly. The loss was difficult for Deneen, but her sorrow did not break her. She held fast to her faith in God and put one foot in front of the other everyday.

Sadly, Deneen recently lost her battle with leukemia. A light has gone out; this world is diminished without her. Our loss is heaven's gain, I know, but I can't stop thinking about my friend and missing her.

Rest in deserved peace, my dear, trusted friend.