Archive for the ‘Chapter 34’ Category

I first spoke publicly at a Links Convention in 2003 when my mom went out of office as Central Area Director. I wrote a speech that she now has framed in her bedroom called “watching”; it was about how I’d been watching and learning from her my whole life. The following year I was asked to give a “Linkspiration” at the national assembly.A Linkspiration is an inspirational few words, offered just before we enter into official business. And In Detroit, in my role as national chair of the Taking Care of Mind Body and Spirit Committee, I was asked to give Linkspirations during two of the Plenary meetings.

The only problem was that I didn’t have anything inspirational to say…

In years past I’d relied on creative energy. But this year I had no creative energy and Heaven forbid I actually say what was on my mind. I decided to turn to Oprah:

Several weeks prior, and before Kesner died, I’d purchased a sweet little book at the mall : “Words that Matter: A Little Book of Life Lessons.” The book is filled with short little quotes that are, according to Oprah, “every day truths to guide and inspire.” I chose two short and clever quotes from this book to offer as my Linkspirations, and they were received with rave reviews. My short little sound bites were a hit and they masked the fact that I wasn’t sure if I’d ever say anything original or creative again.

Would I ever be able to preach again?

I sat with these questions of fate and future while I was at the Links convention in Detroit. It was hard to find alone time there, but I managed to carve some out. I took long walks along the waterfront promenade in the mornings, and I went to the gym alone a few times. And then there was one afternoon during a plenary meeting when we were listening to a group make a program presentation about Haiti. It made me think of Kesner, Kesner was Haitian American ( he actually called himself AHA! – Afro-Haitian-American). Sitting in the meeting and listening to the presentation about Haiti was too much, I had to get away. I sent a text message to my chaperon, Glitter Pop: “I need to get out of here, I’m going for a walk.

I walked down to the Detroit River Water Front and took a seat next to a homeless man who was taking a nap on a bench. There, in my kelly green Calvin Klein sun dress and dark sunglasses, I sat and thought about Kesner and the book I wanted to write, Thank You Very Sweet.  How would I do this? I wanted to write about Kesner, but I also wanted to write about my family and friends, how amazing they had been during those first days of grief. ‘Maybe this book could be one big thank you note to everyone. To my friends and family, and to Kesner…’ I thought.

Just then I heard the click-click of designer heels and I turned around to see Glitter Pop standing on a landing and waving at me in a pink St John knit. “Kimmy!! You can’t just walk around Detroit by yourself. I know you want to be with Kesner but you need to be safe! You’re gonna get me in trouble!!” That afternoon Glitter Pop and I played hookie. We took the Detroit downtown train around the city, we window shopped and we stopped at a restaurant for shrimp po boys and long island iced teas.

Later that night there was a reception in the suite. Somebody’s very nice, tall and handsome son was there from Chicago and several Links wanted to introduce me to him. Apparently there were several Links that thought this was a good idea, but it was way too soon. I sat for a few minutes alone with this very tall and handsome young man. He said that he couldn’t believe that I didn’t have a boyfriend. I told him: “I do have a boyfriend. He’s dead.”

Clearly that didn’t work out.

Even though I wasn’t ready to move on personally, I had begun to think about moving on professionally. I had a conversation with one of my chapter members, Valerie, one afternoon. She told me that she had been in contact with the managing editor of Essence.com. They were apparently looking for a writer for their religion and spirituality column. She thought it would be a good idea for me. Perfect, I thought. I would pursue this. I began to look forward to it.

I was also ready to entertain thoughts beyond grief. I had a really meaningful talk one morning with Alice Strong Simmons,who was the Central Area Vice Director at the time. She lost her brother forty years prior. “It was so long ago. How do you remember him now?” I asked. I was feeling very insecure about forgetting things about Kesner. “I created a memory book. And whenever I want to be with him, I just go and sit with my book.” A memory book. Brilliant, I thought. If I were to create a memory book for Kesner it would have to be absolutely perfect. I would spend the next few months keeping my eyes open for someone who could help me with this.

The climax of the convention was my mom’s win. The room erupted into applause after she gave her campaign speech and then again when she was elected 15th National President of theLinks Inc.

My mom (far left) and her newly elected executive team at the White Rose Banquet in Detroit

She was brilliant and I was so proud of her. She really was the right choice for our organization. It was all very exciting and it was hard not to get swept up.

On the final afternoon of the convention, my brother – The Man, came to town. He was there to see my mom get sworn into office and it was so good to see him. We stole away for a few moments and went for a walk. On our walk we saw two women dining outside. One woman was my chapter member and the other was a woman that I’d been making a point to snub for the past few months. I’d met her a year prior at a luncheon. She’d invited me to sit at her table then asked me to get up when she thought someone more interesting might want to sit there. The interesting person never showed up and I ended up being invited back to the table, but not without a chip on my shoulder.

I saw her a year later at the white coat ceremony at Howard Dental School when my brother, Gary, graduated. I decided not to speak. Then two weeks later I saw her again at an afternoon reception at the state capital in New Jersey. She made a grand entrance and seemed to know everyone in the room. I began to question whether my snub was really a good idea. Would I just keep seeing this woman? That night I remember coming home and talking with Kesner about her. I was feeling pretty self righteous and was looking for his support but all he said was: “I need you to always take the high road, for us.”

And now here was my opportunity to take the high road. I had to speak. She was sitting with my chapter member who I would never not speak to. It was all too much. As The Man and I  approached the table I broke out into hysterical tears and apologized for how rude I’d been. She and I  made amends and my brother just looked at me like I was nuts. In just a few moments I had gone from happy and talking to hysterical tears in the middle of the street. I felt a little nuts.

That night we celebrated again in the suite.

Celebrating in the suite that night..

At one point I cornered one of my mom’s chapter members who is a doctor. I told her about the vomit on the floor and the high blood pressure medication that Kesner wasn’t taking: “Sounds like he had a heart attack, right?” She suggested that I get the autopsy report, then later suggested to my mom that I get counseling. She was right. I was all over the place. Happy. Sad. Hysterical. I did need counseling.

When the convention was over I cried for 24 hours. The trigger was my menstrual cycle. It came on the last day and it only meant one thing: I wasn’t pregnant. I’d hoped that miraculously Kesner had impregnated me before death. It would be a baby boy and we would name him Kesner. Then me and his mom would move into Kesner’s house and raise the baby together. We would live there together forever and I would never date again. As I tried to explain myself to my mother, while fighting off fits of hysterical tears, there was one thing that became absolutely clear:

“Yes we definitely need to get you in counseling!”

My incredible mom…

© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2011

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