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story.lead_photo.caption Photo Submitted Robin in her Elf costume.

Robin and I drove Susan to the small Fayetteville, Ark., airport. I don't think the tardiness now matters much but for some unknown reason, it seems as though we were running a little late. Susan had spent the last three days with us at our Noel, Mo., home and, although it was nice to see Susan and catch up on the parts of her life which Robin and I had been unaware of, goodbyes are always difficult, especially this goodbye.

Robin was ill and the cancer that had entered her body would most likely cause her death within the ensuing few months. Robin and Susan had known each other since the first grade in Florissant, Mo., and, although other girlfriends, and yes, even boyfriends would come into their lives, their friendship was so strong that it survived all those grade school, junior high and high school years. The two would talk, laugh and share all their secrets.

I recall that on the day Robin and I were married, Susan was there. She, as one would expect, acted as the maid of honor. She helped Robin arrange her hair and get dressed, and Susan cried when Robin said, "I do." The two hugged after the ceremony and Susan whispered in her friend's ear, "I wish you all the happiness and luck in the world." Then Robin cried.

Susan married Bob and, in the years following high school, Robin and Susan seemed to arrange activities which involved the four of us. Bob and I didn't seem to have a lot in common but we became friends and, once a month, we all got together to play cards. As I look back on those Friday night card games, I now understand that the meetings were more about Robin and Susan's friendship than cards.

As I recall, it was a few days after the first Halloween following Robin's passing when the card came. I went to the mailbox on the street in front of my house and I recollect being curious about an orange-colored envelope. Not wanting to wait until I went back inside, I opened the envelope and unfolded a Halloween card. A few pieces of mail slipped from my fingers and fell to the ground, but I allowed them to stay there while I read the card. The card was sent from Susan.

"I know this might sound a little crazy, but here it goes. Last night, and after the doorbell stopped ringing and when all the trick-or-treaters had gone home to look through their candy-filled pillowcases, I remembered something that I just had to share with you.

I guess Robin and I were about 9 or 10 and, like every other Halloween, we planned to go trick-or-treating together. Our parents wouldn't let us go more than a block or two from our houses, but oh how clever we thought we were that year. We talked about our costumes for weeks and decided to go as Laurel and Hardy. Of course, I would be Oliver Hardy.

It was a cold rainy night and we didn't wear coats because we wanted people to see our costumes, so we almost froze to death. The funny part is that not one person recognized the characters we portrayed and only one or two people even bothered to ask who we were supposed to be. I remember that one young lady even asked who Laurel and Hardy were.

Oh well, we had a good time and, when we got back to Robin's house and as we sat on the living room floor going through our candy looking for those special pieces, the cold and rain was forgotten. I remember how funny Robin looked with her drenched hair and runny makeup.

Well, that's about all for now. I hope you're doing alright and your health is good. I suppose Halloween doesn't matter much to us old folks anymore but I just had to share that memory with you. When Robin and I were little girls, we thought we would live forever but now I know that's just not so. I will miss my old and good friend, my Stan Laurel. Love, Susan"

Susan was a dear friend to Robin and, yes, to me as well. She lived and continues to live in Lakeland, Fla., yet when she learned of the terrible cancer that was killing her longtime friend, she came to Noel to spend time with her and to say goodbye. It seems to me that some goodbyes are more permanent than others and this was one of them.

While with Robin and I, the two could be found sitting on the porch, just talking. I made a conscious effort to avoid being part of those conversations as I knew the two were talking about old times, times when they were young; and those are certainly the best of times.

I sent Susan an email on the morning of that sad July day, the warm summer day when Robin died. I considered calling her as I believed, above anyone else, she was entitled to hear the awful yet predictable news directly from me, but I just couldn't bear the thought of saying the words. I came to regret that decision and, although I know that Susan understood my reasons that the call was never made, my choice does sometimes torment me.

Susan did call me a week or so following the funeral for her old friend. She asked how I was doing and asked if she could do anything for me. I needed something but didn't then nor now know what that thing might be. I guess just the mere call from Robin's friend and her concern for both Robin and me was enough.

Each year, I send Susan and Bob a Christmas card and as I wish them a happy holiday. I deliberately avoid any mention of Robin. I guess the winter holiday is a time for rejoicing, not sadness. I know that although I don't include Robin's name in my writing memories of my wife and Susan's friend are never far from our thoughts.

The inspiration for this story came to me with the approach of Halloween and the winter months to follow. Some may find this strange, but I purchased, and yes, placed this year's Christmas cards in their envelopes. All of the cards contain a holiday sentiment and a photo of Robin.

The photo was taken years ago while dressed in an elf's costume. That was the Christmas when Robin volunteered to help with tours when the "Christmas Train" came to Noel. But before Susan's address was written on the envelope and before the envelope was sealed, I scribed some words on the card. "I hope you and Bob are doing well and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas." I signed the card, "Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy's friend, Stan"

I knew Susan would know what I meant.

Stan Fine is a retired police officer and Verizon Security Department investigator who, after retiring in 2006, moved from Tampa, Fla., to Noel, Mo. Stan's connection to Noel can be traced back to his grandparents who lived most of their lives there. Stan began writing after the passing of his wife Robin in 2013. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 10/31/2019

Print Headline: Laurel and Hardy

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