Apr 082006

Today I’m giving away my sister at her wedding.

My first memory of Kimmie is not the most pleasant one. It was during one of the summers I spent with my father in Mississippi after the divorce. I was playing with her, shortly after she’d eaten. I was holding her over my head and jiggling her, and making her giggle her head off.

She puked in my face.

Shoot to about 10 years later. I’m 18, in college at the University of Alabama, and occasionally popping over to visit my Dad and his family in Vicksburg (amusing side note – The first time I went, Dad didn’t recognize me when I walked up…it had been that long since we saw each other). Kim, her sister Karen, and a friend of theirs are boy band obsessed young girls. I distinctly remember a conversation in which I was informed that they would love the Back Street Boys “forever,” despite my insistence that they were nothing but a flash in the pan and would be a shitty footnote in musical history soon.

I was right. Neener neener.

A few years pass. Dad gets a divorce and sobers up. I’m living in Florida again, and he brings my sisters to visit a few times. We do the parks, hang out a bit, and have a good time.

One one of these trips, Kim makes a comment about how unhappy she is with her living situation. I offhandedly tell her that if things are that bad she can come live with me.

A year later, I get a phone call from my Dad. “Did you mean it when you said that?”

At 15 years old, Kim moves down here. She moves into a house with a brother she hardly knows, his wife (who, despite being supportive and never really letting on, wasn’t really all that keen about taking on a teenager), and their very young son. To say she wasn’t exactly thrilled about the situation in the beginning is an understatement. She spent a lot of time on the phone with her friends back home. Remember, friends, at this point in the game there were no unlimited long distance plans. Dad shelled out thousands of dollars in that first year in phone bills alone. She eventually warmed up to us, and Florida. She made new friends. Things were going pretty good. But then the opportunity came around to move back to Mississippi and live with Dad again.

But he died.

At this point a lot of people assumed she would move back up north. She didn’t, though. She stayed with us, and she prospered. She graduated from high school, got a job, and made a life for herself here. She made some bad choices. She made some good ones. All in all, I think the good outweighed the bad. Was the path she took the one that her Father and I wanted her to? No, not really. But that was never our choice to make. We gave her the chance to choose her own way, and she did.

Let’s be frank here for a moment. The environment she left when she came here was not a good one. Most of her friends were heavily into drugs and many of the girls were pregnant before they left high school. When she moved in with me, that was all she knew – and it was what she thought was normal. Several years later, after going back for a visit, she told me that she couldn’t even relate to those people anymore. That she couldn’t contemplate living her life that way.

I’m proud of that. If I did nothing else for Kim, I gave her a chance at something better for herself. She has not ended up working a dead end job, burying her pain and misery in drugs, and gambling all of her money away in the false belief that it’s the only way she’s going to ever have a better life. She believes in herself. She has hopes. She has dreams. She has a family, now. She has a beautiful daughter, a step-daughter who calls her “Mom,” and another on the way. She has a picked a good man to be her husband. A man with an easy smile and a kind heart. And hey, a bald guy with a goatee. You can’t go wrong there, can you? They’ll have their ups and downs, assuredly, and they both have a lot of growing up to do…But, as our Father liked to say, they’re “good people.” As long as you’re working from that foundation, you’ve got a great start.

I only wish Dad was going to be here today. While I’m giving her away, and playing the role of the Father of the Bride, it’s not my place. I just hope I do him justice in my representation of him.

There is more I could say here. There’s always more, isn’t there? It’s not all pretty, though, and today isn’t a day for that kind of rant. Maybe some other time, when this is all said and done and we can take a collective breath and gather our thoughts properly.

My comments, as such, will be limited to this – My sisterly pride is not limited to Kim today. I am proud of my youngest sister, Karen, for beating the odds and turning a teenage pregnancy into a solid marriage with two beautiful children. I am, as always, proud to be related to my older sister Lu. Sometimes I wonder how she has anything left for herself, considering how much she does for everyone around her. She’s been there for Kim through this whole wedding process, and she doesn’t even have an official “job” at the wedding. Hell, she didn’t even get to go to the rehearsal dinner – She was watching the babies so that everyone else could. For that matter, while I’m throwing out mad props, our Mom has been busting her ass for Kim to make sure she has the best wedding she could possibly have. And Mom isn’t even related to her, at all. I don’t know what Kim has planned to thank the two of them, but I can only hope it’s something special. They definitely deserve it.

I’ve got a wonderful family. I really, really do.

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