The Arlens and I

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With the recent death of my friend, Richard Arlen Jr, I had thought back on our first interview where I asked him about a book on his mom. He said he would have mixed emotions. I wasn’t sure if that was a “yes” or a “no”. But when he died, it made me think of how I got to know both of them in  such a short period of time. I mean three years, yes that seems like a long time and it was for me, and I don’t know if he realized how long I knew him. I miss him so much, and it’s only been 48 hours that I knew of his passing, so I’m trying to process it. I’ve been a rough two days for me. For me, I just lost a friend and to the world, they lost Jobyna’s son, which I guess they haven’t realized. But also, his friends lost a friend, and a fellow architect  and their friend too. I felt so honored to know him as long as I did. I’m glad someone told me something, because I would have been kept in the dark. Someone bothered to tell me that he’s gone. Thank you. Because I was part of the last three years of his life, whether I believed that or not. I could not have been at the beginning of his life, I was born in 1992. But, trying to get ahold of him, finally in 2015, I know that only seemed like 2 years, but I counted 2015, 2016 and it was three years this year of our existence to each other. He had existed all my life, but I couldn’t figure out how to get a hold of him. I spoke to him, and I have a letter from him. I have memories of speaking to him. I have proof that I knew him. I slowly felt connected to his family and I think he realized that too. I was there when he needed a person to make his day. I wanted to personally meet him, but I didn’t get the chance to, but I have a phone friendship  that I will hold onto forever. The card that notified me of his death, I will hold onto forever as well. It’s mine. I’ve re-read that card multiple times and I still can’t believe what I’m reading:

“Rick away on May 8 2017 from his Ling Cancer”.  I am still in shock. I wish I had known . I wish he knew that I genuinely cared about him as well as his beloved mother, who I loved as well. Now I just remember what I had. The memories of calling him, breathing before I called, try to come up with something to talk about, not his mom, couldn’t be, because if I did, I would make him cry. I only spoke about his mother twice: Once for the interview’s entirety (I still have the audio for it) and when I wanted to know if she believed in God or not- She did.

I asked him about his home and the weather, the place he lived, his plans, things about him mostly. I wanted to make sure he was doing ok.

His name is Richard Arlen Jr and he was a friend of mine. His mother was Jobyna Ralston Arlen and she was the reason why I wanted to be in film studies. I wanted to make her something more than she was, but when I uncovered her  and dusted her off, she got up and looked at me and was like “I was just an ordinary woman who was in a few movies and then was a mother.” She was here, she lived, she loved. She was here.

Everything that I wanted Jobyna to be, she reassured me that she was a woman who wanted a family and a family she did: a son. A son, that on January 22nd, 2015 at 1:45 pm, I gathered up my courage to talk to him. I’m glad I made that first step. I made that connection with Richard Ralston Arlen Jr. He was born on May 17, 1933 in CA and now he’s gone. He died on May 8, 2017,  a week before his 84th birthday. He outlived his mother and his father. He was kind enough to take my calls every few months, because I worried so much. I can’t help my worrying, I never could.

The Arlens and I:

I thought about the both of them today. I thought about the title of a memoir that I’d write. The first half about Jobyna and how she influenced my life  and the other half was him. But, it’s a little too soon for that. I can’t believe he’s gone. I think because I knew that he was 83 and “in good health” that he would live to be 90, but time didn’t wait. He was sick, and I had no idea. The guilt starts happening about how I should have been there and known, but at least he was kind enough to talk to me and put up with me for all of 2015, all of 2016 and half of 2017. I knew him for a long time it seemed, every time I talked to him or wrote him a letter. I’m not sure if he even kept them, but according to the card I got, he did talk about me often. I found him through his mother and I cared about both of them. I haven’t been able to get a chance to express my grief, but now I am. I can finally cry about it, and I can finally take into account that I lost a friend and it hurts. My heart hurts and I don’t know when I can try to “get over it.” When someone dies, I usually become a hermit and I don’t want to be around people much and that can frighten people. With Arlen, I’m trying to think the positive: He’s not hurting and he’s not dying anymore and most of all: He’s with his mother. He loved his mom and I did too. It was good to share his mother with him and share his friendship with him.

I’ll never forget him. I’ll remember him and each time that I’ll watch his mother, I’ll remember that I knew him. I know he’s earned that special place in my heart, and  I know he’s saying “Mom, we have both have a special friend named Kate and she spoke to me a lot, checking on me, making sure I’m taken care of, to make sure I’m ok.” His mother is probably replying “I know, after she called you, she would look up to the sky and say to me that she spoke to you.” I did that. Every time I hung up the phone, I would say “Joby, I talked to him.” I did that in February, the last time I spoke to him. I remember it too. I wanted to make sure he was doing ok and now I won’t be able to do that. But, think, I can talk to both of them now. I can say “Hi Joby, Hi Mr. Arlen.”

I meant something to him, and that’s humbling enough, and he meant the world to me and so did his mother.

The Arlens and I will be close till the day I go. They loved and they lived.

Thx Joby and Mr. Arlen.

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