We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

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

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"You don't know me, but..."

                Have you ever experienced one of those days where you are anticipating the phone to ring?  Someone at home calling, or from work.  Just to see how your day is going?  Today's been one of those, where my hand is actually reaching for the phone that is not ringing.  And did not, no matter what my subconcious was willing.

                The other day, though, my phone did ring.  And I rarely answer my phone these days, unless I recognize the number.  Especially if I am at work.  But, I had just completed all of the opening responibilities at the bookstore (including firing up the espresso machine so I could obliberate the rust that had accumulated, encasing my body, overnight, while I "slept").  I glanced at the clock - 8:05, I was about half hour ahead of schedule.  Out of the corner of my eye, I caught the mosiac I've carefully constructed on the side of my filing cabinet.  A potpourri of my life.  Photos of Kim, bambini and family, brighten m office.
                 "What if this call is about one of them?"  my interior, often nefarious, voice whispered.

               I picked it up.

                 "Hello this is Dave."  I said, half convincing myself.

                "You don't know me, but..."

                  Ok, now there is a dubious opening line.  Where was this going?  I ask you - has this ever happened to you?  A million things were going through my head, but, resoundingly, they all pointed to Kim.

                  Sure enough.

                   "I read your blog.  It has really helped me."

                   I sat down.  Hard.  In my swively chair (that the bambini like to spin each other in when I have to drag them to work on 'bad coverage' days).  Staring at the mound of holiday Godiva chocolate stored in my office (talk about temptation!), I mumbled "Really?  Thank you."  Except "Thank You" really does not convey anything about how I felt.  And once again, the words escape me.  But, let me tell you, I felt gratified, that good things continue to emerge from Kim's passing.  It made me feel as if there was something somehow worth while to come out of this, and that I might be contributing to some larger good, somehow.  To 'help' someone?  Made me feel relevant again.
                 Relevant.  Worthwhile.  Needed?  All feelings that fade quickly in the aftermath of losing your best friend, wife, mother of the amazing bambini.  Special, being another.
                 My caller went on to explain that she was Jill McClain.  Mother of Amy, who worked with me several lifetimes ago at Toys R Us (We Be Toys 'N Sh*t in Philly).  Amy was a young, recently married, toy stocker, who worked her way up rapidly into management, through amazing work ethic and wonderful interpersonal skills. 
                And Jill was a huge part of the Vail School District, who holds a great deal of my heart and has been such an incredible part of the bambini's life, continuing to lend love and support.  Small world?  Infinitely.  Jill was on the governing board for 12 years.  Contributing her time and ideas, making our district what it is today.
               Jill and Amy suffered a horrific loss.  Much as we did.  But - their husband/father, was ripped from their lives in an instant.  My heart went out to them when I had heard the news.  And Amy has been in touch following Kimmy's passing.
                I told Jill, that when I start going down, tangled up in darkness, I remember, that there are people, families, worse off than me.  I told her that I felt blessed to at least have had the golden opportunity to say goodbye to Kim, and beg her to 'visit' (I asked her to haunt me).  Jill's husband was killed, murdered and she didn't have that time.
               Graciously and emphatically, Jill chose to say that the horrors that I faced in those lightning, blurry, 55 days was just as bad...my mind, involuntarily flashing to some of the low lights that still come to me in the wee hours of the night (it is always darkest before the dawn).
               It was a motivating conversation, as Jill's story inspired me and was therapeutic talking to her.  I also got to speak with Amy, later.  I've been looking for an assistant manager, as one of mine retired, and I told Jill "this is too much of a coincidence, where is Amy working?"  Fry's.  So, I did my damndest to convince Amy that taking a 50% pay cut to work at the bookstore would be the right thing to do.  She'd have to be insane not to agree.  By the end our our conversation, I realized that Amy was insane.  And staying at Fry's. 
               That morning, while overdosing on caffeine, I was thankful that I had answered my phone...

              The past two nights, I've closed the bookstore.  And while hurtling down I-10 (which, thankfully, has not digressed into slow-mo in some time), I saw a shooting star, at nearly the same exit - Prince Rd.  I always remember the night that so many saw a shooting star, leaving its home, just as our shooting star did back on 12/13/10.  Both those shooting stars brought a smile to my face...

My shooting star - another photo from our stay in downtown L.A. pre-Antonio...

Family portrait taken by St Frances church for their parish year book.
And I'm still waiting for the phone to ring....

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Dia de los Muertos

                Day of the Dead.  We've heard a lot about it, of course - but have never been close to it.  Over the years, we talked about going to an event or two during the three day celebration - but we never made it.  Last year, I was very close to taking the bambini to see what it was all about, and, celebrate Kim - but, without me knowing it, I was still too broken and the days came and went - like they tend to do.

                 But this year...

                Coming off Mass and a great breakfast at Viro's, in which we filled the 'big table' - Andrea, Lexy, Breanna, Micah (Lexy and Autumn's principal) and his son Carter, Tammy (who works at Cottownwood) and her daughters Emma (who is in Aut's class) and Sarah, and Rosa and Vito joined us, too...I turned on the t.v., when we got home and saw a spot for the All Souls Procession.  A parade and finale for the Dia de los Muertos...I subconsciously filed it away and went about making lunches, flipping wash, vacuuming, getting the kids clothes ready for school tomorrow, texting for rides (thank you to all of our drivers!) for the bambini for the week, keeping an eye on football, which was keeping me company in the background of this controlled chaos...and finally, making dinner.
                 The parade started at 6:00 p.m., culminating with a huge, carnival like performance at the Mercado San Agustin.  We were finishing up dinner at 5:55 when I casually asked the kids if they wanted to go.  "What is it?"  they wanted to know.  I did my best to explain the costumes they might see there and that we'd be going to celebrate their Mama...
                Autumn and Antonio were all in.  "What time does it start?"  "5 minutes."  They rushed to get shoes, hats, etc.  My strategy was to get to the end of the parade route, which we made it to in plenty of time to check out the bands and displays before the actual parade made it to us.

                   Just inside the Mercado, there was a huge shrine erected in the plaza - I immediately regretted not thinking to bring along a photo of Kimmy.  Improvising, I reached into my wallet and left a Mary medallion that I carry for her.  There were bands playing and several hundred people, most dressed for the occasion, faces painted in varying skeleton type characters.  The little ones eyes were wide and round as they tried to absorb it all. 

                 When we heard rhythmic drumming approaching, we burst out of the plaza, onto Congress in time to see the parade approaching.


                                   The kids were absolutely mesmerized by the bands, the floats and the costumes.  Some so elaborate, it seemed they must work on them all year for this event.  They pointed and shouted "DAD!!! LOOK AT THAT ONE!!"  and "DID YOU SEE THE GRIM REAPER???"  and "HEY!!  THOSE GUYS ARE ON STILTS!".  They were besides themselves with glee.

A woman hurried by, handing out slips of paper and pencils.  Telling everyone to write the name of a loved one who had passed...she almost passed me.  She stopped, abruptly, turned to me and paused - seemingly seeing into my heart and said 'Here.  You need one of these.  It's flash paper.  Write her name on it and we will burn them all at the end on the big stage over there."  She pointed behind me.  I slowly turned, wondering how I could have missed the stage, that had to be 50 yards long, perched on the edge of the Santa Cruz and lit with neon towers.  "There will be performances and then a bonfire." She told me before disappearing into the crowd.
I stared at the flash paper, numbly.  Finally, I scrawled 'Kimmy' on it and turned it in to another painted lady who was coming by collecting names (souls) with a silver bucket.

                         We were there for over an hour and still the parade kept flowing by us.  The music was hypnotizing - reality felt very thin here.  Literally, every time I blinked, I saw Kim, standing beside me, clapping, engrossed in the festivities - sometimes turning to me and smiling, sometimes pointing out something she wanted to share with me.  Creating a strobe-like effect. Eyes close - she's there.  Open-gone. I found myself closing my eyes longer and longer.  To keep her there...

                                We finally began walking toward the massive stage, crossing over the vast, undeveloped, dirt lots that lay between the Mercado, end of the parade route and the Santa Cruz river...

                         Along the way, mini-performances were occurring. Autumn and Tonio watched the fire jugglers for quite awhile.  There were three guys on stilts who blew flames from their mouths, too.

                        We couldn't get too close to the main stage.  There were thousands of people.  We finally made our way to the south end of the stage and watched some from backstage.  I couldn't get a good picture of the whole scene.  It was incredible.  The sound system was fantastic and the music and performers were amazing.  The mood was somber, celebratory, sad and happy all at once.  Just another one of those electric moments, where mere words cannot convey all of the feelings.

                             The kids loved the giant praying mantis float!  They asked a million questions about life and death.  About their Mama. ('Did you and Mama ever come to this parade?' 'No, we never got to.', was the easy one.) Some questions touching on what she went through. And they pointed out tributes that people had for lost loved ones, wondering out loud how that person had passed, and complimenting the people on their decorations.  They noticed everything...the smells (burning incense), the decor, animals, other children.  Their little minds working overtime, fervishly trying to take it all in...Overwhelmed is how they felt.

                               Now we had been there two hours and still, the parade continued. This was the biggest parade I had ever been to in Tucson, and we had gone to the St. Patty's Day parade, the rodeo parade, the Halloween parade (actually marching in it one year as the three little pigs and the big bad wolf), the 4th of July parade, etc.  It was fascinating.  And, I always love the idea of honoring our lost loved ones, so I was hooked.  I took the above photo - I swear there was no one standing next to this float...but, when I downloaded the photos, this ancient woman was in this frame.  I don't know if you can zoom in on her, but, my first thought was that Kim would have loved to stop her and talk to her, to hear her stories...

                      Aztec dancers ended the parade - but the performances on stage were just getting started.  You could feel the energy, so positive, and of all the souls being honored somehow there.  It was like being in a dream - we didn't want it to end, we did not want to leave...
                      But, as we all have learned, nothing lasts forever....
                      ...we slowly made our way through the revelers, back into the Mercado, lingering in the inviting plaza, to see the bands and performers..."Did you have a nice time Dad?"  Autumn.  "Don't you want to get a t-shirt?"  "Can I take one last picture of you and Tonio over there.  In that light?" 

                                                           Away from the darkness...