The House on 17th Street

Ann Kelley, 2006
Ann Kelley, 2006
Ann Kelley, 2001
Ann Kelley, 2001

My friend of 15 years, Ann Kelley, has died after a three-and-a-half year battle with metastatic breast cancer. She was 41.

Ann Kelly, 2000
Ann Kelly, 2000

Ann and I felt close to each other from the day we met. We talked about everything, but more often than not we talked about our romantic lives, even after we were both married to other people. No matter how many weeks or months had passed, our conversations picked up right where they left off. We told each other everything.

 

Ann uses my 200mm lens at an Ada vs Shawnee football game in 2002.
Ann uses my 200mm lens at an Ada vs Shawnee football game in 2002.
Ann laughs with friends and family at a party at her house in Shawnee, May 2009.
Ann laughs with friends and family at a party at her house in Shawnee, May 2009.
Ann and I pose for a double self portrait on a couch in her home in Shawnee, Oklahoma, 2002. Ann was one of the best friends I ever had.
Ann and I pose for a double self portrait on a couch in her home in Shawnee, Oklahoma, 2002. Ann was one of the best friends I ever had.

December 3, 2012 was her funeral, and I saw her everywhere.

When I first met Ann, she and her first husband lived in this small house on 8th Street in Ada. Before she sold it in 2001, she hung all new siding on it by herself, by hand.
When I first met Ann, she and her first husband lived in this small house on 8th Street in Ada. Before she sold it in 2001, she hung all new siding on it by herself, by hand.

In beginning to look through my journal to research this entry, I pulled out one of my books from 1999 and opened it at random, and the first word on the page was “Ann.” We were that close.

I was considering buying Ann’s house on 17th Street here in Ada the night of my first date with my wife Abby. After dinner she and I went to that house, which was empty, and turned on a gas fire. We held hands… “We held hands a lot more than anything else that night,” Abby recalled recently.

Ann loved houses. She loved to buy them and fix them up. In the time I knew her, she lived in seven different houses, two in Ada and five in Shawnee. I loved the house on 17th Street, which is why I considered buying it. She and I, and her friends and mine, had a so many good times and bad times there.

This was Ann's house on 17th Street in Ada. In early 2001, I considered buying it, but it needed too much work, so I passed on the deal. Despite its structural flaws, it was a lovely old house.
This was Ann’s house on 17th Street in Ada. In early 2001, I considered buying it, but it needed too much work, so I passed on the deal. Despite its structural flaws, it was a lovely old house.

“Ann came into the darkroom today, simply wanting to be held.” ~Journal, September 1999

She divorced her first husband in about 1997, and I remember she kind of disappeared for a while. One night when I hadn’t seen her in a few weeks, I invited myself into her house, where I found her lying on her bed reading Dorothy Parker. She didn’t even look up, and I didn’t say anything. I just put my arms around her and held her for a while. We were that close.

Ann lays on a couch in one of her homes in Shawnee in 2001.
Ann lays on a couch in one of her homes in Shawnee in 2001.

Ann flew with me twice, both times in a Cessna 172, both in June 1997. She had an amazing time. In the remarks section of my logbook it says, “Ann Kelley” one week, and “AK – Towering Q!” the next.

“I’m so ‘I don’t know,’ I don’t know anything any more.” ~Ann, March 1998

Ann loved vinyl phonograph records, and loved to play them.

One day in about 1998 we drove to Moore, Oklahoma, to a used camera store, and bought her a Nikon F2, a 28mm f/2.0, and a 135mm f/2.8. She was so proud of her new old gear. I tried to teach her everything I could about it.

I remember the day she told me she had cancer. I was walking across downtown Ada and called her on my cell phone. She seemed almost apologetic about it.

Ann prepares to get in my car at her house in Shawnee in about 2002.
Ann prepares to get in my car at her house in Shawnee in about 2002.

As I dug deeper and deeper into my journal from that era, I found hundreds of mentions of Ann. I was going to include some of them, but there are so many that they are overwhelming me. Maybe someday.

I did manage to find a few images of her that I’d never scanned – they were from the film days. She looks great in all of them.

This is Ann with her dog Cookie at her first house in Shawnee in 2001.
This is Ann with her dog Cookie at her first house in Shawnee in 2001.

I don’t believe in divine intervention or the cosmic lattice of coincidence, but there is a song that came into my awareness just a couple of days after Ann died, Waiting, the strings and vocals mix, by Dash Berlin, that expresses how I am feeling. It wasn’t magic that I found it: I was listening for it. I know it’s overly sentimental, but it still speaks to this time…

“Fading of the day
as night takes over
and I can almost feel
you here

“Your memory remains
I breath it closer
I swear that I still feel you near…”

I want to call her and tell her how I’m feeling about all this. Oddly ironic, isn’t it?

Even today, I still nurture a sense of disbelief that she is really dead. I miss her.

Ann poses for a photo at her house on 17th Street in Ada, 1999.
Ann poses for a photo at her house on 17th Street in Ada, 1999.

1 Comment

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss. My best friend’s husband (whom I’ve known since freshman year of college) lost his battle with cancer last month, also. None of us should be experiencing this. Love you, Cuz!

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