The Kt we loved

The Kt we loved
"I just might hurt you if you don't move that camera." — Kt

Thursday, December 7, 2017

26 Years

According to Deutsche Bank's chief international economist, Torsten Slok, the largest single age cohort in the U.S. now is 26-year-olds. Apparently there are 4.8 million of you. Minus one.

Twenty-six years ago today, that one was born. I used to joke that we should have named her "Pearl Harbor Smith": then she would have had my initials. But I think "Katherine Elisabeth Hillyer Smith" was a better name.

Meanwhile, one of Kt's and my favorite bands is retiring after 40 years of making music:
Saga spent the summer touring Europe. And every time I saw another gig announced, I couldn't help but think how much fun it would have been to take a week with Kt and go to three or four shows. That sure would have been a great trip, especially since she never managed to see them live, since they played so few shows on this continent.

For any Saga fans out there, here's a YouTube tribute from a fan (not me, someone who can play keyboards). Kt would approve.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Classic rock and lawn chairs

Got email this morning for an upcoming concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion:

Steve Miller Band With Peter Frampton:
Classic Rock Comes Alive

Of course my immediate thought was of Kt, who would definitely have enjoyed the show.

Unrelated: Many years ago, while driving north in the dark from New Orleans on I-10 on a business trip, I spotted what I took to be a dead animal on the shoulder, legs sticking up in the air at an angle. As I got closer, I realized it was a lawn chair.

Katie seized on this when I told her about it, and whenever we'd see a dead deer in the road, she'd  yell, "Lawn chair!" (Smaller animals, such as raccoons, elicited "Lawn stool!" instead.)

Today while driving home in the rain from running an errand, I saw a brown mass lying across the centerline of the road, and yelled "Lawn chair!" in her honor. Not a deer, as it turns out: just a large, sodden cardboard box. She would have been amused.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Oh my

...but would Kt have loved this one:
Not that she had anything in particular against the Berenstain Bears, at least as a kid (unlike The Family Circus, which she hated as soon as she could read), although I suspect the heavy-handed moralizing would have irritated her as a young adult. But this would definitely have appealed to her sense of humor (as it does mine)!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Road Trip!

Just got back from a two-day trip to Ontario, to visit my sisters and see a rare Saga concert. The band has announced that they're retiring after this year, so I figured I'd better carpe diem and see them when they were playing in Oshawa, just east of Toronto.

I've followed Saga since 1980. I was moving into my first apartment when I ran into a guy on the elevator wearing a Saga T-shirt showing their first album cover:

I asked "What's Saga?" and he said "It's kind of science-fiction rock & roll". I had no idea what that meant, but figured I needed to check it out.

As soon as I could, I stopped by a record store (you see, we used to have to physically go to a store and buy these things called "records", which were kind of like CDs, only bigger and more fragile and lower-quality audio-really!) and bought their eponymous first album. The minute I heard the first track, I was hooked. Thirty-seven years later, I have 39 Saga albums on my phone.

Meanwhile, the band hardly ever tours in North America: they sell out arenas in Europe, but have never really caught on here (other than the cadre of die-hard fans like me, of course). So when, back in January, they announced that they were retiring after this year, and that the tour would include North American gigs, I started watching their tour page even more carefully than usual. And sure enough, Oshawa was on the list!

My sister in Halifax was planning a Toronto visit along about then, so we coordinated to be there at the same time. I flew in Thursday morning, spent a day and a half with my sisters, and then headed off to Oshawa.

I had bought my ticket as soon as they were generally available, and got a seat in the center of the third row. And the show sold out-they even added a second show the next night. So I was surprised when I realized that the seat next to me was empty.

It was a great show, and I couldn't help but feel like Katie was there in spirit, sitting next to me and rockin' out in that empty seat…

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Another year gone

Like Katie, I read. A lot. Mostly fiction, not literature—just entertaining stuff, thrillers, mysteries, stuff like that. Occasionally I come across a phrase that grabs me, like the following, after a couple has lost a child:

But it had also asked the necessary question: In the absence of a child to love, will this be enough? Will the two of you, for each other, be enough? And the answer…was yes. It had brought them closer, gently. It had confirmed them.

Six years in, that resonates. This isn’t a confirmation one wants to go through, but we have survived, and there are apparently a lot of couples who don’t (although there seems to be some debate about whether that’s really true or not). I think we were lucky (FSVO “lucky”) in that we had no reason to blame each other: it wasn’t “Well, you were the one who said it was OK for him to buy a motorcycle”, to pick an obvious, easy-to-lay-blame situation, reasonable or not.

So here we are, six years later, on a fall day remarkably like that one: cool and blustery. Or maybe not: maybe my memory is wrong…

Thanks to so many folks for your thoughts today, eh?

As Anita wrote so beautifully on Facebook:
We miss you beyond measure. Rest in Peace our beloved daughter.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I'd give this a C+ at best, if it were a short story that ended this way

I have several unfinished posts that just haven't gelled. Not sure why.

Meanwhile, I don't dream about Katie much—or if I do, I don’t remember the dreams.

Last night was a rare exception: we were about to go somewhere, the three of us. Katie was in one of those teenage moods, just being a complete and utter terror. We were all in the kitchen getting ready to go; Anita said something mildly to Katie, who snarled back and stalked out to the car. Anita looked at me and said, “I tried, now you need to talk to her”, with the unspoken addendum “…because this [wherever it was we were headed] is supposed to be a family outing, and the way she’s acting, it’s not gonna happen”.

And with that, I was right back in the hell of that last year: day-to-day ups and downs worrying about her, feeling bad for her that she was hurting, not knowing what to do or how to help, huddling with Anita trying desperately to figure out things to try. Not that I wouldn’t give a lot for the chance to be back in it now, but our lives are very quiet nowadays by comparison, so it was a shock. I sighed and reached for the doorknob…

…and then the garbage truck arrived in the court outside and woke me up.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Getting it right

Recently we were graced with two days of visits from one of Anita’s nephews, his wife, and their daughters, aged 1½ and 2½.

I must admit to a fair bit of trepidation about this visit. Not because I thought it would be unpleasant—I like my in-laws!—but because for the last five years I’ve avoided small children. Just not a good idea for me: too evocative.

But of course that was no reason to say “No, I don’t want them to visit”, so I gritted my teeth and vowed to endure. They arrived mid-day, each with a child in their arms. And within a half-hour, the girls were chattering away and exploring. (Those who know Anita will be unsurprised to hear that she’d arranged a number of special surprises for them—nothing fancy, just things that kids that age love!)

Toward the end of the first afternoon, the older girl came up to me and held out her arms. “She wants a hug!” said her mother, so I obliged. And then had to go to another room for a few minutes until I could see normally again, after being transported back two dozen years.

But that turns out to have been cathartic. After that, I was able to open up a bit and enjoy them more. The second day was even better, as both the girls and I were more relaxed. We played, we went for walks, and we sat around and chatted. One of those great visits where there’s no real agenda, so you don’t try to structure things too much and wind up stressed. There were many tears at our end when they left.

Watching the parents, I had a small epiphany: these two young adults are enjoying the hell out of having these kids. I'm sure not every minute is magic, but they’re fully engaged and interested, seem to have a great partnership, and are guiding them through life, without being overly strict or helicoptering. A rare combination these days, in my (admittedly limited) experience, and something they should be very proud of.

And that, too, took me back. I think that Anita and I really tried to appreciate every minute with our girl. Of course we didn’t succeed all the time, but I believe we made a darned good attempt.