Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I'm wearing green for you Keith.

A worry floating around in my head right now is that my blog lacks focus. I'm an average person like the rest of you out there - I have a sense of wonder for many things - so some days are more interesting and thought provoking than others, but there are days when I'm dying of boredom - even though I work in an ER. Often I don't know what I will write here until I start typing, but tonight when I saw the date on my friendly Mac, I knew right away that I must say something about this particular day.

My grandmother, whom you all probably feel like you know by now, had six children: 4 boys and 2 girls. The last of them she called Keith and he lived right here in this house with her until he got up for work one day at the young age of 28, stripped off naked to get in the shower, and then boom - DIED right there in the bathroom. In fact, the sink is still crooked on the wall from where he knocked it down as he fell. Keith was only 28, but he was big and tall - he had beautiful blue eyes, thick black curly hair, and a full beard. He was overweight to a degree, but not that much, and he constantly was trying to figure out ways to return to his slim high-school figure. He wore a hat that said, "It's hard to be humble when you're perfect in every way." He loved singing in the church choir and playing basketball with his friends. One day he shaved exactly half of his beard off and walked around for a while like that until Granny and I and my cousins who were here were rolling with laughter at his antics. He was a nut!

I was 14 years younger than Keith, so he made it his mission in life to aggravate the hell out of me! I remember being a little girl and sitting in his lap. We'd play this stupid game where I'd sit there and he'd take a feather and run it slowly along my lip line. The game? Whoever laughed first lost! Then he'd scrub my face with his beard and listen to me squeal with laughter. There were sunny days out in the front yard when he'd decide to wash his new navy blue 1986 Thunderbird. He was so proud of that car! I'd always be recruited to help, since I was generally always here on the weekends. Every single one of these car washes involved listening to Keith's music and me getting soaked with the water hose at the end. He would insist on the final rinse and I'd try my best to hide but really there was no where to go. I'd make a break for the front door of the house but I'd get soaked every time. He was unfazed. He'd aim that hose right at the door and the stream of water was so hard and fast that it would come right through the screen...which would illicit screams from me and a bit of yelling from my Granny! I know she thought it was funny that we played the way we did. It wasn't that Keith was childlike. He just knew how to have fun. He knew how to laugh and make up silly games and tease me into giggling even when I was mad. Like the time he woke me up out of my mid-day summer nap on the couch by pouring ice cold water in my EAR! I was mad for a minute, but he wanted me awake so we could talk or play a game of crazy eights. When I was 13, Dad gave me a little Panasonic radio/cassette player. Now this was 1988 when it was cool to have huge radios with detachable speakers that ran on battery power so you could carry them on your shoulders and walk around with your friends blasting your favorite music and therefore ruin your hearing...alas, I digress. Regardless, my tiny little radio was cool. It took 4 D batteries and had a handle so I brought it with me over to Granny's. Keith had an old turn-table in his room, but no cassette player - so when the world shifted to cassettes, he made use of my little radio. The weekend before his death 21 years ago today, I spent a Saturday night over here in this house - we listened to his new Fleetwood Mac tape. At the time I was annoyed because I wanted to play my New Kids on the Block tape...but he just looked so happy sitting there in his rocking chair with my radio on his lap, singing along to Little Lies. Even my immature 14 year old self couldn't deprive him of that kind of joy. The next morning after church, we washed his new truck (he accidentally crashed his car after he had a seizure while driving) and as usual he soaked me with the hose! Now in March, it's not too warm even in sunny Georgia - this illustrated his unmerciful side! I ran squealing in the house to the sounds of his laughter and Granny's admonishment, "Keith you're gettin' water in the house!"

And that is my last memory of him. For some reason I didn't see him the rest of that week, but on Friday morning Granny made a chilling, panicky call to our house. I answered the phone and she immediately said to me, "tell your Daddy to come over here quick. Keith's had another seizure. He fell in the bathroom and he's knocked the sink off the wall and he's not waking up. He doesn't have any clothes on and I need help getting him out of the floor." Stupidly (and I've regretted this statement since) I told her that I was sure he'd be alright; I'd tell Dad and would call her after school. Dad slid on his flip flops and ran over there, muttering something under his breath as he went out the door, and I got myself and my brother on the bus to school.

Keith didn't wake up. He stopped breathing right after a few tears rolled down his cheek. They thought it was just another epileptic seizure. He used to have these awful grand mal seizures and doctors diagnosed him with epilepsy at 18. Dad tried to do CPR - Granny called the ambulance but they got lost on the way to the house. When they eventually found it, he'd been down for a while, and my Dad and Granny were frantic with sorrow, rage, and worry. How could such a young man full of life just fall down and die when all he was trying to do was get ready for work?

They picked us up at school that day. I cried like a baby. I was too young to understand death. Losing Keith was mostly like losing a big brother, my weekend companion, my oh so silly friend who involved me in the cool adult stuff he was doing. He was my big uncle who would sing church hymns in his awesome baritone voice at all hours of the night and day. And then he was gone.

That summer I woke with cold sweats during the nights when I dreamed of him. I missed him so much, but Granny's sadness sort of came first, so even though we were all stuck in grief's stupor, we looked after her.

I didn't celebrate St. Patrick's Day again for twenty years. This year though, I've decided that I'll wear my Kelly green pants not to celebrate the day Keith died, but to honor the memory of him and all the fun we had together - right here in this house. And maybe I'll crank up my car stereo and send a blast of Fleetwood Mac through the trees too, because they've been one of my favorite bands for years now. Afterall, I named Sarah after one of their songs.

So to my sweet Uncle Keith, wherever you are, I want you to know that I love and miss you today as much as I ever did all those years ago. Yours was a life unfinished and I'll always wonder what you would have done with it, where in this world your heart would have taken you. You never had a home of your own, you never met 'the one' and had a family - you'd barely gotten your feet on the ground, but even if you'd stayed right here that would have been fine with me. I hope you'll visit me today in my dreams and I hope I'll meet you again someday although I'm not ready to join you just yet!

P.S. I remember that your favorite color was green! :)


Melissa said...

Your blog may lack focus, but I love your stories-- keep them coming!

Anonymous said...

it was very interesting to read.