Some people seem to know in life just how fortunate they’ve been. Because of her attitude (and the plucky spirit behind it), I dedicate this post to Maureen Cotoia Barney and her recently-deceased husband Dan.
Recently I went out to dinner with an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in 10 years. She’d suffered a major assault to her personal life last year, and since I always liked her, I reached out to her, trying to determine where she was in the scheme of things.
Her husband died (at a young age) of pancreatic cancer, you know, the type Steve Jobs had. Now, Jobs beat it for longer than usual because he had a liver transplant, while her husband lacked Jobs’s connections…money…and opportunity. And so, his journey from diagnosis to final rest was fairly brief.
She and I had worked together years ago, when she subbed in the school where I taught. From the git-go, she reminded me of Mary Tyler Moore‘s “That Girl” (I think her guy even associated her with that TV character), the perennially-sunny young woman who appeared to have everything anyone could want: great looks, a good guy, fantastic job, terrific friends.
Moore’s Mary was spunky but not in an in-your-face-kind-of-way. Maureen always struck me that way.
She confirmed that her life had gone the way I suspected: They’d had a wonderful marriage…two great kids…and many fun times with an extended group of friends with whom they traveled and stayed close.
She’s now the first among their group to lose a mate.
But she told me something else. She stated that she knew she’d been ‘blessed’ in her choice of partner because theirs was a special bond, for she had what few achieve in this life– many happy years with a life partner.
She told me two incidents that epitomized her husband Dan. One 4th. of July some years back, when the kids were younger (probably adolescents), the family floated on a rubber raft down Narrow River in Narragansett, Rhode Island. At the point where the river spills into the ocean, they paddled over to the beach, tied up the raft, and enjoyed a picnic.
Now, others were doing the same on this idyllic day.
Because the girls had wandered, Dan proceeded to comb the beach, calling out their names to all within shouting distance. The girls’ reaction? They cringed at seeing him. Why? In honor of the holiday, he sported a red, white, and blue Speedo. Embarrassed (as only teens can be,) they reluctantly answered..
Flash forward many years to today, when the girls are grown. What’s on one daughter’s Facebook homepage? Dad on that special day (complete with a picture of him in that suit,) one tinged with her youthful embarrassment of a time she had to admit ‘Yes, that parent is mine.’
Today, she’s proud of the association, and calls it out to the Facebook world.
Another memory? You know all those friends Dan and Maureen were blessed with? Well, they helped them through every step of their medical ordeal. When Dan completed his last chemo round, they thought they’d have to miss out on the annual friends’ trip to Florida (where they all rented condo units in the same place). But Maureen and Dan went down, after all, flying to meet them, surprising them all.
All week, the men spirited a weakened Dan about in the wheelchair, and each night they brought him onto the beach, where they all watched the sunset. They knew: This would be the last time.
Yes, hearing her stories, I thought: We cherish the memories of the really important times–the funny, the crazy, the snippets of occasions when we enjoyed simple pleasures, together, or the times when good friends pooled together to lend strength in hard times.
I know it sounds trite, but if one has good people in life, he/she is truly blessed. Maureen and her girls know this, firsthand, and I suspect Dan knew it, too. But I’m pretty sure the girls retired the Speedo suit, in recognition of the fact their Dad was unique.
They’re all unique in another way, too. They never forget how fortunate they are.
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And “Rest in peace, Dan Barney,” one of the good guys who left a significant mark on his world. Few people are so loved.
Here he is, lowest photo, all decked out for 4th. of July, in goofy goggles and red, white, and blue tie…You’ll have to imagine the Speedo…and the friends to the right who made the Last Trip so memorable.