Of course, apple pie is not squished or even squishy, cows are not purple and one does not make three-bean salad apart from opening the ‘cans’, draining the liquid and dumping the contents into a serving bowl. According to my cousin however, this is not “making” a salad as I liked to proudly proclaim during holiday family feasts “I made the three-bean salad!’. And each year, each meal, my cousin would remind me that opening a can is not making a salad. But I knew if I said I made it – he would eat it and tell me how good it was regardless of the semantics of it all.
None of that really matters. These are all random memories. Memories of my relationship with my twin cousin. Yes, I know there is no such thing as a twin cousin especially when born 2 days and 7 years apart. But we are both Geminis so by default we are twins.Nothing here will make much sense except to me and Desmond and to our family who knew our closeness.
What am I going to do without my Desmond? What are we all going to do without our family member, friend, colleague? We are going to remember. We are going to live our lives better because we all carry him in us, with us and through us. The memories do matter and are not so random but meaningful, powerful and beautiful.
As a global nomad (ok, most use the term ‘army brat’), every three years meant a move for our family. My first years of life were spent in Germany where I was born. Our US home base was my grandparent’s house in Englewood NJ. 170 Liberty Road, Englewood NJ 07631. I can easily recite this address in its entirety after all of these years of moving and travel because of the rich fond memories of the home and of our entire family. My great grandmother, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle and their two children, my cousins, are 170 Liberty Road in my mind.
In that house is where my coloring books were staked amongst the great books in the hallway – that is where my cousin found my ‘purple cow’. With his classic side eye, he would tell me how pretty my coloring was and remind me that cows are not purple while congratulating me on my creativity to make the most unique cow in the world “The Purple Cow”.
In that house is where I lived the year my father was in Vietnam. Add to the large ménage my mother, brother and me. My uncles and grandfather would ensure my brother and I had a “father figure” to attend various events. Desmond was away at college but would come home as well during this time. He would accompany me to the school or scouts “father-daughter” events. What 18 or 19-year-old would leave school, drive hours to come home and hang out with their little cousin? I have asked myself that often over the years and even ask it still today. It takes an extraordinary person, young man, African-American young man to care so much for us to leave weekend parties, studying and the freedom of being away from home – to return to be with his little cousins and his aunt. That is the essence of Desmond. The selflessness, the caring, the family-man that I will remember always.
Everyone calls Desmond ‘Desi” except me. I love the name Desmond and honestly, I do not have a nickname. Desmond tried to give me one – spell your name backwards: sirek kcirym. Uhhhmmm….no. ‘Ok then I will just call you ‘k’’. uhhhhmmmm …no. He called my “k” on many occasions none the less and I liked it, but he was and will always be Desmond to me and the only one who can call me “k”.
Desmond, when visiting LA upon my families return from Germany, dared me to stay up all night as we were all squished together in our little room – Desmond, his sister Ellen, my brother Kyl and I – squished like apple pie. During the night, I repeatedly had to tell everyone by blurting it out into the darkness – “we are squished like apple pie!”. There was no end to the teasing by Desmond the next day – “apple pie is not squished or squishy but gotta admit it is good and we were definitely squished’. It’s such an odd memory to hold – I think I hold it because to be squished like apple pie is to be close to the people we love whether in proximity and or from afar .
There are so many memories – the visits to Philadelphia so we could be together with my dad for thanksgiving or Christmas. Meeting me at Macy’s Parade Balloon Fest in Jersey just to give me a hug and see his west coast cousin.
Our love for Monty Python and the ease in which we could drop a quote from our favorite movies like a secret language. Our sarcasm which could cut to the quick or humorously defuse any sticky situation. Our love of cars and adventures in them – learning to drive a stick shift; the tale of the Saab Sonnet3 breakdown in what we feared was KKK country and our tow home (and explanation to my mother why we were out all night. My mom though said she knew I was ok because I was with Desmond), my first driving adventure in NY city before I even knew how to drive. And how many amusement parks and roller coasters have we ridden? How many episodes of Star Trek original series have we watched over and over and over again? Don’t even get me started on disco dancing—on roller skates!! And how he recognized the geek in me? Desmond hearing me talk about the DARPA challenge at a dinner with my parents leaned over and said to them – “look at her beaming, she is a total geek!” and he said it with pride. That one moment gave me permission to let my inner geek out and let my geek flag fly! And as the youngest in the extended family, teaching me how to stop the clock at 5 minutes before 6 am so that our new four-year-old cousin Jason would have to wait until the little hand on the clock hit the 12 before he could wake either of us up to play. (‘wait did you do that to me when I was little’, I asked and of course Desmond answered “yes”! now you know how to be an older cousin”. If I haven’t mentioned, yes, we both could be a bit mischievous and now you know where I got that from!
And his daughters – Kristin and Lauren – how he told me he was going to be a father for the first time – and when Lauren was “on the way” we watched Kristin with her lifelike-newborn baby doll proclaim “I am going to be the best big sister”. That moment captured in my artwork as she carried this baby doll by its feet! Now Desmond and I had to give the side-eye to each other as we encouraged Kristin to be exactly what she is today “the best big sister”.
We always spoke by phone – if he had not heard from me I would get a call or text. Given we cannot travel at this time I was feeling very sad and missing my trips to NY and looking forward to another trip from Desmond to California. Looking through my photos I reached out and the response was just what I needed – to know that I am missed and that I am loved.
And we always communicated on holidays (dropping hints at our next adventure). Halloween, Saturday October 31, 2020 7:33 pm PT-
On Monday November 2nd I got into a gnarly fender bender and I started a new job. On Tuesday, I received a phone call that Desmond had passed away on Monday November 2nd.
“But I just spoke to him” I screamed to my father. Through our tears, our pain our anguish at losing to me what is like a brother and to my father what is like a son – we had to, from afar and through the airwaves of a phone call, hold tight to each other, our family our memories. And our love.
We are going to remember. We are going to live our lives better because we all carry him in us, with us and through us. The memories do matter and are not so random but meaningful, powerful and beautiful. Thank you Desmond for teaching me to be a good friend, a loving family member, a leader, a thinker, a doer, and compassionate caring human being. Desmond, I love you so much and I will miss you. We are forever twin cousins squished like apple pie.
Rest in Power. Rest in Peace.
Say hello to my mom