Monday, January 5, 2015
to honor as Carrie Newcomer says, “The curious promise of limited time.”
New Years Day I awoke with a bright promise upon my lips and in my heart. I wrote down the things I hope to accomplish in the coming few months. Among them was to begin visiting people I have not seen in a decade or more. Some are very close geographically and it is silly that I have not seen them. It is time for me stop being such a hermit, and tell the people that I love that I do. My mothers best friend, Pat, told me after she died that she was never really sure how my mother felt about her. It broke my heart, because I knew how much my mother cared for her. But my mother, as loving as she was, could not seem to express her feelings in this; she was too introverted and too unwilling to inconvenience anyone. The ones who lost were the people she loved, and I cannot let that be that fate of those I love.
In September I had made a few tentative plans with a friend to visit my hometown in March. Kim grew up down the street from me. She had grown a up girl with a hearty laugh who loved pranks, nicknames and sports (Peppermint Patty) who loved large and wanted to be friends with everyone. She was the first girl into the then all-male dominated Little League as well as a cheerleader, soccer player, and very very popular in High School. She grew into a woman who coached her children’s sports teams, loved her husband and knew everyone in town, probably having had a drink with most of us at one point or another and my favorite person to celebrate with back home. Every small town has one.
She bought her mother’s house and raised some beautiful children. When her mother died. I was unable to make the service for Gretchen, a woman who had welcomed me into her home many many times in my life, but sent flowers writing the familiar address in my sleep with silent tears. Gretchen and I had spoken Spanish with each other. She was from Nicaragua and my father from Argentina. I felt the closeness of outsiders with her.
During our phone call, Kim was excited that I was coming to stay for a few days and had started to talk about holding a Bar B Que, worrying a bit that March would be too cold. Then she laughed in her hearty way and said, “Well, we will just have to have fire pits and jackets on. And lots of alcohol.” I smiled at the other end of the phone and chuckled to myself. Such a Kim thing to say.
At the time, I remember thinking I was lucky to have grown up on our street. Her best friend, Wendy, lived next door to me and we had about twenty other kids on our street who all played and fought together, including about nine in our class alone. There were another eleven or so in classes within two years of us. It was a pretty great street with lots to do and lots of amazing people. It was a street that everyone should have grown up on, with late night games of all sorts of things. We had to be in when the street lights came on, and happily went to bed, stinking of child, soap, and evening.
My plans were in my head as I opened Facebook. So my heart stopped when I saw Wendy’s post. It was a picture I remember clearly, of the two of them, aged 13 or 14. I think it was taken in a photo booth at the county fair. They are both so beautiful and so young, the promise of them shining out their happy faces. Kim is leaning in and laughing, with Wendy a blond contrast looking straight forward and relaxed with her best friend at her side, waiting for whatever was to come. It is who they grew up to be. There was an RIP next to it.
My heart turned into liquid nitrogen and froze. When I took a breath, it shattered. Cold tears began to river down my face and drip into my lap as I frantically typed Kim’s name into the Facebook search engine. A small piece of me wanted it to be a prank: a silly stupid thoughtlessly hurtful horrifying prank. But the rest of me knew it was true.
I read the tribute her husband left, and another a small piece of me broke away to grieve in the silent private place where my mother also lives. Kim was one of the witnesses to my life, and she is no longer able to laugh with me over how stupid we were. She is no longer able to hug me fiercely or tell me to stop being such a nerd. She is no longer able to drunkenly make silly fun of my childhood nickname, singing it, as no one else could,
And then I though of Wendy and what was left of my heart fell away. I messaged her immediately and asked her how she was. The answer came a few hours later, and I worried about her the whole time. She was just so sad. A lifelong friendship was no longer, and she is twice, thrice, a thousand times more shattered than I.
I have been in tears off an on since then, remembering random things and going through some old photos. Kim had plans and wanted to do more things, and yet she lived more in her short life than most people do in long lives. She certainly loved more. I know that for sure as she knew how to love since we were 7, when we met. Not a mean bone in her body and automatic friends with everyone, I am sure it stumped her when I wanted to stay in and read sometimes.
She taught me a lot about both love and how to live.
When I stop and think about Kim in the calm moments, I realize she is still teaching me. I only have so much time. It is curious this promise of limited time. It makes me more determined to accomplish my dreams. When we finally grow up to realize we are not child prodigies and the time we have left may be shorter than the time we have lived, we begin to live the way Kim did, out loud. We take the chances, smile at strangers and begin to cross things off our bucket list. We become friends with people we share history with and take trips to see them. I have signed up for Swing Dancing lessons, a pottery class, made tentative plans to hit the Outer Banks, and scheduled lunch with a friend from long ago, all just yesterday. As Kim leaves us, her mark remains. She may not have known what Carpe Diem meant, but she certainly did seize the day, month, year, lifetime. I was lucky enough to sing with her, dance with her, dream with her, and above all, laugh with her.
I know how now, Kim. Thank you.