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*This post has taken on an especially poignant timbre as our family is mourning the loss of my beloved nephew, the eldest son of my older sister. I have attempted to weave in some photos of my father, about the bulk of his particular story, and realized how much Kyle is woven throughout it in the very last photos I took of Kyle when he was celebrating Morgan's graduation with the rest of my family back in June. Please indulge me these tender moments.
My father never takes any credit for things and is, to me, one of the most humble men I’ve ever known. He said to me just last week as we spent time in the ICU at Northwestern Hospital with Kyle, “You girls know how to take care of each other. You’re good sisters because of what your mother taught you.” When I gently remind him that he had a bit to do with raising us, too, he shrugs and throws his hands my way. “Nahhhh. That was your mother.”
I had my camera in hand as they pulled out of my driveway and my father let it be known that someone, one of the boys in his car, "Let one go. Oohhh, Lord." I love that he started laughing right away.
We had all just been together and I did notice our father watching the three of us out of the corner of my eye. My sisters and I shorthand out language to one another, reach out and rub shoulders when necessary, and hug and kiss every time we see each other. Every time. Those particular traits actually come from both our parents so my dad will just have to be quiet and take credit for it.
This series of pictures gets funnier and funnier for me because Kyle, in the back seat, immediately rolled down his window as he tried to escape a horrid family fart. But, my dad? Still thinks it's hilarious at this point so I'm snapping photos as fast as I can. Because FAMILY.
I’ll tell you what I know comes directly from my father, though: I recall the day he taught me how to mow the lawn because he didn’t want to do it. He said we’d never be able to make straight lines like him. I also remember learning how to double-dutch from him when I couldn’t get it. When I was very young I came home in tears because the girls down the street wouldn’t let me play with them because I was so awful at it. He turned with my sister while I practiced until I got it. I also remember when he taught me how to make spaghetti. He’s a terribly messy Creole cook himself, but he definitely knows how to make his special version.
Actually, growing up I thought that everyone put shrimp and green peppers into their spaghetti sauce. Apparently not.
When I told my dad that I was working with Wells Fargo on the Kinsey Untold Collection and talked about the art in the collection, he immediately asked if we could go see one of the exhibits and then he told me to keep telling stories.
“I can’t tell them unless you tell me,” I reminded him.
He promised me earlier this summer that he would start telling me more of them, of our family history, and that he wanted me to write it down for our family. It was a rather tender moment we had there because when you think about passing things down to the next generation you cannot do it without thinking of your own mortality.
Which, obviusly, I am thinking about non-stop these days. That preciousness of life that just left us in my funny, amazingly kind-hearted, and wonderfully spirited nephew. Stories are what we have now as well as many photos and several videos that I have watched daily for the past week. Stories are what we pass down. Stories are what get us through the dark days sometimes. At least, that's what they're doing for me and when I can't find the words to explain or detail my grief, I tell a happy story about Kyle. I will tell the Toxic Car Story When Grandpa Couldn't Stop Laughing story with these accompanying photos for years to come. Someday, I will tell his not-quite-2-year-old son how funny his daddy was and I pray I can do it without the ever present tears of late.
At this point my father is crying because he's laughing so hard. Kyle is still desperate for fresh air. I love the juxtaposition of this picture of them.
“I’ll be gone someday and you will have to let them know,” my father said.
“Yes, but you’re going to have to spend a lot more time with me telling me your stories,” I said, again with the reminder to him.
The last picture I ever took of Kyle. I will so dearly miss his sense of humor. I knew how dazzlingly handsome my nephew was but I loved that he cut up around family and I have fantastic memories of them.
Below is a video of me telling a few of the stories and why there is so little that I know of my father’s family (a little hurricane named Katrina is to blame for some of it) but also, there is hope that just working on this project has launched something in both me and my dad about storytelling and cherishing our history.
If nothing else, it got me to talk about something I’ve always wanted to approach my dad about and that is our family history. How can we leave stories for things like the Kinsey Collection if we aren’t actually collecting them?
Me? I am collecting them with a fierceness now. These are the stories I have and leaving a legacy of them, sometimes the sad but mostly the happy ones, seems to be more pressing and urgent to me than ever before.