Making up for lost time with a sweet friend, the wife of another dear friend we lost 18 years ago

Last week, I posted a tribute to my best friend Doug, who left a huge hole in countless lives and hearts 18 years ago when he died suddenly at the age of 45. In those 18 years, Kay and I have done a very poor job of spending time with his kind, giving, compassionate and sweet wife, Melissa Brown — who also happens to have one of the cutest smiles and best laughs in recorded history.

As we all know, life “gets in the way” and often keeps us from spending time with the people we love. I’ve seen Melissa at the funerals of her father in 2011 and her mother last year, but social get-togethers with her have been nonexistent for far too long.

So, pandemic be darned, I texted her recently and asked if she’d like to meet up with Kay and me some Sunday, and of course she was all for it. We finally decided on this past Sunday. Instead of restaurant patio dining, Kay and I suggested keeping it simple: Bringing chairs to a park, social distancing and visiting for a while. Melissa lives in Crowley (south of FW) and we’re in SW Arlington, so Kay came up with a cool neighborhood linear park in south Fort Worth called Overton Park, not far from Texas Christian University (Kay’s alma mater).

We met up at 3 in the afternoon. The weather was perfect, in the low 70s with just a few clouds, and we found a shady area under some big trees to fold out our chairs. We ended up catching up for two and a half hours until, with the time change, we lost some light and it started getting chilly.

The three of us had an absolutely fantastic time talking about our families and so much other stuff that we haven’t been able to share over the years except for occasionally through texting and FB messages. All the while, people walked and biked the paths on both sides of us, many with their dogs. As I told Kay, we definitely have to go back and take advantage of that park!

After 32 years as a kindergarten teacher — 27 at Ridglea Hills Elementary in Fort Worth ISD — Melissa decided to retire last spring. To say she was beloved would be a major understatement. She’s enjoying retirement so far, spending time with family, and once the pandemic is over (I’ve asked this before, but it *is* going to end, isn’t it?), she has other activities in mind.

After we said our goodbyes and Kay and I were driving away, she commented that it was so sad that Doug had passed away, because he and Melissa made the perfect couple — because they are both such wonderful people. I told her that was so true.

For those who have struggled coming up with safe settings for spending time with friends during the pandemic, we highly encourage parks. We started with masks and took them off right away, knowing we were sitting far enough apart that it wasn’t a problem (except for the photo we took before leaving!).

Of course, cold weather’s here so there won’t be as many nice days to spend outdoors. But take advantage of the ones we do have by getting together with friends — especially ones you haven’t seen in a long time or don’t get to see very often!  

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