Sometime in late November, I received a call from my sister Kim.  Kim and I had never been close.  Well, that may be an understatement.  When we lived together, we fought like crazy.  From my childish perspective, it was primarily Kim's fault, after all, she was in a perpetual bad mood and I, being unperceptive, didn't know how to navigate her moods effectively.

On the other hand, I incessantly asked childish questions and was likely to have been generally annoying as younger siblings are inclined to do. At any rate, the result was a regular routine of bickering and hitting, tattling and general sibling rivalry.

  (Kim at about age 12, wearing a necklace that she heisted from ME!!!)

Even so, I fiercely loved my older sister. I saw in Kim, everything I wanted to be.  From my point of view, she was beautiful, smart, athletically gifted, popular, and in charge.  She always had some sort of witty response. She always dressed fashionably.  She always had all the right friends.  She was, in a manner of speaking, my hero.

I was vaguely aware that she suffered some mental instability, but again, in my childish naivety, I didn't really have a good grip on what that meant. I certainly didn't see her through that lens. The reader may recall that Kim had run away from home when she was 15 years old. That event stood out starkly in my mind as one of profound change.

The tension in our home had been building and building. One particular incident involved a physical and verbal explosion surrounding the cooking of a simple pot of rice. Kim had been taking a Home Economics class in school and the lesson that day had been 'how to cook rice'. Rice was a staple in our home, with Mom having grown up in India, we paired it with most meals.  As you'd imagine, Mom had refined her technique and the rice was always perfectly cooked.  Kim rushed home from school, excited that she now knew how to cook rice and offered to prepare it for that night's family supper.

When it came time to serve, it was discovered that Kim's rice was NOT perfectly cooked.  In fact, the condition of the rice catapulted our mother into an all out rage in which she physically attacked Kim, hands firmly tangled into Kim's long, thick, brown hair and she pulled.  I still have the image of the two of them locked in anger.  Kim's instinctual response was to reach out and strike Mom's face with all her open palm.  The loud thwack resounds like a thunderclap in my mind.  It was one of those moments where time seemed to stand still.

Time gets jumbled, but that may have been the very night that Kim ran off. I never tasted the rice so I have no idea of just how 'bad' it was but I admit to having doubts that it was bad enough to merit any of what happened.

Several days passed during which we didn't know where Kim had gone, but eventually, she settled in at our Pastor's house and there she remained until she was 19.  They nurtured her heart in ways that my mother and father were unable to do.  Their family even paid for Kim to see a therapist for her struggles. In the end, it seemed a much better place for her.

(Senior Portrait, 1983?? This would have been purchased by the family Kim stayed with for the remainder of her childhood.  Our parents only purchased a very few portraits of us kids and never our Senior portraits.)

 (Innverness High School Graduation, either 1984 or 1985.  I didn't get to attend this, not sure if my mom did but I doubt it.  Our parents didn't attend most of our events. Mom was very unwell at this time so I think we missed it entirely.)

Kim attempted suicide through overdose more times than I can recall.  Her mental state was much worse than my mind could comprehend.  She seemed so very different from our mother that I couldn't quite understand how she could also be so mind-broken.  To my young mind, she appeared so very together.  In truth, I dismissed the reality of her extreme mental illness in favor of my prettier version of who and what she was.

As I write today, my heart breaks even more when I consider how easy it is for people to dismiss the reality, the gravity, of the hurt their loved ones are experiencing in order to maintain their own false vision of the person.  I wasn't able to do anything else at the time, and perhaps this is typically the case in such situations.  It is heartrending though, to consider how frequently emotional instability goes unaddressed because people are so dedicated to their own personal view of an individual.

Back to that phone call I mentioned at the outset.  Kim called me one evening, it must have been quite late for her in Florida because it was late at night for me here in Arizona.  We'd been building some relationship over the phone for a while so it wasn't terribly unusual for her to be calling.

I wish I had a recording of that call.  I can't remember much that was said. She seemed desperate, begging me to fly to Florida to see her.  She was missing me terribly and she was lonely.  Kim wasn't making a whole lot of sense and, in hindsight, I believe she was drunk or high.  She'd shared with me at some point her multitude of diagnoses, including addictions to alcohol and cocaine, Bi-polar (then called Manic/Depressive) and Kleptomania.  When she called, she'd finally been caught stealing and was in considerable trouble with her employers.

She'd had and maintained a housecleaning business for sometime, but had taken to stealing objects from her clients homes and hiding them in her home. She hadn't been arrested, but I suppose she must have been in danger of that in the near future. She was panicky and I assumed she was also having a manic episode. As much as I would have loved to fly out, I didn't have the money to take a trip like that.  I was living hand-to-mouth, spending everything I had.  Our conversation ended with my apology that I wouldn't be able to see her anytime soon and a quick 'I love you'.

After our conversation, I recall thinking that I was glad that our relationship was improving.  It made me feel loved that she 'needed' me, even if I wasn't actually able to come through for her.

Jeremy and I, on the other hand, were spending every free moment together.  Christmas break was approaching, and with that, a brief separation while he headed North to visit family in Flagstaff and then to LA to join extended family for Holiday celebrations.  I was NOT looking forward to our time apart at all. Hoping to limit the length of the separation, I proposed that I could drive up to Flag and stay with  him and his family during the second half of his break.

He agreed, and we made plans accordingly.  I'd join him and his family in Flagstaff on the 29th of December and spend a week with them.  I had also decided that was when I'd quite smoking! I figured that since I knew I'd not be able to smoke inside their home and it would be below freezing outside, it was the perfect time to quit.  Everything was arranged and I was excited!

Christmas break came and Jeremy left.  I wasn't thrilled with that, but I knew I'd be ok.  I had work and Terri and a litter of kittens to keep me company and that ought to be alright.

I can't remember what I did on Christmas Day, I may have spent it alone, or maybe working?  Coco's stayed open on holidays to serve those for whom roasting a ham was a fate worse than death.  At any rate, it came and went with no particular memory.

But on the evening of December 26th, very late at night, I received another phone call. It was my mother.  She didn't call to wish me a joyful holiday.  Instead, she called to tell me, in a voice devoid of emotion that Kim, my sister,  had taken her own life.

Kim was dead. DEAD.  forever

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