Oh Very Young

“…and the goodbye makes the journey harder still.”

Fast-forward.

It’s now autumn, 1976. Bicentennial summer has passed, a new school year has started, and I’m a junior in high school, just about to turn 17.

Earlier that year my parents had exchanged the evangelical church in Navarre, Minn., for the Methodist church in Mound, where I was going to school. But I lingered on at the old church because my long-time crush on a blonde named Linda persisted. Eventually the folks convinced me to attend their new church.

That’s where I first saw Kim.

Bethel Methodist used to sponsor a youth-activities night and I got talked into hanging with my brother and his friends. Saturday night, December 4, we attended an event that coincided with the church’s Christmas bazaar and “smorgasbord.” My brother’s classmate Joni was working the buffet table and her friend Kim, long blonde hair and pretty eyes, worked with her. At break, I played piano for the girls in the church basement.

The following week I talked to Joni about Kim, who revealed that Kim liked me (“He’s way cuter than his brother!”). Joni said I should attend the church-sponsored trip to the Old Log Theater the coming weekend and I could sit next to Kim.

The Sunday of the trip, Pastor McClelland asked the congregants how many married couples had wedding anniversaries in December. My folks stood with all the other couples. When I talked to Joni and Kim later, Kim was “kind of shy and quiet.” Much to my shock, Kim called me at home that afternoon to ask if I was going to the play. I drove to the church in Mom’s 1973 Dodge Dart and hopped on the bus to the theater, sitting with Kim there and on the ride back to the church. After the play I gave her a ride home and we kissed for the first time. She was 15 years old.

We dated through the holiday season and into the new year. But she being a freshman at the junior high, and me a junior in high school, eventually made it awkward. Her mother frowned on the fact I was “an older boy” who “drove a car,” and it took some convincing that I really did care about her daughter and that my intentions were honest.

That Christmas we shopped for our families together, attended concerts, and she was my date for a Christmas party I threw at my parents’ house (photo at left). On New Year’s Eve she worked at Surfside, a local restaurant, with her friend Kim, while my buddy Don and I went to a movie at the Cooper theater. After the movie we rushed back to the lake where we rang in the new year with the two Kims. Into the early morning we all watched Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii on the TV in Don’s family’s rec room.

After high school, I went off to various colleges and Kim stayed in town. She became good friends with a family I’ve been close with since our family first moved to Minnesota. Five years ago she and her husband Joe also attended a fundraiser for a member of that family who’d been stricken with lung cancer.

Last weekend Kim’s only child, 23-year-old Molly Kay, committed suicide. Molly was bright, funny and lovely. She had a special affection for animals, and loved her family. She also suffered from depression for a long time.

Over thirty years ago, we were so young. So free. So careless.

I’m still trying to get my thoughts around loss, the meaning of losing someone or something you care about like nothing else in the world. Seeing Kim and Joe this weekend brought all those questions to the surface. We can’t push back what life will deal out for us, but the acceptance is so very painful.

The autumn my father died, I couldn’t stop looking up at the sky for answers, like the clouds, or clear skies, would just spell it all out for me. I cannot take comfort in religion. There’s no there there for me, and being honest about that feels more true to me than pretending it doesn’t.

The emotions are enormous at times, so much so I could barely speak about them. It may’ve seemed to many that I just didn’t care.

This afternoon I gave Kim a hug. We probably hadn’t touched each other in over thirty years. Then her husband Joe gave me a hug.

All we have are the questions between us, the years, the confusion.

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~ by completelyinthedark on October 11, 2010.

9 Responses to “Oh Very Young”

  1. This made me all teary-eyed. Beautiful and touching. I’m so sorry for this loss. And here’s hoping we all find the answers we seek.

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  2. ((((hug))))

    Because I can’t find the words to respond to this.

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  3. FOLLOW UP. Found this entry in my 1992 journal: “…swung by the library and sure enough it was [Kim] with her daughter Molly on her bike. I stopped and chatted with them for a second. Molly is a lovely little girl of about five years, brown hair and eyes, and was a little shy to meet me. Kim looked good, though she seemed a little nervous, so we only talked for a bit.” [Sept. 7, 1992] So I did meet Molly, so long ago… —Mike

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  4. Thanks Nina and Phoenix Woman for your thoughts…it means a lot.

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  5. Was that photo taken during the time we brought the band over to play? I seem to remember that paneling and the Christmas tree..

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  6. Reblogged this on Completely in the Dark and commented:

    From three years ago, and an update: If you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, just know that you are not alone. AND if you believe you suffer from depression, you are also not alone. There are lovely people ready and willing to help. Please let them. All the best, Mike

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  7. Wow Mike-So many ups and downs we have all faced through the years. Just glad we have each other to hold onto. Love you & see you on Christmas Eve. Linda

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