The Bridge

I have three first cousins. Kim had more than fifty.

Her family had three kids: Kim, her brother Tommy, and her sister Carolyn.

On her mother’s side, her mom’s siblings had 4, 5, and 6 kids. Fifteen first cousins on her mom’s side.

Her father was one of nine children. Except for her dad, the siblings all had at least five kids.

I think the total of first cousins on both sides is 55.

When we first got married, I had to get used to running into one of Kim’s relatives wherever I went in Cleveland.

Sunday night I stopped by Kim’s uncle Peter and aunt Mary Kay’s house.

We traded stories.

Kim was only nine years younger than Peter. She remembered going to watch him play baseball when he was in high school. She remembered going with Peter and Mary Kay when they first dated. They’d go to Blossom and she’d sit on the blanket on the lawn in front of Peter and Mary Kay. She’d always say, Peter told her “don’t turn around.”

At the funeral, their eldest daughter Annie said that Kim was 24 when she was born.

It explained a lot. To me Kim’s relationship with them felt more like an aunt than a cousin.  Kim had stories of babysitting for Annie’s older brother Mark. Julie, the youngest, was one when Kim and I got married. When Kim’s mom watched Maggie, Julie was often there.

Those kids were Kim’s first cousins but they felt more like Maggie’s first cousins.

Just before I left Sunday night Peter said that Kim was like a bridge between the generations. She had a strong relationship with Peter and Mary Kay and she also had a strong relationship with each one of their children – not because they were their children but because she loved spending time with them.

Kim bridged the generations by being firmly rooted in each.

Last week I asked for stories.

Her cousin on her dad’s side,  Joe, came up to me at the gathering after the funeral on Friday and told me one from one Kim was a little girl.

Kim loved coming to their place and riding horses but she didn’t like holding the reigns. Joey remembered leading her horse around by the reigns so that Kim could ride it.

Joe got a horrible call the night of Kim’s accident. My Kim is Kimberli Diemert, his wife is Kimberly Diemert. Not spelled the same but so easy a mistake to make.

Joe gave me the gift of a second story by posting on this blog. He wrote about playing duck duck goose with Kim and the other cousins and helping her escape remaining the goose for too long.

But Kim was a bridge between generations.

She was also close with Joe’s daughter Bridget.

I worked with Bridget on math a bit when she was at John Carroll. Kim just loved Bridget. We didn’t see her much but it was like no time had passed whenever we did.

Sometimes I would bring Maggie with me. Kim and Maggie and I went to the Art museum courtyard to watch Bridget’s boyfriend (or were they married by then) play a small outdoor concert. We bumped into the family when we stopped to get bread just across from the school where Bridget taught.

A foot in each generation on her mom’s side and her dad’s side.

It’s not that the sides were separated and needed to be joined. But both sides met in Kim’s heart.

Published in: on August 31, 2016 at 11:07 am  Comments (1)  

Thanks Lyle

I sat down to write something for the blog about Kim today.

I just haven’t been able to keep a thought in my head.

I know – some days will be like that – but still.

So while I sit at the keyboard, I’ve been playing music that Kimmy liked and used to play for me.

She was much better at keeping up with new music than I. Sorry, I haven’t kept up with the songs she listens to lately.

So instead I listened to some of the classics.

I started with Warren Zevon. That led me to John Hyatt and then to Lyle Lovett – Kim and I went to see them just last year in Akron. A night with Lyle Lovett and John Hyatt where the two of them alternated playing songs.

The first song on “My Baby Don’t Tolerate” took my breath away.

Tell me this isn’t my Kimmy:

“She’s as cute as a Bug
Short as a minute
She’s a pretty little package with
Everything in it
I’ve said enough
To praise God above
I’m crazy in love
She’s as cute as a Bug”

(Cute as a Bug by Lyle Lovett)

Published in: on August 30, 2016 at 4:05 pm  Comments (2)  

TOD

Still so hard to believe.

Kim’s actual time of death was exactly a week ago … now.

7 am Tuesday, August 23, 2016.

Published in: on August 30, 2016 at 6:00 am  Comments (2)  

Thoughtful

I was sitting at the picnic table in our backyard talking to my sister, Jill.

We were waiting for Kim’s sister Carolyn to join us.

The dog ran back and forth. Someone nearby was mowing their lawn.

It was our neighbor Tom and the lawn he was mowing was mine.

That’s just so thoughtful. He’d mowed the lawn a week earlier while we were in the hospital taking turns visiting with Kim.

Friday morning Kim and I had enjoyed coffee together, chatted about the day, made plans for that night. You know, had one of those typical mornings we’d had so many of.

So many of and yet, as it turned out, not enough of.

By Friday night we were trying to see Kim in this woman being kept alive on a respirator. Maybe by morning she’d recover.

In movies she’d wake up and ask what we were all looking at.

Go ahead Kim, we all thought and prayed, wake up.

And while we were in the hospital my neighbor Tom looked across at our lawn and thought, “well, I don’t want them to have to worry about that while they have so much to deal with.”

So on that first Saturday while we spent the day at the hospital, Tom quietly mowed the lawn without any fuss. I’m not sure he would even have told us. Our neighbor Sue helped in the back yard picking up dog poop while Tom mowed.

That is stunningly thoughtful.

I never would have thought of that.

Kim would have.

I’m not just saying that. She would have.

A while back one of our neighbors called. Her mom was sick and she needed a baby sitter. Was Maggie available?

Unfortunately, Maggie wasn’t around. She was playing soccer or something – I don’t know. The point is that the neighbor asked for Maggie and Maggie wasn’t available.

If it were me on the phone I would have given our neighbor numbers of friends of Maggie who might be able to babysit or maybe I would have called them myself and asked.

Not Kim.

Kim heard something in our neighbor’s voice – she was anxious and needed to find someone fast. Kim said, I’ll watch your sons.

That was Kim. Part of what made her special was that she was willing to do things for others and part of what made her special was that she thought of ways in which she could.

We also were lucky to be surrounded by people who were that thoughtful.

We were at Kim’s aunt and uncle’s house the other night.

We heard lightning and I looked at Dark Sky. It said we had fifteen minutes until this light rain turned to a downpour.

We’d parked a block away. I knew there was no way Kim could leave quickly enough so I told her I would get the car and come back and get her and Maggie.

I hurried to the car and just as I got there the sprinkles turned to heavy rain. I pulled around to the driveway and texted her that I was there. She just had to hurry 25 feet to the car.

Nothing. No reply.

About fifteen minutes later, I saw Kim through the pouring rain through the window to the kitchen. Ahh, she was ready to leave.

Her cousin Christine’s cousin Anthony ran out to his car, opened the trunk, and grabbed an umbrella. He hurried back to the house, soaked.

A moment later he walked Kim to our car under the umbrella protected from the rain.

Thoughtful.

He had thought to help her when he didn’t have to. Such a nice thing to do.

Kim turned to me in the car, barely wet.

“That was really sweet of Anthony,” she said.

“It was,” I agreed.

“Well?” she prompted.

“Well, what?” I asked.

“What are you waiting for? We can go now.”

“I thought I’d wait for Maggie,” I said.

She looked in the back seat. “Oops, I thought she was with us under the umbrella.”

I gestured. Anthony was making a second trip to our car, this time with Maggie under the umbrella.

Different levels of a challenge: first, be willing to do nice things for others. Second, think of more nice things to do for them.

While others stare at a glass trying to decide whether a cup of coffee is half full or half empty, I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by people asking if I’d like a little pie to go with my coffee.

Thoughtful.

Published in: on August 29, 2016 at 3:30 pm  Comments (4)  

Beta Testing

When the social worker from the hospital called, I didn’t answer the phone.

We get so many telemarketers that when it came up as “Unknown” I ignored it.

Hospitals probably shouldn’t block their numbers.

But when I tapped on my iPhone to see if there was info for the call, a transcript appeared.

In Voicemail there was a label: Transcription Beta and below it

“Hi Daniel my name is Emily and I’m calling from Metro Hospital your wife _____ was in a car accident and she’s here at Metro if you could give me a call my number is” and the number appeared.

I tapped the number and immediately was calling Emily back.

I’d like to give some feedback on the Transcription Beta to Apple:

Thank you.

Without this it might have been hours before I found out about my wife’s accident. Apple always talks about how they focus on how their software and hardware can improve people’s lives – this new feature has already had a positive impact on mine.

I’m guessing it was created so that people can glance at their Apple Watch and see the text of missed phone calls. Whatever motivated this feature, I’m so glad I had the latest betas of iOS and Watch OS installed. The transcription beta told me about Kim’s accident and made it easy for me to follow up.

While we were at the hospital that night waiting outside of the operating room for her surgery to finish I got another call which silently went into voice mail.

I tapped on it.

“Daniel this is _______ the Garfield Heights Police Department this is a reference to an MBA involving Kimberly please give me a call back [phone number and other info…] I’m the reporting officer ____ 24 thank you…”

One small bit of feedback. It would have been helpful to have the name of the officer included. I don’t know if there are legal reasons that the names were dropped but Garfield Heights shares dispatch services with other departments so it would have helped to have the officer’s name. I didn’t realize until later that 24 was his badge number.

That’s a tiny nit – in both cases having the transcription got me the information quickly and made it easy for me to tap on a phone number to respond.

Thank you to the engineers who created this feature.

Published in: on August 28, 2016 at 1:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Be Well

This morning started very early.

Maggie finished packing late last night and went to see friends. She got back just before 4 am because she’d promised to wake me up at 4 to take her to the airport.

I showered, packed the car, and drove her to the airport.

We got there at 530. I pulled over and opened the rear hatch to get her bags. A skycap asked if she needed help and Maggie must have said yes because he tried to take the bags from me.

“I have them,” I said.

“The young lady asked me to help,” he said.

“Thank you, I have them,” I said again.

I rolled her bags to the curb. He followed me. He tried to take them from me again.

“Thank you,” I said, “her mom just died, I’m going to take them through that door and drop them for her.”

“You can’t leave your car there,” he said, “you’ll block up my traffic.”

I headed for the door.

“I’m going to get the police,” he said.

I rolled the bags into the airport lobby and Maggie and I hugged briefly.

True to his word, the sky cap had gone to get the police and two women officers were coming back with him as he gestured to my car.

I got in it and drove away. My car was there for less than two minutes.

I’ve been at that airport waiting to be picked up and watched people leave their cars for 45 minutes. The police barely glanced their way.

I don’t know if I’ll get a ticket in the mail. I don’t think they wrote it. If they do I’ll pay it.

I just don’t understand what was so important to him that he had to make sure I was punished – but it was very important to him. Important enough to forgo potential customers to go get the police.

I was mad at him as I drove away.

I pulled into the cell phone lot to wait until Maggie cleared security.

I suppose he did us a bit of a favor. Maggie and I couldn’t have a long and drawn out goodbye that wouldn’t have been good for either of us.

But what was so important that a father who has just lost his wife can’t carry in bags for a daughter who as just lost her mother?

Maggie gave me the all-clear.

People at security and at bag check in had annoyed her. I reminded her that we’re a little raw right now.

Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten mad at the Sky Cap if Kim was with me.

Actually, I’m sure I wouldn’t.

She would have gotten mad at him for me.

Once Maggie was through security, I met Kevin for breakfast. On my way home I stopped off for a few items at Walgreens.

There was a father and two kids ahead of me in line.

They were taking forever.

They had completed their purchase and the little girl was chatting with the clerk while the little boy said to his father, “I’ve been thinking what I want, it’s only one thing. One thing.”

His father asked him what it was. The boy told him and that father said, “that sounds reasonable.”

The little boy said, “oh, and there’s another thing.”

I laughed. The father smiled at me and said, “you knew that was coming didn’t you.” He nodded at his daughter and said, “then she’ll want two things too.”

So cute.

The clerk asked them what the age difference was in the kids.

The father said “14 months exactly. He’s November 8th and she’s January 8th. All of the grandchildren were born on the eighth of the month.”

“Uh-uh,” said the little girl and mentioned that their cousin’s birthday was the 18th.

“Well,” said the clerk, “they all have an 8 in them.”

This conversation went on way longer than the time it took me to take Maggie’s bag into the airport and back. Way longer.

The father took his items, thanked the clerk, and said goodbye to me.

The clerk turned her attention to me. She rang in my items and read the bar code off my loyalty card on my iPhone.

“Do you have the app,” she asked.

“I think so,” I said.

“Show me,” she said.

So I tapped on the information icon and then opened the app. She gestured and I handed her my phone. She tapped a bit and found the coupon for 25% off my purchase. She scanned the coupon and pointed at how much I’d saved and prompted me for a high five.

I paid with Apple Pay and the guy behind me said, “you have money in your watch?”

She explained to him how Apple Pay works.

“Be well,” she said.

She always says, “be well.” It’s company policy. All of their clerks say, “be well.”

The way she says it is different. I believe that she means it.

She hands me my bag.

Our transaction took way longer than it took me to take Maggie’s bags into the airport. Way longer.

She smiles as I leave and says, “be well.”

And today I am.

Published in: on August 27, 2016 at 1:39 pm  Comments (2)  

What can we bring you

The receiving line at Kim’s wake was filled with people who knew her in so many different ways.

They wanted to tell me how sorry they were.

I wanted to hear a story about Kim from them.

So many of them shared great moments.

Others I shared moments back. I wanted to show them that I knew about them even though I’d never met them. That Kim had talked about them at home. That they were important enough to her to tell me the stories and that was enough that I remembered.

One woman from work said “I’m Sabrina, I used to buy Girl Scout cookies from Kim.” And I told her that that was so important to Kim that for the last eight years Maggie wasn’t even in Girl Scouts and Kim would go get a form and get the cookies to sell her for a local troop.

Our auto mechanic came and wrapped his arms around me and asked “whose going to give me hugs?” When I would drop my car off at their shop, Kim would come by to pick me up and drive me home and would always get out of her car to give Kenny a big hug. His daughter is buried not far from ours. Kim is moving in to their neighborhood.

Maggie and Elena’s first grade teacher hugged me and said, “If you wanted to see me you could have invited me over for a meal. Not this.” Other teachers and administrators from the Shaker Schools came through not believing this had happened. Not believing Maggie would have to face another huge loss.

The husband of one of her childhood friends told me a story about when they used to go water skiing. Before Kim and I met she and her friends used to go out on the water almost every weekend. (I worry that Kim had way less fun after we met than before, but that’s for another day.)

At the end of the day when they were putting the boat away, they would have to cover it with some sort of a tarp. Rick said that because she was short she was the one that had to do a particular task and that week after week when she was doing that, he would snap the tarp down with her inside.

I can picture her mad but not mad. It’s a gift of a moment that I never got to see that now I can imagine forever. Thank you for these stories.

Kim’s cousins, her childhood friends, family friends, my family, co-workers, former co-workers, and neighbors came through the line for four hours. We shared hugs and thoughts and stories.

People offered to bring food.

Really, I love to cook and I’m only cooking for one starting Saturday.

What I’d like you to bring are stories. Tell me a story about Kim that I don’t know. Tell me a story about Kim that I do know.

Don’t just tell me the cleaned up version to respect her memory. You can tell me about her when she was being sarcastic, angry, irreverent, or playful. I love the ones where she was being sweet, funny, goofy as well.

What can you bring me?

Stories.

I was looking ahead ten years to the time when Kim and I would have been together longer than we’d been apart. I’m optimistic and romantic that way.

But this means that she died and I knew her for less than half her life. That’s a lot of stories people can tell me. Even during the twenty-four years we were together, she did a lot of living when I wasn’t there to see it.

Tell me stories.

Email them to me. Text them to me. Write them down old-school. Tell them to me in person.

Tell me stories about Kimmy.

A lasagna lasts a week.

A story lasts a life time and connects the teller to me through Kim.

 

Published in: on August 26, 2016 at 7:34 am  Comments (11)  

No Answers

I’ve been thinking a lot about Kim’s Eulogy.

For someone who writes and speaks as much as I do, it should be easier than it is.

I’ve been unable to figure out what to say.

I want to say everything. I want you to know Kim the way I knew her. I want to see her and value her as much as I did. I want you to feel her passing as deeply as I do.

You can’t.

You will feel her passing in your own way. A few words said Friday morning can’t change any of that.

I haven’t wondered or asked, “why me?”

There is no answer to that.

My eulogy began with what was essentially, “why Kim?”

There’s no answer to that either.

Kim and I went to a funeral not long after Elena died. When the priest said that the young woman had died because it was God’s will, Kim snorted in disgust. When the priest told us that the woman was in a better place, Kim repeated the sound.

I hope no one offers me these words. Kim was a woman of faith and they failed to comfort her. The words certainly won’t comfort me.

I do ask, “why Maggie?”

My brilliant, beautiful daughter.

No. Kim and my brilliant, beautiful daughter.

When I first held her in my arms 19 years ago I knew I would keep her safe and happy and provide for her in every way she needed.

It’s a promise I’ve not been able to keep despite trying every day.

Maggie wanted to be at the hospital by herself when Kim died. She asked a friend to drive her and to stay with her in the waiting room while Maggie went into Kim’s room to wait with her.

A brilliant, beautiful nineteen year old saying goodbye to her mother ten years after losing her sister.

I told Maggie I love her more than anything else in the world.

Until Tuesday it was a tie.

Until ten years ago it was a three way tie.

I do love Maggie more than anything else in the world.

It’s not enough.

I worry about her.

It’s not helpful.

I ask, “why Maggie”.

There’s no answer to that either.

Published in: on August 25, 2016 at 6:59 am  Comments (1)  

No Reason

I woke up crying this morning for no reason.

Then I remembered the reason.

Yesterday I felt like making pizza. When my brother and sister asked what they could bring over, I gave them a list of ingredients.

They brought my parents and they sat in the backyard while I started a fire in our wood-burning oven.

Then I got it.

I understood why I wanted to make pizza.

The oven was a gift from Kim. She was so sick of me looking at it online and then deciding it was too expensive that she bought it for me.

“We have the money,” she said.

“Yes, but we don’t really need it,” I said.

“We’ll both benefit from it. You’ll cook on it, I’ll eat what you cook.”

“I just don’t think I’ll use it enough.”

We had this conversation so many times that she decided to buy it without telling me.

She gave it to me for the first Father’s day after Elena died. She printed out the web page and told me when it would be delivered.”

“Thank you,” I said. And then, because I’m an idiot, “do you think I should cancel it? We don’t really need it.”

“It’s not from me,” she smiled. “It’s from Tara.”

Like a black lab has a credit card and could order off the internet.

“Thank you,” I said again.

She gestured at the dog.

“Sorry,” I said and addressing Tara said, “thanks puppy.”

Tara would die three months later.

I placed another log on the fire yesterday and remembered Tara, Elena, and Kim – the three reasons I had this oven.

“Do you think you should?” Maggie had asked. “Don’t burn them.”

She’s right. The last couple of times I had rushed the process and needed too big a fire because the stones weren’t hot enough and I had burned the sides of the pizza while undercooking the bottom.

I decided to treat the fire like Kim would.

Start it hours ahead and just take your time. Talk to the people around you. Focus on the moment. What’s the rush? Why hurry?

No reason.

So I continued the fire for several hours then brushed the embers to the side and cooked nine small pizzas.

Kimmy – they came out perfectly. You would have liked them.

I know you ate them burnt and said, “What’s the big deal. They aren’t that burnt. They’re fine.”

But they weren’t fine. They were burnt.

Yesterday, they were perfect. Kim, you would have eaten them and tipped your head back to look at me.

“These are good,” you’d say, “Not like the usual. Usually, you burn the hell out of them.”

Published in: on August 24, 2016 at 7:17 am  Comments (5)  

Schedule

KIMBERLI A. DIEMERT, age 55. Beloved wife of 23 years to Daniel Steinberg; dearest mother of Margaret Steinberg and the late Elena Steinberg; loving daughter of Thomas and Geraldine Diemert (nee DePaul); dear sister of Thomas Diemert Jr. (Pati) and Carolyn Perlman (Jeff); cherished aunt of Lydia Perlman and Eli Steinberg; cousin to many. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate contributions in memory of Kim to SmileTrain.org. Funeral Mass, Friday, August 26, 2016 at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church at 11:00 a.m. (PLEASE MEET AT THE CHURCH.) Interment Private, Lake View Cemetery. The family will receive friends at the SCHULTE & MAHON-MURPHY FUNERAL HOME, 5252 MAYFIELD RD., LYNDHURST (BETWEEN RICHMOND AND BRAINARD) THURSDAY 3-7 P.M.

Published in: on August 24, 2016 at 6:58 am  Comments (1)