By Susan Dromey Heeter, Joyful Musings
Eileen laughed out loud – she was strong, vibrant and so, so funny. This week I muse joyfully on Eileen Donnellan Kender, who left us much too soon, whose legacy of love and humor live on.
Eileen was the cool kid who grew up across the street on Florentine Gardens in Springfield, Massachusetts. I’d known Eileen long enough to remember her family dog Pierre roaming the neighborhood.
The 70’s were not a time to put dogs in collars or jackets; leashes were unheard of. Little Pierre roamed Pineywoods and Firglade Avenues along with his canine buddies, Sandy Zanetti, Snowball Knight, Lynn Boss. And Eileen and I would walk together to catch the bus to Cathedral High School, waiting by Buckey’s with a plethora of Forest Park kids – on occasion, one of those dogs would follow along, we never really worried but were not surprised when “hit by a car” was part that afternoon’s conversation.
And Eileen waited for me and we’d walk together. And laugh. She was a year older than I but always made time. When I had the possibility of going to the junior prom, it was Eileen I ran to for fashion insight. I tried on a green and white striped dress from her closet and Eileen told me I looked like an awning. I did, but so loved Eileen for giving me the time, she just did – with humor and no strings attached. Her tall beautiful self to my short stocky body mirrored our mothers – mine being the Jeff to her Mutt of beautiful, tall Donnellans.
But looks never mattered – only love and kindness and shared joys and tragedies. Truth be told, it had been years since I’d last seen Eileen but I always knew I could pick up the phone and we’d be right back where we left off, right back with memories of Pat Dee, with our childhood matchmaking intention of her bachelor Uncle Andy getting together with my bachelorette Aunt Mary. We’d laugh.
And Eileen welcomed me to her dorm room at UMass; I was a senior in high school and college tours and visits were right up there with doggy day care centers – non-existent. When I wasn’t sure where I’d go to college, I went to check out Eileen’s digs in Amherst and Eileen gave me a warm welcome, introduced me to her friends, we walked around campus.
I eventually graduated from UMass and Eileen ended up transferring to Westfield State. And that green and white awning dress did not make it to the prom. As far as I know, Pierre died of natural causes. But none of that really matters now. What does matter is the kindness from Eileen that resonates decades later. And though Eileen is gone much too soon, today I muse joyfully on her generosity of spirit, of time, of laughter, of love.
And I muse joyfully that I was lucky enough to be on the receiving end of someone who always had the time.
Susan Dromey Heeter, a writer from Dover who recently let her hair go au natural white, writes “Joyful Musings” for InDepthNH.org. Dromey Heeter is a secondary Spanish Teacher at Dover High School and the mother of two teenage daughters. Writing has been her passion since her English majoring days at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Dromey Heeter has lived in The Netherlands, Alaska and currently basks in all things New England, including the frigid winters. An avid swimmer, Dromey Heeter’s great passion is to bring back body surfing as most children have no idea how to ride waves without ridiculous boogie boards. She also writes about thrift shopping and all things frugal in a column called “Budget Vogue” for the New Hampshire Union Leader.