The Kt we loved

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

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Happy 22 to My Little Girl

Well, after a nasty, rainy day yesterday, today was a stunningly beautiful fall day, on what would have been Katie’s 22nd birthday.

She would have been in her last year of undergrad, presumably with a good idea of what she wanted to do with herself. Careers, mentors, dreams, friends, lovers, kids…who can guess? Sure would be nice to know…

Thought of her today while in a store that first played a horrible, treacly version of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”—a song I never really liked, even when this season wasn’t my least favorite. Then they redeemed themselves by following it up with “Love Song” by The Cure. Katie would have loved it! Not that she was a huge Cure fan—I think Robert Smith was too much of an Emo cliché for her taste—but they have created a lot of good music, and she was always a believer in good music of any sort. And the juxtaposition would have had her retelling the story for months.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Three Years In

If you've ever had a deep bone bruise, you know that it stops hurting constantly after a while. But it's always there, and when you bump it, and it explodes again.

Today is a bump. Well, every day has a few bumps: today is just a bump the whole damned day.

This seemed appropriate today: Warren Zevon cover of Bob Dylan's Knocking on Heaven's Door.

As Kt would say, "Peace out".

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Out of the Darkness Walk last month

It's been a while, and I've been delinquent in not posting about the AFSP Out of the Darkness Community Walk back on September 8.

It was two years ago that several friends participated in that year's event. I wasn't up to walking then, but went and observed. And this year I was happy to be able to walk.

I put off soliciting donations until rather late, and then finally got my act together and sent a note to the folks I felt comfortable asking. And boy, was it heartening to see the response! Our team was the top fundraiser for this Walk, and that's a tribute to Kt and how she affected people.

Team Kt raised $8,916, somewhat exceeding the goal of $1,000.

Thanks to Rita for organizing this once again!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Global Warming, feh...

August in Virginia, and it's in the mid-70s! I wonder how many people who visit this month will move here, and then spend the next n years wondering why summer is so much grimmer than what they remember...

I spent part of this week in Boston, at SHARE. I haven't spent time in BOS since we were there with Katie in 2008. That was a nice trip: we went up to Maine first and "did" the coast, then spent several days in Boston itself.

Every previous time I'd been in Boston, it was either winter and cold, or summer and 90+. And so other than some fond memories of that family trip, I've always had a somewhat negative impression of the city: sweltering or freezing outside, then racing inside to comfort.

The whole Northeast is experiencing this unseasonably pleasant weather, and as people had repeatedly told me, Boston turns out to be a lovely city. I had a nice time, other than hating being away from Anita (as ever). And other than seeing an ad for Blue Man Group, which we'd seen there with Katie. Weird how random things like that strike with almost physical force.

Meanwhile, The Verge covers an unlikely topic,Cracking suicide: hackers try to engineer a cure for depression. Not a particularly accurate headline, but an interesting, if sad, article. With a (largely) lively, cogent, and civil set of comments following.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Saturday before last, I flew to Detroit, then drove up to London, Ontario, and finally saw Saga. I last caught them live in 1984: they don’t tour much in North America, despite being from Ontario, because although they sell out arenas in Europe, they’ve never caught on here for some reason.

I was supposed to see them November 20, 2010, but of course that didn’t work out. Then I had a ticket for a show at B.B. King’s club in Manhattan last September, and the band cancelled (something about a visa problem for one of the band members). I have a watch on their tour page, and thus sometime in May learned that they had been added to the bill for Rock the Park 10, so I booked my trip.

It was a grey, rainy day, but that failed to dampen (!) my spirits, or those of the other concertgoers. With the doors opening at 3PM, I got in line about 2:30 and chatted with my line-mates—most of whom were my age or older. I’ve never seen that many guys with long, grey hair outside of Grateful Dead photos!

And it was a good show. Not as long as I would have liked—that’s the price you pay for having multiple bands on the bill—but Saga were as tight as I remember. After 35 years of playing together, they still seem to be enjoying themselves. And they must be able to read each other’s minds: during the opening track, the keyboardist was trying to adjust one of his (six!) keyboards. The display either wasn’t backlit or wasn’t bright enough, so he was trying to shade the display and adjust it with one hand, while still playing with the other. The lead vocalist noticed this (although it was behind him), and came over and shaded the display himself—all without missing a beat. Pretty impressive.

The impact of just hearing live music again took me by surprise. Katie of course lived for music, and loved concerts (I think she agreed with me that any music sounds good live, no matter the genre). I wound up about 25 feet from the stage, and when the otherwise-mediocre opening act started playing, I found myself missing her more intensely than I have in a very long time. She was my “concert buddy”: I took her (and friends) to her first concert, Green Day, in Pittsburgh. Later we saw Rush a couple of times, the Doobie Brothers once, David Wilcox at the Birchmere, and more. And she had desperately wanted to see Saga: I’d tried to make an expedition work once when they were playing in Ontario, but the logistics proved too difficult.

I left after Saga, to enjoy the other treat of the weekend: my sister had come down from Toronto just to visit her little brother! We had a nice dinner, then spent most of Sunday just talking and walking, what I call “found time”. With nothing in particular that we needed to or even really could do, we just relaxed and visited. I think those are often some of the best times. Then I dropped her at the train station to return east, and headed west on the 401, back to Detroit.

On the drive I was listening to the radio, and heard an ad on WCSX, a Detroit classic rock station, that starts with Boston playing in the background, and a question: “How do you teach your kids to like classic rock?”, with a baby gurgling happily. Then we hear a woman: “Honey, can you turn that up? The baby’s trying to sleep!” (I haven’t been able to find the ad on the Web, but I’ll keep looking.)

I could see Katie’s smile…

Monday, June 24, 2013

Big wheel keep on turning

The last few weeks have been, um, “interesting”.

Early in June, my sister-in-law up in Rochester, NY had some major surgery scheduled, and we hadn’t seen various relatives (including a couple of new grand-nieces), so we drove up there for a two-week stay. The surgery went OK, although she’s got a long recovery ahead.

We’d been there a week when my cell rang at 4:30PM on a Tuesday, and showed my sister calling from Halifax. “This can’t be good”, thinks I: she’d normally just email me, or call of an evening. Sure enough: my mother was in hospital up in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario (“KW”) with severe abdominal pain. Well, the good news was that I was a lot closer than normal (a three hour drive, instead of nine). But then they sent her home a few hours later, saying that a CAT scan didn’t show anything and that they thought it was “a bug”, so we went to bed.

The next morning, my other sister, in Toronto (only an hour from my mom) called about 8AM to say that she was back in hospital, same symptoms. After some discussion, we agreed that we’d both drive to KW that day, so I did (Anita stayed to be with her sister).

When I got to the hospital, they had done another CAT scan, and found a serious bowel problem that required emergency surgery. This wasn’t the same hospital (there are two big ones in town, and they’d sent her to the other one this time); the doctor said he’d reviewed the CAT scan from the previous night and the problem wasn’t evident then, but that the new one showed that if he didn’t operate right away, she wouldn’t survive 24 hours.

My mom was coherent and opted for the surgery, so away she went (finally—of course “right away” means “in a few hours”, not what one might expect), and my sister and I spent the evening in a mercifully empty family lounge, flipping the TV between mindless sitcoms and the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Finally the doctor emerged and said the surgery had been a success. It turned out that he had been moderately convinced that it was going to be one of those cases where he’d open her up, see that there was no hope, and close, but it wasn’t that severe, and he’d been able to repair the damage. She was in ICU and would be there for at least a week, but things were looking better than they had a few hours ago.

My other sister made it in from Halifax about 1AM, and the next day we all went to the hospital and saw my mom (who was being kept sedated), then got lunch and talked about what was next. We agreed that I might as well return to Rochester, rather than sitting around waiting for something to happen, so I did that.

By this point it was Thursday night. I got a much-needed night’s sleep, and Friday we visited my sister-in-law and had an OK day until I got email from my sister saying that my mom had apparently had a minor heart attack at some point during treatment, and that her kidneys weren’t functioning well. So I decided to head back up to Ontario the next day.

When I got there, it was pretty clear that things were dire. My mom had left explicit instructions, both written and verbal, that she not only didn’t want CPR or advanced life support (a “DNR”), but that she didn’t want any ongoing treatment requirements such as dialysis. And the hospital said that even if she made it through this crisis, she would definitely need dialysis for at least a month.

So after more discussion amongst ourselves, we sat down with her doctor and primary nurse and talked through the situation, and concluded that the way to respect her wishes was to remove her from the breathing machine. And so she passed on, after 85 years of a full life, with her “three geese” (as she liked to refer to us kids) by her side, about 6PM on June 15, 2013.

Of course we’re sad and we’ll miss her, but we do feel good that we did what she wanted, and that she didn’t suffer long. In a slightly “Twilight Zone” coincidence, she took ill on the seventh anniversary of my dad’s death. He was even luckier, in that he took a nap one afternoon and died of a heart attack while sleeping. As all three of us have noted, with varying amounts of deliberate irony, going through a prolonged decline “would have killed him”.

The year after his death, my mom moved to an assisted living facility three blocks from the house where I grew up and where they had lived for 37 years. There she had her own apartment and could walk to most places, which she did happily, except when weather was bad. She even drove for the first four years or so, until she decided that it was getting too difficult for her. She swam almost every day, went to concerts and movies, visited her wide circle of friends, and even made multiple trips by plane, including visiting Halifax this spring. My older sister took over her finances, and set up accounts with the local taxi company, dry cleaner, et al, so my mom was able to do many such activities without even having to drag her wallet out. (Not that she wasn’t capable of doing so—she was remarkably spry and sharp right to the end—but particularly with the cabs, it was easier for her not to have to deal with it when the weather was bad.)

She had a good situation there, and was liked by the staff, several of whom teared up when we told them she had passed. And while it’s a town of 300,000 nowadays, it’s still not that big: one of the physiotherapists at the facility is engaged to the son of one of my best friends. She and my mom had forged a friendship before they even realized this. And the man across the hall from my mom is the father of a friend of mine from middle school, with whom I’d lost touch until his dad hooked us back up! Gotta love it.

I think I’ve had about enough of hospitals for a while.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk

This last Saturday was the AFSP Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk. Run for the last dozen or so years, this is a fund- and awareness-raising event that, to date, has raised over $23M for research.

I found out about it relatively recently, because a co-worker told me he was flying in from California to walk. He let me know, and I was pleased to be able to pick him up at National, see him off at the start of the event, and then have lunch with him today and drop him back at the airport to fly home. (I would have liked to be there at the end of the event, but driving back into DC at 4AM somehow didn’t make my calendar!)

Of course the entire exercise was evocative of Katie.

It started in an unexpected way: I haven’t been on the DCA property in years—perhaps since 2006, when my father died, and I picked my sister up there—although it used to be our airport of choice, back when we worked in South Arlington. But what struck me most was driving onto the property and remembering when Katie was four, and we drove there to pick up her aunt and cousin, who had flown in from Rochester. Katie had been learning to read (starting with The Bob Books), and as we crawled through the construction (this was while they were building the new terminal, so the entire place was a mess), she suddenly asked, “Why does that say ‘cat’?” and pointed to a piece of construction equipment. I remember looking at Anita and saying something like “Wow, that’s when you know she can read—when she’s reading without even meaning to!”

And of course that was at the start of her love affair with books. She used to crawl up onto the recliner in her room with a big pile of them, and just sit for hours, reading and rereading her favorites. When the Harry Potter books got big, with midnight launches of each new volume, she’d talk us into going to the bookstore to pick it up, and then read the entire thing by the next afternoon. And like her taste in music, her reading choices ran the gamut, from classics to kid lit to serious subjects, often on topics that seemed most unlikely. Our little reader!

Before The Overnight (as it’s called) opening ceremony, all 2,000+ participants milled around on the George Washington University “Yard”, a big green space described as “the historic heart of GWU”. I got lucky and ran into my friend without any follies of trying to describe our locations to each other by text or phone, and we chatted while we waited for the festivities to begin.

I found it to be quite the rollercoaster: folks were socializing and chatting happily, but then someone would walk by and I’d see one or more names on their T-shirt, and it would hit me: all of these people have suffered due to suicide. All of them had lost someone they cared about—in more than one case, several someones. I resist using cliché words like “unimaginable”—but when you look at a sea of people and realize that they’ve all gone through a similar odyssey, it’s pretty hard to get your head around the idea. Humbling.

Anyway, my friend survived: he has some nice blisters on his feet, but he finished the walk. And next year, maybe I’ll join him.

The Overnight:

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Running over the same old ground

I had a nice weekend in Ontario again, seeing my mom, my sister, and a cadre of old friends. Drove back to Buffalo Sunday night so I could get up for a 6AM flight home, followed by two days of a conference in DC.

It seemed like everywhere I went over the last four days reminded me of Katie.

It started with visiting my mom: surely doing so wasn't the most exciting thing for a teenager, but Katie was always engaged, contributed to the conversation, and seemed to enjoy it. My eyes kept straying to the empty chair she typically chose.

And she always loved visiting my friends and their kids. (And hearing stories about things I'd done that I might rather she didn't know about!)

One of the friends lives west of the city, in a smaller town. One evening several years ago, we left my mom's and had some time before bed, so we decided to drive by their house and drop in if it looked like they were still up. It had been several years since I had visited, but I had my GPS, so I put in the address and off we went.

I started to get suspicious when it took us far past the small town: that didn't fit with my memory. So we headed back, and stopped at the gas station/corner store to ask. They had never heard of my friends, and didn't think the address I had existed (the road did, but these are country roads and go for miles). So we gave up.

I called the next day, and it turned out that their street had been renumbered at least a decade earlier; the Post Office had happily delivered Christmas cards using the old scheme, so I never knew! And they actually live just a few doors from that gas station (where their teenage son now works, in fact).

Then when I got back and arrived at the conference, I realized that it was at the same hotel as the National Scholastic Press Association/Journalism Education Association conference in 2010, when Katie won the Design of the Year award. While the hotel looked somewhat different without hordes of teenagers scattered everywhere, I could still see them if I looked hard.

And then the second day of the conference it rained, and I drove to Vienna Metro via I-66, at 7AM—a time and a route familiar to anyone who attended Oakton, or whose child did. I fought my way through traffic and the film over my eyes, trying to resist turning to look at the empty passenger seat.

How I wish, how I wish you were here
We're just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
What have we found
The same old fears
Wish you were here
– Pink Floyd

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Greetings from the Sunny South

Anita and I are in St. Petersburg (Florida, not Russia!). This is our first real holiday in over three years: other than a few quick visits to see family, we’ve been pretty stay-at-home. I’m giving some training here, and so Anita came along for a few days of vacation before and after.

We still aren’t exactly party animals, of course, but we’ve done lots of sightseeing and spent some time on a beach and so forth. We’re having a nice, low-key time.

We were in a restaurant the other day that had a poster of the following (it’s a bit small, but was the best I could find on the web). It’s for a beer called Sweetwater, and says “Est. 420” and “Drink ‘em if you got ‘em”. I found myself reaching for my phone to snap a picture so I could show Katie, which left me so off-balance that I failed to take any picture at all.

Anyway, she would have loved the bizarre mix of pop culture references!

 While driving back and forth to the training site, I’ve found myself listening to Spirit FM 90.5, “Tampa Bay’s Hit Christian Music”. Now, I’d have said I was about as likely to listen to gangsta rap as to “Hit Christian Music”, but I tripped across the station while pressing Seek repeatedly, trying to find something other than country, talk, or Spanish radio. It’s playing a broad range of stuff, from pop to R&B to nu metal.

So of course I wish Katie was here, so we could talk about the music. There’s an earnestness about the bands that’s quite appealing. I don’t mean the lyrics, which I don’t really listen to: I mean the music, which isn’t overproduced, as so much music is—I doubt there’s an Autotune in sight. Definitely a good thing. Some of it reminds me of Relient K, who she used to like; I looked them up to be sure I was right about the spelling of “Relient” and was surprised to learn that they’re also considered Christian rock.

Which in turn reminded me of my recurring daydream that Katie should be an “A&R man”—a talent scout for the music industry, roaming the country, listening to crappy band after crappy band in honky-tonks and high schools and wherever else, looking for the Next Big Thing. Of course, with the Internet and YouTube and the general ill health of the music industry, it’s not clear that A&R people have any future, or perhaps even still exist. But it’s definitely something I could see her enjoying, and with her knowledge of and interest in music, she’d’ve been great at it.