k – kade
Could it be any other word? My classmates knew his name. Some even said they felt as if they knew him a little.
k – kade
Could it be any other word? My classmates knew his name. Some even said they felt as if they knew him a little.
He loved to read. With his love of dinosaurs, he got his hands on the book, Jurassic Park in grade school and read it several times over the years. As a teenager he read the bible more than once, and any book he could get his hands on, the bigger the better. My mom bought him War and Peace to stave off his reading appetite.
I love to ski and his dad grew up on skis. Naturally we took Kade when he was little, two or three. I remember the handle on the back of his harness to lift him onto the chairlift. We taught him to make “pizza” and “French fry” shapes with his tiny skis…but he wanted to point them straight down.
Kade was a skateboarder. Just this week Asher has been playing around the house with one of Kade’s skateboards. Today I said, “I wish Kade was around to teach you how to ride that.” Asher said, “I do, too.”
He had a propensity for music. He picked up instruments relatively easily. And listening to his favorite artists, as with many teenagers, was a big part of his life.
Many an hour was spent on his bass guitar, printing bass tabs from online and learning riffs and songs. He idolized Les Claypool, the bass guitar player from Primus. He loved Primus so much, that it could have been my P-word.
Kade loved animals. From his cats and dogs to…the more exotic the better. He was an animal fact and animal classification freak. I called him from a work picnic scavenger hunt at the zoo when my team needed help answering the different questions about the animals. I don’t remember if my team won but I do remember he knew everything we threw at him.
Kade’s friends meant the absolute world to him.
He was a whitewater rafting guide the summer that he died. He had graduated from his training and was a licensed guide. His rafting friends tell me he was a natural. I never got to ride the rapids with him as my guide. That would have been an amazingly proud experience.
Kade ate baby octopuses.
Did that get your attention? At one of our neighborhood grocery stores (the King Soopers on County Line and Holly–I didn’t see them at their other locations), were whole baby octopuses in the seafood case. For Kade, an irresistible sight to behold. I believe they were pickled and they were bright red. He always wanted one. I always got him one.
“I’ll have one baby octopus, please.”
“Mom, can I eat it right now, pleeeease?”
I never had a desire to try one, myself; no thank you. I love sushi but pushed any octopus pieces that came across our table Kade’s direction. It’s a chewy, rubbery, texture thing. That Kade really enjoyed, evidently.
Was there any question of what I would write about for the letter K?
Kade. Today I’ll write about his name. To quote the movie Forrest Gump, “The most beautiful name in the whole wide world.”
I learned that some bereaved moms, to hear their child’s name, tell their barista the name of their child. That way when their drink is ready they can hear the music of his or her name called. I haven’t tried that yet, but I think I might to see how it goes…
But seriously…Kade is the best name ever. It’s short, monosyllabic, unique (especially in 1993), and strong. It’s my favorite name.
We found it in a baby name book. We narrowed it down to Kade and Calvin for a boy. Kade’s dad had a huge Calvin and Hobbes collection—as did Kade later. Because we (Jenny and Jon) both grew up with common names, we wanted an uncommon one for our baby. And because our last name was Riefenberg we wanted short and sweet.
EXCEPT if he would have been a girl. The girl names we picked out were Savannah and Sierra. I couldn’t resist those ultra-feminine, romantic-sounding names, even if Savannah Riefenberg would have been a doozy to write.
We decided on Kade on the way to the hospital. I was in labor and the conversation went something like this:
Me: Do we have the guts to go with that one we like, “Kade?;” that Gaelic one that means Of the wetlands? Or is “Kade” too weird?
Jon: Yeah, let’s go with it. It’s different but let’s do it.
His middle name took us a couple more days to decide. When Jon’s mom was trying name combinations out loud in the hospital, we liked the sound of Kade with her maiden name.
Kade Tyson it was.
I know of two people named after Kade. Both girls.
A girlfriend of mine whose daughter was Kade’s first little best friend, loved the name Kade (and loved the boy Kade). She said if she had a boy she would name him Kade. Well, five girls later…she named a daughter Kadie. That’s counts, right?
And just a few weeks ago, Kade’s friend, Tyler, and his girlfriend named their baby Olivia Kadence. Choosing a name is so precious and personal. I love that they honored Tyler’s buddy gone too soon in this way.
I do hope that there are more odes to Kade, that remember him and carry on his lively spirit.
Plus of course…it is the most beautiful name in the whole wide world.
One of the first h-words that came to my mind concerning Kade was…ham.
Kade was nothing if not a ham. As a little kid he loved making his friends…and adults…laugh. As an older kid he loved to make his friends…and adults…laugh.
He was really good at imitating people. Back when Maroon 5 was first big I played their CD in my car all the time. (I just looked up that album. It released in 2002 so Kade would have been nine or ten). Kade had Adam Levine’s nasally high notes down perfectly. Evidently he had his bus driver down pretty well, too. His friends loved it.
One of Kade’s best friends, Patrick’s, mom used to say that Kade would host the Tonight Show one day. Speaking of Patrick’s mom, Kade did a pretty good impression of her heavy New York accent. Of course I wasn’t lucky enough to escape Kade’s impersonations. But somehow his impression of me wasn’t as funny…
Noises. He made a lot of crazy random noises. Here’s one. It’s not so much him being a ham, but has to do with imitating. Kade could whistle a particular bird call perfectly. I’m sure you’ve heard the bird. It goes something like, weeee-hoooo (does anyone know what bird that is?). They seem to be emerging for spring now because I’ve heard them a lot lately. When Kade was at Synergy he made people think there was a bird in the house. When he told me that it cracked me up.
Of course being a ham and his antics got him in heaps of trouble at school. More trouble than you can imagine. If only we could have channeled that haminess. I always strongly encouraged drama but he never wanted to pursue it.
I miss Kade’s humor, sarcasm, and laugh. I hope I never forget his laugh.
Tonight I’m writing about games.
When Kade was at Synergy, a residential adolescent treatment center for close to a year, we got to visit him on Sundays. We could stay as long as we wanted during visiting time. So naturally we got there just about when it started and stayed until it was about over. We spent two or three straight hours with him.
We played games. We brought games from home, and played some of the well-worn games that were there. We played Scrabble, Scattegories, Balderdash, and Cranium. One of the times we played Scrabble he saved up his tiles for one long word. He kept trading them in until he got the word that emptied his tray, and left us in his Scrabble dust.
We played different card games. Evidently the kids played a lot of Hearts there because that was Kade’s game of choice. He was adept at shuffling the deck and put his flair into it.
We brought him lunch. Tokyo Joe’s, subs from a NY sub shop, and Noodles and Co. were favorites. I remember bringing tiny gourmet ice creams for us. I think Haagen Dazs brand single serves. I got so excited when I saw the little containers at the store, and that they had green tea-flavored. Kade used to like green tea mochi ice cream from Japanese restaurants. Brian got vanilla, Kade got green tea, and I either got green tea or coffee.
We all hated that he was at Synergy. It wasn’t a pleasant place. But perhaps it wasn’t bad in every way. We each looked forward to our visits. We appreciated the limited time we got to spend together.
Oh what I wouldn’t give for a game of Scrabble with that boy.
I explained the blogging A-Z Challenge, what a blog is in general, and my blog to my five-and-a-half-year-old in the simplest terms possible today. I asked him what my letter “f” word should be. He said, “fish.” So here goes.
Kade was a fisherman. His dad lived in a mountain town and there literally was a babbling brook in their back yard. When I’ve been up there I’ve seen lawn chairs set up creek-side. He was probably in his glory to be able to walk a few paces and go fishing all the weekends he spent up there.
My favorite fishing story of Kade is when he was ten or eleven and my step-dad (and I believe my brother) took him ice fishing in Michigan.
Have you ever seen a pike? They’re ug-ly. Long scary snout-looking head filled with sharp teeth. No wonder Kade wanted to catch one.
Here is how I remember it (I’m sure Marv and Andy have a better recollection because they were actually there):
Kade talked and talked about how he was going to catch a pike. Marv prepared him that you don’t always get any fish, much less the type you want to catch. But the glorious moment arrived, and Kade caught and reeled in…a pike! He hollered, “I caught a pike! I caught a pike!”
Later he casually sauntered around the other fishing holes to strike up conversation. He tried to look and sound nonchalant.
“Having any luck? I caught a pike.”
“I know. I heard.”
He helped Marv clean it (probably totally enamored with that process), Grandma fried it up, and we all had a little piece of Kade’s pike with breakfast.
I learned about the Blogging From A to Z Challenge from A.J., a girl in my writer’s group. Today, April first, the project of blogging each day in the month of April (except Sundays), for each letter of the alphabet, begins!
The letter A. Well, the first “A” word that comes to mind is the name of my youngest son, Asher. He is five years old and at kindergarten this morning. Today’s post will be about my little Asher…and will touch on how his big brother’s death has…or hasn’t…affected him.
Asher was only 22 months old when Kade died. When I wrote about the day that Kade died, I noted that Toddler Asher was…quiet…during all of the chaotic goings-on. I won’t write about that day at length here, but he was calm, as if he knew something grave and life-changing was happening. He didn’t make a fuss, as if the Older Wiser Asher within was telling Toddler Asher that this was bigger than a tantrum. This was bigger than fear. This was bigger than chaos and hyperventilating and oxygen masks and strangers taking care of him at the pool because mama couldn’t right then.
I am a big proponent of being open about grief. Of letting the bygone days of shame and secrecy associated with loss, be way bygone. The societal tides are changing, and I’ve had great mentors to learn from. I agree with the thinking that “being strong” for the children is a bunch of bunk, and if my kid sees me cry because I miss my other kid who died, it’s not going to harm him. He’s going to witness true human emotions (not all of them all of the time of course), and furthermore learn that tears give way to laughter, laughter gives way to frustration, frustration gives way to sadness, and on and on and on. Emotions ebb and flow and what favor am I paying Asher if I paste on a cheery smile 24 hours a day? Let’s just say my toddler/preschooler and I have spent some afternoons on the couch with Cheetos, tissues, and TV. And conversely, we’ve spent some afternoons at the museum learning about dinosaurs. Life, and mood, is rich and varied.
I’ve learned that as Asher grows and changes developmentally, his dealing with his brother’s death…a large impactful loss in his immediate family…will affect him differently. Today, my very verbal five-and-a-half-year-old is hot and cold on the topic of “Big brother Kade.” Some days he mentions his big brother with affection. Other times he simply wants to leave him out of what we are doing. A succinct “No” was the answer to my question, “Shall we include Kade when we make up nicknames for our family for Dr. Seuss week at school?” OK, then.
But a couple weeks later when I started drawing on the sand on our Mexico vacation, Asher said, “Let’s write Kade’s name.” Then he nestled the smooth rock and brain coral he had collected inside the heart.
Our similarity in circumstances, and in proximity, brought us together over a year ago. My friend, Paula Stephens, asked me to contribute a Healing Note for her blog. Thank you, Paula! And thank you for your friendship, energy, authenticity, and all the healing goodness you provide so many broken hearts through Crazy Good Grief.
Oh my, 23. Kade would be 23.
I had an unusually weepy build-up to his birthday the last two weeks.
I’m blaming Adele.
The soundtrack in my head this birthday season has been Adele’s “When we were Young.” It’s not only the words, which take me to the time of it being “Kade and me,” raising Kade when we were both young, but the haunting, wistful melody.
You look like a movie
You sound like a song
My God, this reminds me
Of when we were young
One morning after volunteering at Asher’s school, it was on the radio. I’m not a huge Adele fan but the lyrics sucked me in.
Let me photograph you in this light
In case it is the last time
That we might be exactly like we were
Before we realized…
Right after I got home, my mom called. I took deep breaths to answer and pretend I was OK. When my “Hello” was a little off, I knew she would know. She was calling because the lead-up to Kade’s birthday was hard for her, too.
We had a really great writer’s group meeting last week. We’re in an exciting phase of reviewing members’ completed manuscripts. It was an invigorating meeting.
Didn’t matter. On my way home, on came the song and the pain washed over me with the chorus:
When we were young
when we were young
when we were young
That was the second time I called Adele a bitch. But I can’t hate anything for long that brings me closer to Kade, even the hard stuff. And since I’m not generally a crier, I took a strange bit of comfort that my tears could be evoked like that. Does that even make any sense?
Volunteering at Dumb Friends League Buddy Center yesterday was nice. Beau and Dylan came. It was wonderful to get to catch up with those two great kids. Beau is Kade’s best friend. Their bond is as solid and bold as the “Brothers Forever” on Beau’s forearm. I loved his memories of camping. He had some great stories about Kade. And with some stories, I wanted to plug my ears and go Lalalalala!
And Dylan, he’s an all-around likable kid. I got some insight into his thoughtful world views when we talked a little politics and current events. And there were laughs to be had when some of our end results were shaped more like bonnets and diapers than blankets.
Aaaand then the song came on in the car on my way home. I keep a regular box of tissue in my car—I scoff at travel size. I thought, Great. I get to take Asher to one of his classmate’s birthday party with puffy eyes now. Brian would have taken him and allowed me time to decompress or finish up errands for Kade’s party, but he was sick with a bad cold.
I really didn’t want to go to a little kid’s birthday party, nestled in between my two events honoring Kade. But I had to suck it up. I knew I could do it for Asher; he was so looking forward to his buddy’s Star Wars party.
The drive and walking in went fine. I can do this. Until one of the kind moms looked me in the (puffy) eyes and asked, “How are you doing?” Tears. Damn it, Adele!
I explained that it was Kade’s birthday weekend, and that it was a hard time of year. I told the small cluster of moms about Kade’s party the next day. They were so sweet. They asked to see a picture of him. They were amazed that his friends still come to his birthday parties. I didn’t feel quite as bruised. Support can come from the darndest places.
First thing I saw on my Facebook newsfeed this morning was, “Today is Kade Tyson Riefenberg’s birthday! Wish him a happy birthday!” with his profile picture surrounded with confetti. I wished that everything about his birthday was surrounded by confetti. And I wondered if moms whose kids’ birthdays are all confetti, know how lucky they are.
We had Kade’s party today. I like that our venue and menu have worked so well in previous years that we don’t have to make many decisions to put it together.
For gift bags I ended up going with:
Things I loved about this weekend: