Monday, January 29, 2007

Happy Birthday, Kim

This past weekend, I made a quick flight back home for my sister's surprise 44th Birthday Party thrown by my parents. She was completely surprised and it was a lovely party. Each of her brothers made a speech, and below is mine. Happy Birthday Kim!

Kim has a long history of being there for me when I have needed someone the most. Kim was three years old when I was brought home from the hospital 40 years ago. I don’t remember everything about that day, but from what I hear, Kim thought I was just fascinating. And she’s been watching over me ever since.

Throughout our childhood, Kim and I were compared to Lucy and Linus from The Peanuts. She was loud, sassy and bossy. I was her younger, shy, nerdy brother. And like Lucy with Linus, Kim was inadvertently teaching me lessons that I would carry on through adulthood:

For example, when I begged her to play with the Fisher Price toys and she told me she would once I got everything set up, and I spent 20 minutes getting the house, barn, houseboat, garage and little city set up only for her to then say, “I’m not interested anymore” … well that taught me that things don’t always work out the way you planned. At least, not with Kim.

Or when we’d be doing the dishes together (Kim washed, I dried) and we would be singing a song but singing it differently and I would say, “You’re not singing that right” - she would say “I can sing it any way I want to”. But if she was the one who said “You’re not singing that right” and I would use her retort of “I can sing it anyway I want to”, then she came back with “Well, you’re wrooonnnggg!” … that might have taught me that there is no such thing as a clear winning argument. At least not with Kim.

Or the numerous times I was told to hold something differently, or stand in another place, or when to talk or not talk, or where I could sit, or what I could play with … that taught me that in this world there are leaders and followers and that I was clearly a follower. At least I was with Kim.

I have needed her in different ways my entire life, whether I knew it or not, be it as my playmate, my teacher, my singing partner, or my defender.

For example, the time she beat up 5th grader David Urbas on the bus because he hit me in the stomach. I was in 3rd Grade and Kim was in 6th. David had been teasing me and then finally just let me have it. And then Kim unleashed all of her protective energies on him. Growing up with Kim as a big sister meant you didn’t get out of line. But God help anyone who hurt one of her brothers.

But there was no time I needed her more than a year and a half ago, as I lay in a hospital room the night before surgery. The rest of the family had gone and Kim and I sat in my room and watched TV and shared my dinner. I don’t think she wanted to leave, and I was grateful that she stayed. Just having my big sister with me allowed me to realize that everything was going to be ok. After all, Kim was there – she’d never let any harm come to me. Its probably the reason I was able to fall asleep soon after she left.

Like I said, she’s been watching over me all my life.

She’s been a tower of strength for my parents throughout adulthood. She’s been my Mom’s rock during the most difficult times. As generous as she is, she has sadly understood all too well what it means to “do without”. To me, it seems that Kim has been sacrificing her entire adult life. The decision she made to first leave her home and beloved sons in order to work 3 hours away from home, must have been agonizing. She believed she could selfishly provide a better life for her family, all the while surrendering the precious time she was missing while being away. It must have been a heartbreaking thing to do. But in the long run, she has two boys who love and adore her (and neither one looks like he's going to be moving out soon). And I hope they appreciate and understand what Kim had to go through in order to give them whatever she could.

Through all of her troubles and hard times, Kim has found a deep and life-driving faith that keeps her going day to day. She quietly accepts what life deals her, knowing that there is a reason for it all, whether she understands it or not. Her life has not been an easy one. And she has faced more challenges and obstacles than any other person I know.

Kim, if Ty Pennington would just return one of my calls, you would have a new house by now. Because there is no one else on Extreme Makeovers Home Edition who deserves it more than you. But for now, until Ty calls me back, this party, this gathering, this family, these friends, and these words are all we can humbly give you. I can’t imagine a world without you in it. I hope you are proud of me, because I wouldn’t be who I am without you.

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