Thursday, September 29, 2016

Someone I used to know

Here is the story.

I think I may have been in the 1st grade.  Back then, children who were young for their grade did not have to wait a whole year, there were half grades.  I didn't know Kim that well because she was a half grade behind and had just moved up from Kindergarten in the middle of the year.  Long blond hair and incredibly pretty, but I didn't really know her.

When she came to the bus stop that morning, she was crying.  Of course, the girls gathered around to ask her what was wrong.  She said that couldn't get her mother to wake up that morning, and that her mother was dead.

She must be lying, just to get attention, right?  They wouldn't send her to school if her mother was dead.

You probably guessed, her mother was dead.  Her parents had gone out drinking the night before and got in an accident.  They made it home, but she was more injured than they knew and she didn't wake up the next morning.  It took me a long time to understand the complexities of adult life that would decide that the best thing to do was take Kim out of what was likely to be a messy process and send her on to school.

That was about the time that my dad had finished remodeling our house, and started his home repair business.  For a number of years he did everything from handyman type jobs to room additions, mostly in Pacific Palisades and Malibu.  Yeah, that Malibu.  Kim's dad was a painter, so my dad started hiring him for some of the jobs.

Kim's house was about 3/4th's of the way on that mile long walk straight up hill to the bus stop.  On the days Kim's dad worked, I would get a ride while my dad picked him up, then walk the rest of the way with Kim.  She would also walk home that far with me in the afternoon.

Her dad didn't work with my dad for very long.  My dad said he was unreliable because of his drinking.  It was years before I realized how ironic this was.  But my dad was a pretty functional alcoholic, with his pint of vodka under the truck seat and his cooler of beer on the job site.  But he was harsh on men like Kim's dad - bar drunks, who couldn't get up in the morning.  Drunks who would hurt people they loved.

My dad had no clue how much he hurt me, how often he scared me, how crushed and broken I was by his verbal attacks and unpredictable temper.  He had no clue that I would spend the rest of my life, whenever things were going well, with the sense of dread that everything is about to go horribly wrong.

So, I walked with Kim and felt sorry for Kim, but she never felt sorry for herself. She had her grandpa, "Pop Pop", and horses. Her home may have had a certain amount of chaos, but it also had a really sturdy foundation of love.

A few years later they moved to the other end of the canyon and we didn't hang out together anymore.  Our interests, friends, and half-year grade difference kept us going our separate ways.  Then the flood happened and we moved far away.

But I thought of her over the years.  I thought of her as I went through the chaos of my dad's disintegration.  I thought of her sometimes as I went through some healing processes from that and other trauma.  I hoped she was doing well.

You can criticize social media all you want, but I am thankful for Facebook.  It has gotten me back in touch or gotten me word on people I never thought I would hear from again.  A few years ago, through a group for kids who grew up where we grew up, we reconnected.  We still didn't have much in common, but I was glad to know she was happy, still had horses, and had a good family life.

Today, There was a post on Facebook that she has passed away.  It didn't give any details, but it isn't really important.  Like I said, we weren't really that close.
But tears came to my eyes: sadness, gratitude that I was able to know, regret that I didn't have a chance to visit with her in person at least once.  I also can't help but feel the tears were a bit selfish, it is always hard to hear that a kid you grew up with is gone.  Kind of draws you up short and says "pay attention."

And I don't know her family or friends, good chance I won't be able to make it to the memorial.  But I wanted to tell that piece of her story that I held in my heart. It is also a piece of my story, and now I am done.

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