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Monday, May 14, 2012

For Angie

Last summer I visited Sapulpa, Oklahoma and walked the paths of childhood.

The house I once called home has been gone for many years.  But I walked to the block where I once played.  I stood upon a sidewalk that led nowhere.  The hot Oklahoma wind rippled my shirt across my sweaty back and the song of cicadas filled my ears.  I stood where my house once stood.  A greenish yellow lawn greeted me and our pecan tree yet remained. The pecan tree has reached such a majestic height in my many years of absence.

Only the tree remains where our house once stood 

I walk through the yard that once was my own and gaze at the white house upon the hill.  This is the twin's house, the Berg house.  The two matching Pine Trees in the front yard now tower above me like the Pecan tree of my home.  I remember when these pines were small and four little girls played in this yard.
Should I knock at the door of the Berg house?  Should I tell the current owner of the summer days spent within?  No, I just close my eyes and the warm sun bathes my face as I walk back through the corridors of my mind.

Angie and Katie's House 

I know this house. 

I know the cool blue gray paint of the front porch.  I know the side door opens to a dining room with vintage pocket doors.  I know that once a cat named Tiger lived here.  I know the way the light streams in through the living room sheers.  I know that the staircase is regal, but that did not stop us from riding mattresses down its bumpy length. 

I know my best friends once lived within this house.

I met the girl on the way home from school one day when I was only six years old.  She stood beneath a stop sign and smiled. She was one of two, but I did not know that then.  We talked shyly as strange children are want to do.  She said she lived in the big white house on the hill with her twin sister and the rest of her family.

That is how I met the twins. Angie and Katie Berg became fast friends with my sister Esther and I.  We lived only a block away from each other and spent many years walking to Washington Elementary School together. We were all in the same grade and they were as much a pair and my sister and I.

The twins lived a hard life.  They were the last children of a dying marriage.  They lived in the big house with five siblings and their mother.  We rarely saw their mother as she mostly stayed in her room.  She was stuck fast inside by grief of life lived not as intended.  We worried about the twins.  My sister Esther and I were poor, but there was always food in our fridge; not so Katie and Angie.  Many times I opened their fridge to find pickle juice, condiments and nothing else.  Or I would watch them live for days on only fried bologna.   My mother would press food into their hands every time she saw them, saying softly, “Those poor girls.”

Yet, even with all their struggles, the twins did well in school.  They played sports and had lots of friends.  They even had a paper route that occasionally Esther and I would help them with.  As the years past they grew stronger and their Mother grew less sad.  There was more food and we would dance and play.  Angie was so strong that by the end of elementary she could mow the sloped lawn of their yard.  She took great pride in keeping the house nice and was often working on it.   

Then in 6th grade we drifted apart.  They had a party and invited all the popular kids, and did not invite us.  I asked Katie about it later as it hurt my feelings.  I was rather nerdy, chubby and looked the poor girl I was.  Katie told me it was not the kind of party I should go to, as I still played with dolls and things of childhood.  Angie and Katie both began to waitress at the best restaurant in town soon after.  With their meager earnings and their lovely home, it was enough to make the leap into the popular crowd.

Esther and I would watch the twins from afar.  We still see them and they were always nice, but we were no longer best friends.  Katie was a cheerleader and Angie was a homecoming queen.  I will never forget the day she was arrayed in all her finery.  I was on the debate team and the debate room is used as the green room for any high school stage event.  I vividly remember Angie curling her ringlets in my classroom.  I knew how soft her hair felt from braiding it many years before.  I walked up to her and touched it saying, “You look beautiful.”

And she smiled at me as she had always done and walked onstage into the light.

No, we were no longer close. The Twins no longer played with Esther and I. But when the abuse from our father became too bad during our junior year, we ran away from home and into the arms of our friends.  That night they welcomed us with open arms just as though we were little girls again.  It was with their phone we called the hotline number that led us out of a horrible home life.

Then we graduated from high school and flew away from each other.  Over the years I would hear things, good things and horrible things.  I would hear that Angie didn’t make it through WestPoint, and instead would go to OSU.  I would hear Katie was singing and was very good at it.  I would hear Angie got married, and had beautiful daughters.  I would hear that Katie was shot by a stalker and would never sing again.

Then a year ago I heard the whispers.  Angie might have cancer.  But they were only whispers, yet I knew cancer in my life and worried for Angie and her family.  Then a few months ago I started asking friends on Facebook if anyone could find Angie.  In March, Susan (Hartin) Ashbaugh contacted me with Katie’s number.  Then I was talking to Katie on the phone.  Angie was running out of time.  Could I visit?  I flew out a week later and into the arms of my friends.


If there is one thing that death has taught me it is, in the end, we become the children we always were. 


I stayed two days with Katie and Angie.  We went shopping and had ice-cream.  I met Angie’s three lovely daughters and I painted with them.  I met Katie’s beautiful daughter and I painted with her.

Painting with Katie's daughter

I learned that Angie had glioblastoma multiforme.  She found out the day before Easter 2011 after having a seizure.  She has had surgery, steroids and chemo, but it is growing inside her brain and she won’t be getting better.

When I saw Katie and Angie in March.  Angie could walk and talk, she could cook and hold her daughters.  She could kiss her husband.  She would forget things, but she did not seem too bothered by it and she would just smile.  She wears her hair short under a chemo cap, but it is still the lovely soft hair of our childhood.  I know, I touched it and said you look beautiful.

Now it is May, and Angie is in home hospice.  She can no longer talk, but she can still hear.  On Sunday, I called and Katie answered.  I wished Angie a Happy Mother’s Day. 

I like to think inside she smiled at me as she has always done.  And I know it will soon be time for her to walk onstage into the light. 



  1. Your gift is a blessing to all...many prayers and love. Missy

  2. How beautiful and...a perfect tribute to a friend. My prayers for painless, peceful days are with her.

  3. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. I was friends with Angie and Kaite in college. We had a little group that ran around and made Stillwater our own. From painting their house and having rotating dinners, to Tumbleweed. I miss those girls so much and have tried a lot of times to find them. By luck I found one of our friends Becky on facebook and was able to somewhat keep up on Angie. I am so heartbroken that I wasn't able to go see my long, lost friends. Thank you so much for getting to Angie and Katie. Through you I can almost feel being with them again. Thank you so much....Jodie Alderson Jackson

  4. Heather Pray LittleMay 16, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    You are so talented and I hate now that we are older and looking back the "cliques" we were in. Adolescence was confusing enough. I think most of us visited the Berg house at least once. Thank You for this. It is uplifting and some of us need that once in a while! Thank You!

  5. Regina,

    I've read this several times and it brings tears to my eyes each time. I remember the party you reference. I also remember Katie confiding that she felt bad that she hurt your feelings. I think like everyone- the twins just wanted to feel loved... And sometimes you equate popularity with being loved even though that's not usually the case. Like you, I have poignant memories of events in my life where people have hurt me. Though I wouldn't wish pain on anyone, I do know that our pain and joys become a culmination of all we are. I think the best we can hope for is to use the pain we experience as a guiding force to learn from and take with it lessons to be applied in our future. I know you know what I mean because I see how you have turned the tragedy of your husband's death into a lesson for us all. It is with that work that you are making all of our lives better. I didn't know Fred but I am sure that he would be so proud of how you have turned this nightmare into a beautiful legacy to benefit others.

    I don't ever remember being in the same class as you in elementary. I do remember you showing me your artwork from second or third grade. I was absolutely blown away by your gift. I'm so glad you have found happiness with art.

    Thanks for such a beautiful, loving story.

    Kasey Pipkin

  6. Regina,

    it's me. the twim that is surviving, the twin that is carrying the sadness of our childhood into the nightmares both angie and i lived in adulthood. i cannot take back the mean words i spoke to you, but i do know, that my heart has always been to help protect you and esther and angie and myself. your dad hurt me too. angie and i were at your house waiting for you and esther and i took in your newspaper and then my innocence disappeared. it wasn't until days before my mother's death that she revealed she had gone to the da in sapulpa and there was nothing he could do without proof. in writing those words, please accept my deepest apology for hurting you, but please know it was not due to any popularity or to any price...your friendship always meant more to me than all the fingers in world touching, brushing, braiding, and sharing hair. i believe that our friendship spread wings as angie and i both had to work full-time after school so we could eat. our mother left us and moved to florida our senior year to pay all the bills. regretfully, we lost the house and were able to stay until graduation. monica bayouth drove me to college in her parents minivan and i never looked back. angie and i went back and got ourselves on video with our daughters on the front steps of our old home bc angie knew time on earth was against her. and, like you, i am thankful for the tree that still stands on elm street. the tree of life from childhood into adulthood. into our adulthood. i love you, regina. i love esther. i love angie. and i love myself. i have lived more hell on earth, than most families survive in a lifetime, but i wouldn't change a moment, bc, without "a moment" we don't have each other. and i believe,now, we always will.