We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...
1997's Climb

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Kim's Kitchen

  Today, I spent nearly the whole day in the kitchen...and as I just finished putting away that last of the dishes, I realized that was something Kim did on a frequent basis...
  Starting with the big breakfast, bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, toast and blueberries - Andrea had dropped her daughter Lexy with us in time for the feast and we ate...shortly after I cleaned up the kitchen - the kids wanted lunch - I wanted them to have a later lunch, since we had tickets to go see the Univerisity of Arizona play Stanford in basketball this afternoon - Lexy and her brother David were going to come with and Angie was taking their cousin, Branden, so we were all going to go down together - but, when our House Representative, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot and rushed to UMC, the game was postponed until tomorrow...
So, I made the girls pasta and the boys ate quesadillas...cleaned up, took the kids outside to run Bella and then, right back in to make a new batch of marinara sauce...and hosted Angie, Andrea, Mario, David, Lexy, Breanna, Kim, Mariah and Micah for a large pasta festa!  The bambini's sure had fun, putting on a show for all of us in the hallway.  
      I have more Kimmy stories, but, feeling a little off tonight, so thought I'd share another excerpt from the journal Kim was keeping for our family...
                                                                                                                         Sept 27, 2003
   "It's 98 degrees and we are out on the 'slip 'n slide".  Tonio's taking a little rest on his bouncy seat and I'm out watching Cody and Autumn have a blast!  Cody runs full force and throws himself in the air like Superman!  No fear for the little man.  Autumn tries to imitate, but inches along on the ground yelling 'woo hoo!', cute as a button in her Elmo swimsuit.  Dave has another week to go and his new "Kohl's" department store will open.  He'll be home soon to enjoy some of these festivities.  Another beautiful, cloudless day in Tucson!"

     Although we never had a pool, Kim sure loved to get the kids out back to play on a slip 'n slide or a inflatable pool.  She'd make the kids parfaits or shaved ice as a treat.  At the home we live in now, we often take the slip 'n slide across the street to the little park, stretching our front hose across the street.  Kim liked to bring over snacks or sandwiches for a little picnic for the kids...and they sure had more room to get up to full speed over in the park.

    Well, Antonio lost a tooth today, so we'll expect a visit from the toothfairy tonight...!  It was a good day in Kim's kitchen...

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Nitcho

   Today, Brian and I were able to lay out the footer for Kimmy's nitcho (nicqua in Italian), basically, a niche built into a wall.  If separate from a wall, or free standing, it is an altar or altare' in Italian.
   While we worked, we talked about the miracle that was Kim...and how 'easy' she made this on us.  During this time, unsolicited, I get to hear stories from others about their on loss, their nightmares, their unplanned for departings...tidal wave stories...most horrific, as was our experience, however, Kim worked so hard to keep our journey as pleasant as possible.  We know it could have been so much worse for all of us. RN Kim, who has taken such good care of our family, further related, that some of the nurses on the 5th floor, where Kim was so well cared for, spoke about how Kim said she never asked 'why me?', but said 'well, maybe when I get to Heaven, I may ask God why he chose me...no, I probably will not since I know I will be at such peace.'  Goodness, how we miss this positive influence in our lives.  Tonio had the toughest week and we had everyone's support at Cottonwood, where he passed out gifts at an awards ceremony and had apple pie with his teacher, Mrs. Schrantz today after school - he was well cared for.  Autumn has done a super job with her journal to Mama and Cody has gotten on board with joining us each night to say goodnight to Mama in the back yard as we look for her in the beauty of the night sky.
    She was amazing...when did I know, for sure, that I would lose her in this life?  The day the donkey was gone.  The other morning, my southwest mom, Angie, arranged for me to join her for breakfast at Kim's favorite 'hole in the wall' Brawleys for breakfast...seems I keep forgetting to eat.  Anyways, during breakfast, I told her about Kim's love for donkeys.  She said, that, one day, she would really love to have a donkey for a pet.  I would tell her, that I would buy some acreage and we would surely do that.  Well, there is a stable, not far from our home, called Pantano Stables.  They've had a donkey, amongst the horses, for years.  When we would drive out Houghton, she would always look for 'her' donkey...she had the bambini's look, too.  They loved that donkey.  One day, in late November, while driving by, I noticed the donkey was not there...I got cold chills and shakes and knew....the next time we drove by, Aut asked 'where's mama's donkey?'...I explained that sometimes they are inside for grooming, etc...but, when Kim came out of the hospital, however briefly, I made a point to drive home a different route.  One day, I forgot.  As we came down the steep hill leading towards the stable, it suddenly occurred to me that I had made a mistake - I felt, much like the D.H. Lawrence story, where the narrator has painted a leaf on the wall behind a vine to keep their loved one alive, that if Kim did not know the donkey was gone, there was still hope.  I engaged her in deep conversation as we went down the hill, telling her how happy I was she was coming home and what a relief it was and all we had done to prepare for her, to make her comfortable...yet, I saw her eyes, floating, drifting, towards the horses, the pens where her beloved donkey should be...but wasn't.  "Oh, the donkey is gone..."  she whispered.  So softly, so sweetly...and just like that, I knew, that no matter how many prayers, no matter what I believed, God was going to take her.  We looked at each other, until I had to look away, or surely end up in the desert...deeply, lovingly - me, probably about as sad as I've ever been.  It's been suggested that I stop in, to see where that donkey went...I believe I will, but I think I know...
   Tonio took this picture for me...I told the kids, in addition to the nitcho, I felt the need to comorate their mama.  I have a friend, Dave Williams, who, as a young man in his teens, came to work with me at Toys R Us many years ago.  He was a very talented artist and a drummer and left to play with a band and do tatoos.  We've kept in touch over the years and share mutual acquaintances - his childhood baby sitter, Ami, was Cody's kindergarten teacher.  I called him, told him what had happened and we got together to work on a design. 
    The shooting star.  How many people saw one the night the love of my life left us?  There were at least 25 of my closest friends/family at the hospital that night...and, as we said our goodbyes, we saw Kim, the blaze of light that had lit up our lives, burning through the chill of the night, leaving us speechless.  I've spoken to several people in different states, who told me, shortly after my text, that my sunshine had set, they too, saw a shooting star, blazing in the night sky...so I had to have one, forever.  For Kimmy.  She came into my life 33 years ago, when I was a train wreck, self-destructive, selfish and taught me what it meant to appreciate life, to not take anything for granted, to leave behind the life that was killing me and to forge something beautiful with her, willingly - it sure took awhile, but, after bottoming out, I finally got it - she reached me, however briefly...and her loving, caring, ways were fleeting, so brief, but left an indelible footprint to guide me, for the bambini's and their future.  She taught me to believe...'credere' (KREH-deh-reh) means 'to beleve' in Italian...originally, I had done some research on believe designs and liked the Japanese characters.  I showed the design to the bambini's and Autumn said 'I don't get it.  Why would you have 'believe' in Japanese?'  I told her, I liked the way it looked.  "yeah, but, why not do it in Italian?"...she is as wise as her mama in so many, many ways that it just melts my heart....so, I consulte Rosa and Vito and there you have it.  And although I did believe, whole heartedly, it did not work out the way I believed...but, I have new beliefs and continue to believe.... :)
     While Dave worked on my tat, once again, the Cottonwood teachers took care of the bambinis and Betsey picked up Cody and his friend Ryan.  They were so excited to see my ink when I got home and loved it.  Betsey and Brian had us over for pizza, along with Amy and Tom - all great neighbors...Amy showed us school pictures that she had found, stashed deep within Kim's desk - she never liked her school photos, and, of course, they were beautiful.  And the bambini's fell right to sleep when we got home, tired from their long week, but, doing better as they heal.  Wendy, the chaplain from St. Joseph's checked in with us this evening as the kids played on the sidewalk and I told her we were making our way...
      And now, there it is in ink, permanently...the shooting star that lit up our lives, the new belief...

      Maybe, now, following in the footsteps of Mother Teresa, she is "lighting the light of those in darkness on earth."...I know that my days seem brighter...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kimmy's Journal

   Today, while hunting for a good pork milanese recipe, I stumbled upon a journal that Kimmy had started years ago...her idea was to write about our family and experiences, inspired by one that my Pop had done back in the early 1900's and that my Dad made my sisters and I copies of.  Here is an excerpt:
                                                                                                           Sept 22, 2003
   "Today, I will begin to write about our life.  We had meant to begin this years ago, but never did.  Antonio, now 10 weeks old, laughed at me for the first time today.  I wanted to record such a wonderful milestone.  Cody and I were changing his clothes and we were blowing on his tummy, making silly noises.  It struck Antonio funny and he laughed some short giggles.  I thank God every day for the blessings I receive from these three children.  They are such a joy."

     Ahhhh, these three children...they are a constant source of inspiration.  Tonio was the one having a challenging morning, missing Mama.  Aut put her arm around him and stoically walked down the long sidewalk to his classroom, giving him a big hug and telling him 'I love you Tonio'...it was the sweetest thing and made me so proud.  Mrs. Schrantz picked up on Tonio's melancholy today and gave Tonio special jobs to do, so that, by the end of his day, Tonio was his usual smiling self.  I know I've written about the fabulous teachers and staff we are blessed with at Cottonwood, but they just keep giving and helping the bambini's.  Today, Mrs. Hoover called me to let me know that Autumn and Tonio were doing fine, that she had checked in on them.  That's peace of mind.
    Meanwhile, I did some red tape surfing.  More Cottonwood connections helped!  I met with a lawyer, Mr. Daniels (father of two great teachers, Mrs. Montes and Mrs. Bunch, who taught the bambini's in kindergarten), who assisted me in figuring out where I'm at, and where I need to go - incredible guy.  I stopped by one of Kim's favorite places, the DeGrazia gallery afterward and sat in the little chapel that DeGrazia had erected on the grounds there, shortly after his family emigrated here from Italy.  It is so peaceful and tranquil there.  Also, working on a Kimberly Memorial Foundation, and seems like we'll do something private, with St. Joseph's, as most of the people I spoke to advised that doing it privately would allow more money to go to those who need help, rather than being eaten up in administrative costs that the larger organizations incur...a work in progress.
    This evening, Father Harry took time out of his busy schedule to come visit with our family.  I told him our house was so cold without Kimmy...he agreed. And he fielded questions from the bambini's like 'can we fly over our house?'...yeh.  We're both big soccer fans (his Man U. is in first place in the Premier League, while my team, Juventus, in the Italian Serie A, is having a tough season and is in 6th - but look at Napoli!!  1st place??), so we talked a lot about the season.  He has been a huge help to our family.
     Tomorrow, time to get rolling on the nitcho...still a little sore after loading and unloading the materials, but it is a good sore.
      And, we went outside and said our goodnight's to Kimmy - the stars brilliant in the night sky. Autumn letting her know I had refinished my desk for her...the boys praying that she is warm in Heaven, as it is still pretty chilly here!
      And now, enjoying a Menabrea (thanks Vito, who fed me and kept me company on a cold afternoon!), and getting ready for some sleep...

      "Take whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with big smile."
                                                          - Mother Teresa

Good night,

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Kimberly on decorating...

Sure, there is Martha Stewart, Nate Berkus and plenty of other interior decorators out there...but, if you ask me, Kimmy was the best!  If you've never been to our home, here's a few snapshots - they cannot do what Kim did justice - how she would pull together all elements, furniture, photos, art and color, to create such a warm, inviting environment.  The bottom photo, in our kitchen, Kim's kitchen, she had daringly painted a mellon green and infused the phrase 'Che la nostra casa sai piena di calore e di amici' in Italian...'May your home be warm and your friends be many'...Kimmy epitomized this saying - our home was so warm with her love and the absolute care that she put into how it looked and felt - and of course, the friendships she built helped to warm it even more.
And over the last few months, Kimmy went on a color kick.  Out of the blue, she began painting each piece of furniture we owned.  First, the kitchen table, a sea green.  Then, our living room table, and coffee table,white.  Then, she painted our computer desk, dresser, amoir, end tables and book cabinet varying shades of blue.  When I asked her why, she said she was tired of all of the brown and wanted a punch of color.  She would ask me before she painted each piece if it was ok and what color I thought she should use. 'Me?  What color?  Whatever color you choose, dear, will look fabulous' I'd tell her.  When she would ask me my decorating opinion, I'd always tell her I just am the financer and grunt laborer of her visions!  Whatever she touched, sparkled...
And you just never knew what she was going to do next!  I think she even owned stock in Pier One, her favorite store and a source of her inspiration.  She had the chance to work there for two late night Christmas sets and LOVED it!  In fact, she went to work the Sunday night prior to being hospitalized that Tuesday - I remember her coming home around 2 a.m., saying she did not feel very good, but thought between the late night and the pizza she ate, she would feel better the next day.  But there would be many times that I would come home, walk in and just stop dead, wondering 'uh...is this my home?'.  Kim would have rearranged the entire living room or bedroom, moving the heaviest armoirs and furniture by herself!  And she'd always say 'I just wanted to do a little something to brighten up our home...'
But Kim wasn't always a decorating wiz...in fact, when we first moved in together, I had the heavy decorating hand in our first appartment.  An impressive shot glass collection, collected during our adventures and travels, graced the top of our entertainment center.  A framed photo of Clint Eastwood, brandishing his famous "Dirty Harry"  44 magnum was on one wall.  And above our couch, a framed Pink Floyd poster from 'Wish You Were Here'...it was the inner album sleeve with two men in suits shaking hands and one of them is on fire.  It's actually on the front cover of my copy of the CD...sure wish I still had that one.  Anyway, you get the picture.  Kim was not immediately concerned with decor.  In fact, we nearly got evicted because of Kimmy!  One day, our neighbor's hot water, which were located in our closets, burst and flooded the place while we were at work.  Our landlord stopped in our place to make sure our apartment was ok and left me a note saying we had 30 days to get out.  I called her and pleaded with her, but you see, she did not appreciate the fact that Kim did not use a dresser for her clothes - clean and dirty laundry was strewn from one end of our bedroom to the next.  In the kitchen, Kim had made a sandwhich for work and left the lunch meat, pieces of tomato and cucumber, etc all over the counter, etc, etc, etc...neither of us was very worried about the tidiness of our apartment...we had better things to do!  And, I felt my decorating skills were fine...at that time.
 I was able to talk our landlord out of evicting us, and, Kim grew and blossomed into the amazing decorator, housekeeper and home builder that she became.  When we moved to Arizona, she lovingly convinced me that it might be better to leave the shot glasses, Clint Eastwood photo and Pink Floyd poster behind...how could I not agree with her?  She had that way of making you better without you even knowing it, realizing it or even thinking about putting your heals into the dirt.
Recently, I was told that one night, around 3 a.m., our friend Kim, a nurse on her floor, went into Kimmy's room to check on her.  She found Kim crying and asked what she could do?  Kim told her 'you are all angels here'.  Kim told her 'no Kim, you are the angel of our hospital.  You don't even know how you've touched our lives'.  Kim told her she was at peace with where her journey was taking her, but she was so scared for me and the bambini's and asked Kim to be sure we were taken care of.  Sometimes I feel that Kim was put into my life to shape me, make me who I am today, to be able to do what I am doing today...she had that way, she was amazing. And, I have to say, Kim and her whole family have been taking great care of us, just as Kimmy asked them to, checking in daily, helping with the bambini's, and keeping us going.

Yesterday, I travled to Tucson's westside, to a little shop just at the base of 'A' mountain and picked up this statue (thanks Angie for spotting this for me!).  While on that side of town, I was also able to take the opportunity to eat some great chile rellenos, two, which was a bonus.  I always try to find a new hole in the wall place when I am over there, the food and the people are great! I felt that St Francis, gently embracing the birds, was perfect.  Kim so loved to sit on our back porch first thing every morning, chai tea in hand, and delight in the birds singing and playing in our fountain.  This will be the center piece of our nitcho for Kimmy, a sanctuary that the bambini's and I can sit and enjoy when we are in the backyard...with such fond memories of our Kimmy...

"For it is in giving that we receive..."
St. Francis of Assisi

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Saint Pius

    Saint Pius lived back in the late 1700's in Italy, and his life was characterized by helping the poor and down trodden, giving people happiness in their darkest hours...much like Kimmy, who truly found the good in everyone she met and brought that to the surface - I think this gift she had, was the reason she was able to touch so many lives, as, when someone brings the good out of you, you cannot help but feel great!
    Today was the first day we went back to St. Pius to go to Mass since Kimmy's celebration.  We had been on church grounds to visit with Father Harry, but not to Mass.  It was difficult, at first, as gravity tried to betray me, but firmly holding Autumn under my left arm and Antonio under my right, like crutches, we made our way to a pew...I held the bambini's tight, just as I did the day of Kimmy's celebration, and, once again, they were my inspiration, my reason to be strong.
     During the Mass, the congregation joined in to sing In Excelis Gloria and, instantly, I was transported back to the Christmas Kim and I were in 7th grade.  I had a very vivid memory of sitting in the auditorium at Nitschmann Jr. High for a Christmas choir performance.  Yes, Kim was in the choir...now, I could see her up on stage, wearing a red gown, looking everybit the angel that she was - she had a beautiful voice too, but rarely could you catch her actually singing, as she was too shy and did not believe her voice was angelic.  They had performed In Excelis Gloria that night and my eyes were locked on Kimmy's as she sang, totally oblivious to anything or anyone else around me - she had that affect on me, to this day.
    After the show, I rushed back stage to embrace her and tell her what a great job she did.  She looked both ways to make sure no one was listening and whispered 'I wasn't really singing, just mouthing the words'.
     It's been a challenging transition for the bambini's and I on our new journey...Cody, in particular is feeling the strain.  And I've found some understanding of my wave nightmares and what I'm living through - perhaps the wave has been building up my whole life and I've been riding it perfectly, with Kim as my balance - the cancer was the tidal wave, the breaking point that swept over me, engulfing me, taking my breath, disorienting me as I struggled to save Kimmy and the bambini's and find the surface for just one sweet breath of air, but unable to figure out which way was up...yesterday, I got that breath, thanks to a good friend...I actually slept decently last night - my first since the wave broke on October 19th...6 hours - I've had anywhere between 40 minutes and 5 very broken hours of sleep within a 24 hour period, mostly settling for about 3 hours - so this morning, I had the epiphany - which, after listening to the Gospel reading, having to do with the season of the Epiphany - today, the church celebrates the feast day of the Epiphany.
       After church today, we went to Jerry Bob's for a big breakfast.   Kim loved a good diner, a good 'hole in the wall' type of place - we always loved the food, atmosphere and the people.  Whether at home or traveling, we sought out these hidden gems.  Anderson's Diner on Union Blvd in Allentown, Pa, was a favorite.  We actually went there for Thanksgiving one year - and it was our favorite place to go for late night meals after going to Canon's, another 'hole in the wall' type place in Allentown.  Out here in Tucson, there are some great spots we loved to go - Brawley's, Joe's Pancake House, and Jerry Bob's - they just feel more intimate, more real, like more Kimmy-like.  Sometimes, our instincts were a little off - one time, we were down at Myrtle Beach, S.C. and found a place called P.J's.  Looked like our type of 'hole in the wall' night club.  We should have been tipped off when we entered - there was a lady behind a glass wall who collected a cover charge and buzzed us in to the bar area...we've never been buzzed into any place ever again.  There was a pretty good cover band on that night and we did have fun - but I remember Kimmy's beautiful big eyes getting a size bigger when I came back from the men's room to tell her there was a pretty good fight going on in there while I was going and a lot of blood...we ended up staying till closing and talking to the band, who invited us back to their hotel for an after party...we declined!
       When we got home, we all changed into gardening clothes and went out back, together, the four musketeers.  We began preparing our garden for a 'nitcho', for Kimmy.  Cody dug a footer, I relocated plants and Aut and Tonio removed broken lights.  We'll put in new lights this week and work with our neighbor, Brian, who designed the nitcho, to build it.  Tomorrow, I am going to go statue hunting and Janene and Andrea have provided us with candles for it already.  We talked about how we can talk to mama at any time in any place, but her nitcho will be a great place to come pray, light candles and feel closer to mama.   We'll post a photo when we are done.  It's so nice to work together the garden that Kimmy loved to keep looking so green and lush, with all of her love.
       And, for the first time, I feel like I've hit the beach, I can stand and breath and I've got the bambini's tightly in my loving grasp - thank God for them!  I know there will be days that I feel like I'm back under, twisting and turning in the grip of the wave, but, my friend helped me find the way up, the wave's subsided, for now, I've got my breath...and I still may be lost, but I'm finding my way and can be there more completely for Cody and Autumn and Antonio...Thank you.

      'This child, Jesus, will be a light for revelation'
       Luke 2:32