A Sip With Kip
A view from the outside, looking into the same world
I know what you are thinking. Who the hell is she? And why does she think we want to hear about her experience during Kip's fund raiser? Well, I assure you I would never want to steal anyone's thunder under these circumstances. 400 miles away...I've got my own thunder this way. Just outside of Chicago, my family is just as famous as the Blomquist's are finding they are in Cambridge, Minnesota. Our story has already been published over and over...under just as an unfortunate state of affairs.
John Wesley said, "And what is the life of man, yea, the duration of the earth itself, but a speck of time, if it be compared to the length of eternity!" So true isn't it? Yet, this life is the life that will prove how our afterlives will be lived! As I drove back to Chicago, my eyes welled up as intermittent as the rain on my windshield. Why? I asked myself. Why would you decide to crawl out of the woodwork and subject yourself to more of this kind of pain? I could have just sent my donation with a note and repeated the upcoming popular chant I kept hearing on Saturday night over and over..."Never give up!" I could have protected my heart, and just did that.
The thing is, I have a secret. I began this heart wrenching journey Shannon & Kip are just starting to endure 10 years ago. At the age of 27, just as Kip's beloved wife is now, I had my beautiful twin boys diagnosed with PVL. Periventricular Leukomalacia... "Huh? What the heck is that?" We asked a meeting room full doctors 10 years ago.
A battle with surgeries and infertility proved to be successful. God blessed us with a doubly reward for our faith and strength to push forward. Now, some doctor was telling us they were broken? PVL would result in our boys having some sort of Cerebral Palsy. All our dreams were thrown out the window.
Rewind... Edit... Play again.
A year before, I had the world by the balls. Strong. No one could break me, or so I thought. Now, this new mom of twins, was running to the nearest bathroom in the NICU, hyperventilating. I locked the door, and fell to my knees, sobbing like a baby. I looked up to heaven with tears streaming down my face, "No, God! Please! Not my babies!" That moment will be etched in my mind for eternity. For at that moment, I became someone else. Most will never have this kind of moment. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.
In October of 2007, Shannon & Kip had this moment. I was sure of it. That is what pulled me out of my comfort zone to help an old friend...even though I knew it was going to bring pain. The kind of pain that reaches down to the depths of your soul. The last 10 years proved the doctors right. Luke and Zach not only had "some form of Cerebral Palsy", they were severely disabled by CP. In reclined wheelchairs, G-tube fed, non-verbal, cortically blind and with seizure disorders. Our boys got the raw end of the deal when it came to "spectrums of cerebral palsy". I quit my condescending career as a model, and decided to dedicate my life to our children's care. These two little beautiful boys have taught us more in 10 years than anyone could learn in a lifetime. Unconditional love. Wisdom. Compassion. Understanding. A non-judgmental frame of mind. I understand why people do what they do. Good or bad. Being pushed to the limit, over and over, I could understand the "one time" that you just can't take it anymore. I hope to never see that day, and I will never judge anyone who breaks. For, if I didn't have Christ to cling to in my life, I would have indeed broke a long time ago. Though our hands were full, my husband and I had 2 more children, a boy and a girl. Our family continues to be very close and we cherish each day we are fortunate enough to have together. Our support system is wonderful. We are lucky.
Kip and I crossed paths 20 years ago, to become good friends. Then, for no apparent reason, God separated us never to see one another again...until this ill-fated moment in time. I had arrived in Cambridge at the American Legion on March 1st. Nervous as hell, I knew I was in for a night of trying to come up with names for faces I knew 20 years ago. I should have really kept in touch. Now, I was going to pay for my disappearance into the wild blue yonder. Kippy showed up not long after I arrived. Though our faces aged some since we last had a conversation, time stood still. He was still Kippy, and I was still his buddy. We reminisced about our "prom date in 88", working together at the roller rink, and how we kicked ass roller-waltzing. Back then, we didn't want to screw up our fun, so we decided to forgo the awkward romantic expectations prom always brings, and just went together. Yeah. The best prom date ever, and no worries! Just 2 buddies having a great time. Nevertheless... all men were stupid, and all woman were critical bitches. Good thing we had each other! Who else was going to teach me how to turn my car on a slippery road and push me out of the snow banks when I missed? "Get your foot off the brakes!" Kip would yell at me. Good times.
It was no surprise to see the American Legion packed with a line down the street waiting to get in before the event even officially started. I remembered why I fought so hard my last 2 years of high school to graduate in Cambridge, while my parents moved away. This community takes care of their own. I was proud to be a part of it at one time. The night only brought in more and more people. Kip sat in a comfy chair someone had thoughtfully provided for him. Things rolled along easily and successfully. The caring souls that put the event together buzzed around and took care of every little detail. Everything was already thought of, and they all looked like pros. My control-freak personality that had met all these volunteers just 2 months before via email, was now relaxing. I had been through all this several times in the last 10 years. I wanted the best for Kip and his family. I wanted them to take advantage of my "expertise". theBransonProject has taken in over a quarter million dollars in the last 5 years. I would laugh while Dana would relay messages from others who only knew me by the computer. "Now, who is this bossy bitch?" I'm sure they all understand now. This event had it's own entity, just as mine all did!
As the night came to an end, I noticed some activity on the dance floor. I looked over and saw Kip, in his chair, centered inside a circle of loved ones. They were all lip-syncing to "Rock Star" loudly, one of Kip's trademark songs. One by one, they broke the circle to enter the middle and give Kip some words of wisdom and end it with an endearing hug and a sobful kiss. Even the guys. "How morbid." I thought...but I couldn't stop watching. I wanted them to stop. I felt anger building up in me. "It's as if they are saying their good-byes. Stop it! He's not gone yet!" Never give up, stay strong, I'm praying for a cure, I love you...I still kept on watching.
"Three Little Birds", by Bob Marley started. Kip's family signature song. I finally figured out that the anger building up in me was PAIN. Pain that I try to keep stuffed inside my heart when it comes to stuff like this. I knew it was. I was just jealous. Jealous that all these people gathered around Kip were expressing their love and that they had the balls to do just that. They were all opening their hearts and taking in the moment. Not caring about anything...letting others see their weakness. Then it dawned on me. This was not a weakness, this was a sign of strength. They were all sustaining each other. The Holy Spirit was definitely working It's way around that dance floor...and I was going to be a part of it, no matter how much it hurt. You see, the difference here is I've spent ten years being a mother of two boys who need me and depend on me. They can't see my tears. They can't see that their mom hurts. I don't want them to know that their condition scares the hell out of me and that I fear the day of going in their room one morning and finding them dead. I spend my crying time alone. I mostly do it quietly when I go to sleep and say my prayers. This moment on the dance floor was a twist. The other way around. I had to figure out how to deal with it.
The end of the song neared. Kip started to get emotional. Shannon saw it, and immediately broke her part of the circle to comfort him. They held each other's hands and sung to one another. I could see the closeness and I could see they were in their own world at that moment. Kip's eye's welled up and his body shook trying to hold back his sobs. Shannon squeezed tighter and put a smile on her face, not losing eye contact. Her eyes had welled up, but she would be damned to let a tear fall at that moment. The communication between them was obvious. Kip was not crying for himself. He's secure in his fate, and he's at peace with his life. He was crying for his loved ones. He was overwhelmed with the realization that he was causing pain for a surprisingly number of people that showed up that night...and that's why Shannon kept that smile on her face. She was telling him "Your love now, is worth the pain later."
A moment of prayer followed the song. And then the toast. Kip with his usual anecdotal rhyme, raised his glass and said, "Take a Sip with Kip!" I dried my eyes and gave a chuckle. Same ol' Kip.
As I said my good-byes to everyone, a sigh of relief overcame me. The night was a huge success, and I felt honored and proud that I was fortunate enough to be able to contribute in my situation, however small it was. I gave Kip a hug and invited his family to Chicago. As I was walking out, there was Shannon. I didn't want to leave her. I just wanted to wrap my arms around her like a big sister, and tell her that lie that we kept hearing over and over, "Everything's gonna be all right." Why we kept saying it, I don't know because, everything's not all right. The road ahead is going to get bumpier. She is going to be raked through the coals. Since we almost lost our boys in the NICU, I have learned to say what's on my mind. Sometimes it may come off like sandpaper, but others always know where they stand with me, and know they can always get the truth. I'm going to tell you the truth. Life is too short to beat around the bush. Shannon is going to need non-stop support. She's going to need companionship on those bad nights. She's not going to want to be alone at times. Sometimes, she will want to be alone. She'll want to get away, but she won't. She'll have an unexplainable and undeserving guilt laid on her shoulders...and so will Kip. It will put strain on their relationship. Be there for them. Family...never act as though coming to their house is work. Friends...don't avoid them because you are uncomfortable and don't know what to say. Keep the load light on the shoulders. I'm speaking this truth from experience. This is what happens, though no loved ones would ever want to admit it. It just happens.
Shannon, we only just met, but I love you already. I know I'm 400 miles away, but I'm here for you in whatever way I can be. Sometimes just hearing, "yeah, I felt that too." helps. Keep your friends and family close to you, tell them how you feel. Even when you are angry. If you need more from them, they will want to know. Don't push them away.
Kip, for 2 people who always tried to avoid drama, I laugh at our irony...I look forward to getting to know your family better over the years and spending more time together. I also look forward to rekindle what we once had together. Twitchy muscles or not buddy, I'll take you anyway I can get you. I love you.
With much love and trust in God,
Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved.
Revised: September 16, 2009