Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Lot of People Loved My Brother

Today was Kyle's memorial. A huge number of people showed up. 150? 200? Eagle Rock rolled heavy, and there was a strong San Francisco contingent. All ten crew members of Hollywood's black film industry were there, hipster LA represented, and a fair number of tattoos kept the crowd young. Piano teachers, little league coaches, women who had been friends of mine who now had babies. I saw people I hadn't see in ten years. One big black lady I'd never met before came up and gave me a hug that took my breath away. I mean it. This was a medicinal embrace. All these beautiful young women in dresses and sneakers flew around the place, ferrying fruit salad and water and a surprising number of sandwiches - including Joanne's homemade BBQ rolls, Lord. There was a slideshow I couldn't watch and a pack of smokers out front that, miraculously, I didn't join. People let me skip ahead of them in line for the bathroom. It was a really great day.

EXCEPT I forgot my camera like a goddamn idiot. If anyone who was there has pictures, send them to me! Also, any pictures or stories about Kyle are always appreciated.

A number of friends and family spoke. Here's what I read in what I think was a reasonably steady voice:

Hi everybody, and thank you for coming.

This sucks, doesn’t it? This is just the worst thing ever. When my mother asked me if I’d like to read anything at Kyle’s memorial, my first reaction was to say no, because all I could think in the days and weeks after his death was what a horrible place the world is. A senseless, cruel, unfeeling place. And I knew that everyone else grieving over his passing would feel the same way – that this sucks. I could have just printed that on a hundred bumper stickers and passed them out to you all at the door – This Sucks. It didn’t seem like there was anything else to say.

But then, driving by the Italian Bakery just up the road on Colorado Boulevard yesterday, I remembered something. They used to sell these little iced cream puffs in white boxes tied with string, and when we were kids my dad would bring home one of these boxes with what seemed like ridiculous infrequency. He would sneak it into the fridge, where Kyle or I would notice it hiding behind the milk and we would whisper to each other for the rest of the day in anticipatory bliss. We would set the table without being asked, plow enthusiastically through our greens, I would even finish all my milk. And then the white box would be brought out, the string cut, and the top lifted to reveal four perfect puffs on their paper doilies. They were always heavier than expected and, holding them in our eager hands, we could feel through the pastry the cold, thick custard inside. It was thrilling.

Kyle would eat his right up, smiling his crooked-tooth grin and licking the paper clean. He adored the cream puffs, and so, when given one, he didn’t think, he just ate it with joy.

I, on the other hand, was a nasty little kid. When I got my cream puff, I examined every inch before taking the smallest nibble. I lapped at the custard like a kitten. I ate the thing crumb by crumb, always saving the icing on top for last. I wish I could say I did this because of some budding culinary palate or early onset OCD, but no. I did it to be mean. I knew Ky would eat his and then look over and see me, still calmly working my way through the first third. I knew he would ask for a bite. And I knew I would close my eyes, lick my lips with slow, deliberate intent, and say no. Kyle saw a cream puff and got excited. I saw a cream puff and got revenge.

The trend continued as we got older. As many of you know, Kyle had some…problems when it came to education. He also had some…problems when it came to finding, and holding, a job. While this was certainly changing later in his life, he spent many years not doing what was expected of him, much to the frustration of his family. I think that to some extent we were all sort of anticipating the day he would make good on a promise he made to me half-joking in high school: he would give me a few years to get settled, wait till I popped out a couple of kids, then move in with me and babysit in return for room and board.

Noting Kyle’s lack of traditional progress, we all waited for the day we would get to shake our fingers and remind him that we told him so. This is why you go to school, after all. This is why you get jobs and keep them. This is why you plan, think ahead, and don’t just do what you want when you want – to avoid finding yourself covered in baby vomit, sleeping on your sister’s couch in your mid thirties.

It was Kyle, though, who showed us in the end. He pursued friends, places, and books with little thought to whether or not they helped him meet some societal benchmark in a timely manner. He listened to music and fell in love and lived in a hostel with San Franciscan transients, all without wondering where he was going to be in five years. In college, he went to class not because the credits would push him that much closer to graduation, but because he actually had something to say about Spanish colonial history. Kyle lived like he ate cream puffs – quickly, joyfully, and without a master plan.

And so, while all this still sucks, there is something lovely, even hopeful, in remembering that a good life is not defined by degrees or income or a solid ten year outline, but by taking daily pleasure in what’s already there in front of you.

I never thought I’d say this, certainly not with a camera rolling, but Kyle, Ky Ky, my beautiful baby brother, you were right. At the end of the day, you are loved by a ridiculous number of people, and not one of us cares that you can’t do Algebra. I’m just so very sorry I never told you this while you were alive.


Robin said...

Warm Hug to You, Miranda -

Kyle will be missed for a lifetime, but especially yours - so please know that we will miss him desperately - for your sake.

And my, my, my - he'd be proud - you are an extraordinary writer.

- Much Love

Robin said... just occurred to me that you may actually know several "Robins"....

So, it's your eldest cousin...smiles.

Uhh...on your mum's side.

cynthia said...

i've just read this again. out loud, to a friend. it is, and you are, remarkable. thank you for your honesty, wit, and wisdom. i wish you and kyle could have had a lifetime.

Oprah said...

Good post.

Anonymous said...

i don't know and i didn't know your brother, but this was beautifully written, and a wonderful homage to someone who must have been a wonerful person. i'm very sorry for your loss.

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