Thursday, May 27, 2010


Ever found yourself missing someone, and not sure how?

We always know why we miss someone, I think, but the how can be a much more complex thing to discern.

In the past two and a half years, life has taken Kim and me in divergent directions. Oh, we still talk to each other once every week or two, but the conversations seem different. We catch each other up on events... but we talk a lot less about hopes and dreams and joys and sorrows and wishes than we used to.

I remember when Kim was born. I wasn't there; I was sent to stay with my maternal grandmother so that Mom and Dad could be sure that I was in good hands while Mom was at the hospital and Dad was splitting his time between hospital visits and a minimal work schedule; while Kim was born on a Thursday, the doctor had thought that she might not be born until Friday, and Friday was an extremely busy day for the Rome News Tribune sports department (mid-size towns with lots of high schools have lots of Friday night sporting events) . That meant that there was little time left for Dad to run back and forth home as well, and grandmother was always gracious about having me stay with her in Cedartown--so there I was, over a half an hour away, relying on brief phone calls to let me know when my little sister would make her arrival.

Kim was born on March 2nd, but it was March 4th before I first got to see her. I remember that she was small, red, and loud--and while the red went away soon enough, the petite nature and the enhanced volume remained inherent parts of her nature.

Kim and I shared a room for the first ten months of her life (it would be April of 1962 before Mom and Dad bought the Marchmont home that gave us separate rooms--albeit separated by only the thinnest of sheet-rock walls, so we continued to hear one another for the duration of the time I lived there). I grew accustomed to her presence after a couple of weeks, and remember feeling a little lonesome at first when I got my own room. Kim made the transition easy, though; she cried quite a bit for the first few weeks we moved to Marchmont, so I knew she was close by.

As Kim grew older, it became clear that she had been graced with whatever good looks there were in our generation. Kim always had eager eyes and an engaging smile that made it easy for her to get away with far too many childhood indiscretions. I never really figured out how the same gene pool could be so much more generous to her than to me in that regard.

Like most of us, Kim suffered through many childhood injuries--but I'll have to give her credit for suffering some of the most spectacular of mishaps. We've all burned out hands as children, but Kim wasn't satisfied with the simplicity of a reddened finger. Instead, she fell onto a hot floor furnace at grandmother's house, branding a grid pattern on the bottom of her forearm that I suspect is still there to one degree or another.

We all fall off a tricycle, but Kim took that to the next level by falling forward on the tricycle, hand outstretched to stop her face from hitting the patio... and as a result, the handlebars of the tricycle slammed full force into her elbow, propelled by the weight of her own body in such a way that it snapped the elbow instantly and bent her arm at an angle that horrified us all. I can still remember what seemed the silent seconds as the pain must have overwhelmed her senses; Kim didn't start crying until Dad was across the patio and almost at her side--and then she didn't stop. We all knew it was a horrible break, and the doctors confirmed that it was one of the worst they'd seen. (They worked with her for hours, and Dad stayed right by her side the entire time. It was only after they had finished that Dad went down the hall to the restroom and threw up, literally sick with worry over what Kim had suffered.)

Kim didn't just have bicycle accidents, she had Evil Knievelsque stunt-accidents that propelled her head first over the bicycle in such a calamitous manner that I was sure she had to be mortally wounded. I remember running to the corner after that accident, certain she'd be unconscious if not dead; somehow, though, she survived--although not unscathed. Her knee was ragged and bloody, and she said she couldn't walk, so I carried her home, convinced that she must have broken another bone... but somehow, underneath all that carnage, the bones were intact.

But thankfully, Kim's childhood wasn't all accidents and injuries. She loved to dance, as she would demonstrate upon request. She loved to sing, even moreso when she was accompanying my records. She also loved to borrow my records to play them on her child's record player, balancing coins on the top of the turntable to stop them from skipping... and as a result, I can identify Kim's favorites from my music collection by the number and size of the scratches and gouges left in the surface of the vinyl.

We watched a lot of television together, find amusement in the most mundane of shows. And somewhere along the way, we discovered that any television show became outrageously funny if watched at near-maximum volume... a discovery that neither Mom nor Dad understood or appreciated, as I recall.

I got married and moved out shortly after Kim's tenth birthday, but that didn't mean I didn't see her frequently. Susan and I were at Mom and Dad's house at least once a weekend, often more, so we saw each other regularly enough that I got to witness her entire sullen pre-teen and alienated teen phase. I remember lots of door slams during those years--but even then, we would laugh together and joke and talk.

There were years when we saw less of one another; that was the time when Kim and Johnny Pearson lived in South Georgia. I didn't realize at first how much Mom missed having Kim around; I think Mom had hoped Kim would always be nearby, and the idea that she was hours away made her feel lonely.

Then Kim moved back, and before too long there was not only Kim and Johnny but also Cole and Jess. Suddenly, the house was full, life was full, and my little sister had turned into a mother who was every bit as devoted and loving as our Mom had been.

We began to talk much more during the time when Susan and I had the farmhouse on Horseleg Creek Road. that meant that we were in Rome pretty much every weekend, and that gave us time to see one another regularly, to spend time with Mom and Dad, and to talk about more than just the superficial. I felt like I truly got to know Kim during that time period.

As the years passed, we continued to talk. When Mom was diagnosed with emphysema, we spoke of what this meant for her and for Dad. Kim was there the day after I had my heart attack; she and I were there when Mom nearly left us just prior to the Christmas of 2000. We worried for Mom and Dad, and strove to understand the progression and cruelty of the emphysema that ravaged her.

We spoke even more often after Mom recovered, and we shared a joyous Christmas of 2001, knowing that any Christmas with both Mom and Dad was an occasion to be cherished. I think both of us were aware that we couldn't take any of those family holidays for granted.

Kim became the gracious host for our family's Thanksgiving gatherings. I still find joy in the memory of the Thanksgiving of 2002, the last holiday that Mom was able to enjoy with us. It was only a week or two later that the decline began, and we were both at Mom and Dad's side when Mom succumbed in mid-December. I was always surprised at how strong Kim was, enduring loss and sorrow with a composure that I couldn't muster.

And we were there to see Dad's efforts to continue on without Mom. We worried about Dad; we both tried to talk with him regularly, and we then spoke to one another to try to determine what we could do to make life happier for him. We worried over him; as we became aware of the struggles and challenges he faced in his final year or so, we tried to help him with the burdens that seemed to weigh him down.

Kim shared Dad's final happy day with him, taking him out to lunch the afternoon before a stroke took him from us in phases over the next two weeks. I wasn't there, and Kim knew how much that haunted me, so she shared every moment of that meal in detail, letting me enjoy vicariously the good day that I had not been able to share in person.

For a couple of years, Kim's job with Randstad had her travelling all over North Georgia. The job was incredibly stressful, demanding, and unrewarding, but there was one benefit: we were able to speak to each other almost every day, and our talks were long and often philosophical. We worried together, we reminisced, we joked, we hoped...

Since we lost Dad in 2007, though, life has drawn us in different directions. I get to Rome very little now because I have trouble reconciling my love for Rome with my sorrow at the loss of Mom and Dad. Kim's job keeps her busy all day long, and she's rarely able to take phone calls at work. So now we speak infrequently, and our conversations are more about what has happened since we previously spoke.

Lives move in different directions; the connections that link us gradually weaken. I am glad that Kim has found such happiness with Phil, and that she able to share in the lives of her children and grandchildren.

But I can still miss her...

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