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Robin flies away

October 18, 2017
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

This column won't make you laugh, and that's a shame, because it's about one of the most joyful and silly individuals I ever knew: my childhood friend, Robin Oss. Robin and I were not each other's best friends, but our mothers were very close friends if not besties, and hence as children we had the same piano teacher, the same dance lessons, the same school, the same church, and the same swim team.

Our families had countless dinners together, and our mothers also joined with two others to form the ultimate bridge foursome.

Each summer, they took off to the Oss cabin at Lake Shetek for "Bridge Camp" while our dads collaborated to keep us all alive for a week, then we all gathered for a long weekend at the cabin, which was fairly modest, really, but somehow we all fit: four couples, two Oss kids, six Egan kids, four Eason boys, and me.

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We ran in different circles after elementary school, but in a way that helped us, because we would share the latest gossip and little stories that wouldn't matter in a day from our divergent walks of life.

Later, when we were thirty somethings co-chairing membership development, our task over the summer was to bring in by fall a new class of inductees for the Junior League of Sioux City.

"What about Dotty Hornsnaker [a pseudonym!]" I asked.

"Um, Ames, I know we each have friends the other does not agree with, and we're always fine agreeing to just not go there. You want to have two vetoes each? Of this whole big list we've made, we each get two vetoes and decide to not send an invitation to that individual?" Robin asked.

I took a sip of wine and just couldn't stop laughing. We were grown women and we still each had some ancient high school gripes we hadn't quite let go. So that year, there was no invite for Dotty Hornsnaker, Bitsy Leechgobbler, Carrie Bucksniper, or Letty Gildercramp.

I think I know how Gordie, as played by Wil Wheaton as a kid and Richard Dreyfuss as an adult in "Stand by Me" felt when he heard Chris (River Phoenix's character) had died.

"I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelvedoes anyone?"

Robin loved children, and perhaps the greatest tragedy of all is that she didn't get anything like the happy family in which she was raised. She told me her dream was to bring more cheerful Norwegians into the world.

But playing under the current of happiness was what some would call a curse. It's Huntington's Disease, which has been described as having ALS (Lou Gehrig's), MS, and Alzheimer's at the same time.

The summer Robin and I wined and dined new members for Junior League was five years after her father had taken his life just as his symptoms began. Her father, Dr. Doug, had been a dermatologist and had to give up his livelihood as the uncontrolled movements, which used to be called St. Vitus' Dance, became impossible to hide. After the funeral, knowing the 50 percent chance Robin would develop Huntington's, too, Robin's fianc backed out.

I suppose it's only human. But that dude missed out.

Robin invested in troubled kids as a social worker, visiting them at school and at home and was much loved by the kids and their teachers and counselors. So she got to have children in her life, just not cheerful Norwegians with her smile.

Then she had to give that up. Because a few years ago, Robin's body began to betray her. And last week from Thursday to Sunday, her family stayed by her to say goodbye. On Sunday morning, it was over. She'd kept up some simple pleasures: a berry-flavored drink from Orange Julius, or a sip of her favorite sweet champagne, sitting outside when a friend came to visit. They had set up her room at the care center as a modern apartment with brightly colored rugs and leather couches. Her mother was now watching both of her children disappear.

So tomorrow, Robin will be buried near her father, and her soul is free. I've rarely had a friend who made me laugh as much as Robin did. Does anyone?



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