Most of us , at one time or another, have had a very good friend that we have lost touch with over the years. Either they have moved along, or we have, or we may both have chosen different paths.
I have a friend like that. Her name is Karen Aldrich. I mention her name in case she or perhaps someone who knows her, reads this article and lets her know that I sure would like to see her again.
I first met Karen in the early 1980’s. That was back when the Internet was in its infancy and the only online service available was “Compuserve”. The most popular way to meet other T Girls back then, was through the “Tapestry” magazine ( the forerunner of Rosebuds) which was published by Tiffany before IFGE took it over. There were pages and pages of personals of people who wanted to meet for all the usual reasons.
The way to do this of course was to write letters (snail mail) and hopefully wait for a reply in the mail. The next step of course was to exchange telephone numbers. You can imagine that some of us had some pretty horrific telephone and postage bills.
I was between marriages at the time and had myself a cute little apartment in Warwick, Rhode Island. Life was good. I had a great job which allowed me enough time and money to enjoy being “Rita”. It was at that time that I also joined Tiffany the first time. For you newer members, that was when Tiffany was in Wayland, Mass.
Karen was a pre-op transsexual at the time. She lived in New Bedford, Mass. and had a good government job in Newport, R.I. She was also divorced but had custody of a teen-aged son. I will not go into detail about what kind of life Karen had except that it was no bed of roses. She did live as a female 24/7 even on her job. . .a rare thing back then.
She was very active in the TG Community and had her own little support group going at the time.. We got together a few times and became friends. I would attend her little gatherings which consisted mostly of “pre-ops” and all the usual complaints ( nothing has changed)
Of course, I dressed as Rita almost every moment that I was not working and was very interested in “ transitioning” . Karen did have a lot more resources and information at her command than I did and recommended one counselor who also happened to work for the VA hospital in Providence, R.I.. Karen was always short of money and knew all the ways to save a buck.
The meeting with the counselor was a disaster, an issue that I may talk about in a later episode. Still, I continued to dress, but a lot of the joy had been taken away from me. We remained good friends and still saw each other often, although there was definitely a difference between us from that point on.
A few months after my disastrous visit to the counselor, I suffered my second heart attack. As a result, I lost my job, and my apartment and wound up living in my Mom and Dad’s basement. It was a very dark period in my life on the one hand, but it was also
one of the finest times in my life. Divine Providence must have had a hand in placing me there at that time for my mother had terminal cancer with only a few months to live. I became her primary caregiver and stood by her in those last difficult months.
Providence intervened again for me and a friend of the family who had a successful real estate business offered me the position of a lifetime as Project Manager for a lakefront condominium project they were building at Webster Lake in central Mass.
I signed a lease for a brand new condo in Putnam, Connecticut, and began a yet another new life. again. It did not take me long to rebuild my wardrobe and to seek out old friends. Karen had fallen on hard times and was about to lose her apartment. I offered her to share the condo as there was an extra bedroom, plus we had always gotten along so well.
The next several months were very happy times for the both of us. Although Karen had a long commute to work, she did not seem to mind. I let her stay for free so she could somehow save up the much needed money for her SRS. I would come home from work and quickly get into “Rita” mode and we would go out shopping and to eat together. It was a very pleasant arrangement. We were never intimate and always respected each other’s privacy, but we did manage to have good times. I wish I had kept some of the pictures of those days.
Not quite a year after my mother died, my father came to see me on the project. We had not separated on the best of terms when my mother died and it was a difficult thing for him to admit to me that he had been wrong. He hated living alone. He showed a lot of interest in our lakefront condos and asked if I would be willing to purchase one of the units together. It was an impossible offer to refuse. My father had all kinds of equity from his home and this would mean that we would have a luxury condo with boat slips and private beach at a mortgage payment that I could afford. That plus as Project Manager, I could work myself a very good deal.
I hated leaving my condo in Putnam. It had been such a good life. Any crossdresser’s dream really. I was able to get out of the lease and Karen and I went our separate ways. The last time that I saw her was about 18 months later when she drove by the condo project. She told me that she had had her SRS and that she was very happy and still working at her old job. We had little opportunity to talk much as I was in the middle of a conference with the job foreman and some subcontractors.
We both wished each other well. I don’t know why I did not make more of an effort to try and get together over a lunch or a dinner and talk about the good old days. It was like I had crossed over to the “other side” and we were now in different worlds.
Karen, wherever you are, you were a very big part of some of the best times of my life and I miss you.