Klimb 4 Kim 4. Klimb 4 Kim FOUR.....FOUR?!?!?! Did I actually participate in Klimb 4 Kim 1, 2 AND 3?!?!?!
Sometime in the middle of the first week of February, the thought occurred to me "I wonder when the Cancer walk is scheduled this year." I googled it and my heart was immediately warmed to see the date; 3/1. Kim's birthday!!! How very appropriate!!!
BUT according to my limited math skills, that was in about 3 1/2 weeks!!!
It was 'fun' putting together the flyer and the poster. I spent about 6 hours working on the Print Shop software Kim had installed on our PC. Wait a minute. Working? Struggling. Before the PC crashed.
Whenever I am computer challenged, which is often, I call Ami for help....in an excruciatingly short time, Ami sent this:
She posted it on the Facebook for me and on Kim's blog.
Ami wasn't done yet...she created this one for posters!!
I hastily sent out texts, emails and FB messages...
Andrea's cousin Jack, artist who created the beautiful shirts for previous walks, asked 'what about shirts?' I let him know that I thought it was too late. I had waited too late this year. I just wanted him and Sandy to come down from Phoenix to join us.
Jack insisted. "What do the kids want on it this year?" He puts such a personal touch on these shirts. His creativity and inspiration fueled by Kim - he's told me that it's important to him that the bambini choose what's on the shirt. Something that reminds them of their Mama. And he adds colors/sunsets that remind him of Kim, that capture her essence..
"I love a challenge" Jack told me.
The kids were in awe when I showed them the design Jack had come up with...
"Wooowwwww..." was the best they could come up with. If I could take a picture of their faces...or, a video, to show the range of emotions that play out. They are always amazed at Jack's ability to capture their Mama and their appreciation for what he does is beyond their words...
(Carson, Jaimelyn, Autumn, Tonio, Kim, Andrea, Lexy. Jackie, Bobbi, Cody, Alyssa, Annette, Me, Shannon, Jack, Krista, Scott, Jason, Emily (Tonio's teacher this year!), Dawn, Shawn, AnnMarie, and Kirk) Angie, Sandy and Micah road the bus, and we missed them for this shot!
I am always humbled by the amount of people who remember Kim on walk day...it sounds corny, but it warms my heart. This year was especially challenging. Our first day of rain this year. Every day leading up was sunny. The day after the walk was perfect.
But, the forecast, this day, was 90% chance of rain.
One of the faithful walkers, a teacher at Cottonwood Elementary School, Pam, told me Friday, when I picked up Tonio, 'Don't worry Dave, it won't rain until afternoon.
Just in case, I tell the kids - LAYER - just in case! Walk shirts, covered by long sleever, concealed by jacket. With hat.
But it's a push to get out of the house. After all, I had admonished everyone to be there by '8ish'. Promptly.
We did begin, beneath a steely grey sky, around 8:15 or so, a good time to go. I had texted out 'It looks like we will beat this rain!'
I was telling Angie, as we neared the base of the mountain, the worst year we ever walked, was back in '04 - walking in memory of Kim's Dad. We had about 12 walkers from Linen's 'N Things, where I was managing, and the rain was coming sideways from the start. And it was near freezing temps. We made it near the base, before saying we had given it our best.
When we approached that point, I said to Angie 'we made it to about here.'...and the Heaven's unleashed!!!
"Oh my gosh!" Angie exclaimed, as if I had conjured up the rain.
Well, remember that I had coached the Bambini on proper dress attire? I look to Autumn, who was wearing a hat and jacket....to Tonio...Short. Sleeve. Walk shirt. Dammit. I quickly put my long sleeve shirt on him, as I noticed Lexy with no coat and wrapped her in my jacket. I searched for Cody...short sleeve walk shirt too. Bad Dad.
The rains on the south facing side of the mountain were driving, pelting our exposed arms, as we hustled to the top.
"Are we taking a group shot this year?" Andrea quipped...we managed to pull it together long enough to snap one.
The bambini, with their friend Alyssa, still wanted to climb the gianormous A. Carson, son of Bobbi and Jason Mayeux, Tonio's principal, is halfway up!
The rain did stop, and we were able to walk back down, taking the scenic path through the dessert.
We did it in record time this year!!
One of my favorite things about this core group of walkers that have been there with us year in and year out, are the stories that they offer up about Kim along the way. It's like a walking eulogy. I love it.
As has become a tradition, we converged on the Mariscos Chihuahua, a Mexican seafood restaurant not far from where the walk ends. 22 of us showed up this year - the most since we've walked in Kim's memory.
Every time we would pass by this Mariscos, I would tell Kim "take me there for my birthday'. I always loved the paintings of the waves on the outside. Inside, it's like being beneath the sea. There is a huge marlin, rock formations (Tonio spotted a likeness of Jesus carved in one), fish, sea kelp - it's beautiful. The food is tremendous (I feel like I am doing an infomercial!). It's just nice to keep the spirit of the walk going, share a meal and talk about the day's event.
(Emilio, Mary, Kinsley and Brinley)
The Montes family made the trek from the eastside on this rainy day to join us, resplendent in their walk shirts!
It was so fun! And to honor and remember Kim on her birthday was wonderful. We had a lot of first time walkers too! Andrea's cousin Shannon, who drove down from Phoenix. Cottonwood Elementary teachers, Jackie, Krista and Tonio's teacher, Emily. From Barnes & Noble, Jaimelyn brought Dan for the walk (he took the group photo for us at the top!). Again, I am so thankful for this event and the time to spend with these people.
It continued to rain, into the night. I took the bambini up to the DeGrazia Gallery, a Kim favorite. There was a book signing for a bio on Ettore DeGrazia that had just come out (I sold 18 copies the Friday before the walk!). We met the authors, who signed our book and talked to the kids. I finally got to introduce them to Lisa, the manager there (the one who permanently put Kim's photo on the altar in the chapel DeGrazia built) and we lit candles (I realize we do this weekly, in various places, but we had to today for Kim's bday!!)
Tonio and Autumn solemnly, reverently, light their candles....
And a sunflower for Kim...one of her favorites!!
Happy Birthday Kimmy!!!
Still one of my favorite birthday shots - Cody (about 4), Kim, Andrea, Lexy (1ish) and Autumn (1ish).
Leading up to Kim's birthday....well, the bambini - I tell them; when you are faced with a decision. A choice. Any decision or choice. Think about what your Mama would do. What would make her proud?
Here's one of the things Tonio was absolutely insistent we take care of - touching up the memorial in the middle of Fantasy Island.
"When do you think we could go Dad?" he'd persist, literally, each day.
'I will not go into Fantasy Island' Autumn informed us, inciting her brother's immediate ire.
"I already escaped harm and death there several times." she calmly explained to them, as if they were kindergartners (no offense Ami and Mary, but you know my boys! ; ) ) She deftly describes the time I had to carry Cody's bike out after his rear rim bent and would not turn. The time we got caught by darkness, her and Cody speeding ahead, racing the daylight - Autumn vomiting when they made it to safety, as she was worried for Tonio and me. Calm, Cool Hand Luke, Tonio, turning to me as darkness fell and a coyote stopped on the path ahead of us, as if to size us up, flipping on his bike light...."Will this help?", he asked as the beam of the light lit up our path like a large tiki torch. Oh, and the cow, no bull! that we saw just scant feet from our trail, threatening to impale us..."I. Am. Done." She repeats for emphasis.
Cody does the honors of darkening the lettering and we all re-sign our names.
Moments after we sign, Cody is gone - racing off to more technical corners of Fantasy Island. Tonio and I cannot hope to keep up...
Tonio actually kept up an amazing speed - his fastest time ever! But, I did almost lose him twice. To creosote bushes, thankfully not jumping cholla, which reach out at every turn. He literally ran through a huge creosote, which sucked hold of his front tire midway through, sending him flying, Superman style, over the handlebars and depositing him in the dead center of the bike trail - a classic belly flop, driving the very air from his lungs and leaving him speechless.
I shouted his name, grabbing him, picking him up and simultaneously dusting him off (as if that would help)...He began giggling "Did you see that Dad???" Uh, yeh son, you just chopped off 6.5 years of my life....
And then there is my way of honoring Kim...ink. Immediate reminders. Kim was my balancer, so I need to 'write' reminders on me in the way we used to write phone numbers on our hands with pens.
To make it even more special, I ask Cody to make the prelim design for me. He is taking Computer Graphics (Kim's major at Kutztown U!) and acing it!! He got right to work and nailed it on the first try!!
My tat artist, at Tattoo Artistry, Country Club and Pima (yes, a shameless plug), Dave Williams. Now, I've told this story a billion times, but, just in case, I hired Dave at Toys R Us several centuries ago. He was about 16 and had that natural ability to excel at video games and gaming systems that seems inherent in our youth. He quickly became master of our electronics department.
Over the five plus years that we worked together, I noticed that Dave had an extraordinary artistic talent. One day I asked what he wanted to do with all of that talent - "Open a tattoo parlor" he told me.
Well, Dave was great to work with - knowledgeable, great with customers and coworkers, big heart, etc - I told him when I was ready for a tat, I'd look him up.
Kim and I always talked about getting matching tattoos with a symbol for 'forever', but never got around to it...
And, it other 'small town' news, Cody's kinder teacher and flyer creator, Ami, used to babysit Dave along with her sister Mary (Aut and Tonio's kinder teach cuz Ami fled to the distant planet of Phoenix. Briefly.), Their families are very close - in fact, I've had an opportunity to meet and have dinner with Dave's Mom! So, he is the perfect person to entrust serious artwork, in Kim's honor, in the form of tattoos. He is so incredibly talented!!
For me, most definetly, the hardest part of getting a tattoo, is, that I drink so much iced tea, and let's face it, I'm getting old, and have to hit the men's room often!!!
So here it is. St Jude. Patron Saint of lost causes. Yes, I've been the lost cause. Most of you did not know me before Kim came along and cleaned me up. Saved me. However, you've seen the zig zag pattern I've left across the landscape over the last 3 and a half years since Kim left me. So, you know this is appropriate. Right?
The backside of my right calf. The shaded areas typically hurt the most, but, recently, Dave studied with a tat artist from Sweden and learned a new technique that does not hurt as bad, but the detail looks great. I was the second person he has applied this new found knowledge on and let me tell you, it is the best!
The white dove...Cody added it to symbolize Kim...
Finally, as we were driving sometime after the walk...
Kim sent us a little 'thank you' ; )