I met Karen in 1987. August or September, I think. The weather must have still been a bit cool because she was wearing Ugg boots, jeans, and a purple jacket with flared (very 80s) shoulders. And she had a bow in her hair (like she almost always did back then). She was drop-dead gorgeous but what I remember most is her smile. And her laugh. They were so full of joy and kindness.
I had moved from Carnarvon late in 1986 and started my final year of school at Carine Senior High. It had been a rough transition - country town to city, long term friends to no friends, small classes to large metropolitan school - for both me and my sister. But in June, I’d met Phil in my maths class and discovered we had an interest in similar music and become friends.
And that’s how I’d ended up in the caravan out the front of Phil’s house, getting drunk with him and his mates. And that’s where I met Karen.
I’ve no idea what she thought of me at the time. I probably don’t want to know. Most of my communication at the time involved witty, sometimes mean, remarks and inappropriate finger gestures.
Whatever she thought initially she must have seen something worthwhile as we became friends over the next few years.
We went to watch Subi at the football together. We went to gigs with our friends. We hung out as part of our group on the weekends - going to the beach, driving around, listening to music, doing bombies in Andrea’s pool.
In 1990, we were invited to a friend’s birthday in Duncraig. It was probably a kilometre and a half walk from my house, and at some point Karen and I decided it would be a good idea to walk there from my place. Mum agreed to let Karen crash on a fold-a-bed in the lounge room. So, with that sorted, Karen and I dragged an esky full of beer down Osmaston Road to the party.
It was a great night.
One of the guys, Rabbit (real name, Warren), was cracking a whip (literally) in the cul-de-sac out front of the house. It sounded like a gunshot every time he cracked it. Phil and I kept changing the music to the Metallica ‘Ride the Lightning’ record he’d brought with him. I also seem to recall sculling beer in the cubby house.
On the way home, Karen and I decided to stop by the playground. You’d think this was an alcohol-fuelled decision but really we’d have done it sober. Who gets to decide at what age you are not allowed to enjoy swings and slides. You do, that’s who. Having said that, we were definitely not sober.
Our first kiss was in that playground.
One year later, in the same playground, I asked her to marry me.
We’ve been together for thirty years now. We have been friends for thirty-three. And I’ve been madly in love with her for somewhere in between those two periods of time.
We’ve had adventures.
Travelling around Australia in a 1974 Landrover. Blowing a hole in the radiator of the same Landrover, on a dirt track in the middle of the Northern Territory, hundreds of kilometres from nowhere.
Living and working in Asia, with two young kids.
Starting and managing an engineering business. And no, it’s not my business; I’d never have managed without Karen.
Swimming in sub-zero temperatures English Bay, Vancouver on New Years Day.
Landing on a glacier in a chopper.
Dog sledding on a frozen river.
Bungy-jumping. Okay, Karen did that, not me.
Dangling from a off a 350-metre building in Las Vegas. Also Karen.
We’ve been lots of places. We’ve done lots of things. But the real adventure is our life together.
We have three wonderful children. We are so proud of them and we love them deeply.
They are unique. They are resilient. They are caring and supportive. And they love each other.
And that is all a father and mother could ever want.
Karen is the most caring person I know. There is nothing she wouldn’t do to help her family and friends. She is always there for her kids. And for me.
She is my rock. My source of joy. My safe space. My home. She is still drop-dead gorgeous. And she still has a laugh and a smile which lights up a room.
And that is all I could ever want.