Saturday, February 16, 2008

From Missy (Barlett) Ames

As our moms tell it, I first met Kristin when we were 3 months old (I’m 3 days older than Kristin). Our respective mothers were pushing us in strollers around Mayfair when they first ran into each other. So basically, I have known Kristin and Ken since I was old enough to know anyone!

Growing up in Mayfair was idyllic ~ Big Wheel races, bike ramps, swingsets, football and baseball, playing kick the can, cowboys and Indians and ghost in the graveyard. There were snow forts and sledding and snowball fights across Kesselring Avenue. What a great neighborhood! We grew up together, the backyard neighbors and across-the-street neighbors (Scotts, Bethels, Barletts, Welches, Spenglers and Ladishes). Their parents were our surrogate parents; their siblings, our siblings. We “let” others in of course; the whole Crossgates and Mayfair was our playground, with friends from all over it .When I think back to all the games we played, I picture Ken there, laughing and being a leader amongst us. There’s no way to remember my childhood without remembering the Mayfair crew.

In junior high and high school we ran in different circles, branching out into other friendships, but we always shared that common beginning and, I believe, a special affection for each other. Kristin and I continued to be “best friends” despite hardly ever hanging out! We had our different directions and different groups, but we always kept in touch.

The summer after I graduated from high school I shared a beach house in Rehoboth with some friends. I was walking down Wilmington Avenue from the boardwalk heading back to my house when I hear a booming, friendly voice say “Missy?” Lo and behold it was Ken! He was working at Irish Eyes and had just happened to step outside as I was strolling by. Funny that it was close to the end of the summer and he worked a block from my house, but we had never run into each other! What a small world! We talked for a while and got caught up. Ken and I ended up hanging out a few times. (I’m not sure I ever told you this, Kristin, but )….One night while we were hanging out…Ken and I kissed. It was a really nice kiss, but we both agreed that it was a little weird as well! Since Kristin was practically my sister, that made Ken practically my brother! No hard feelings; we hung out another time or two, but it was time for the summer to end and for Ken to head back to Swarthmore and me to start at U of D.

I remember going home for Caesar Rodney’s Homecoming weekend that year. Did the whole parade and game thing, running into old friends. The biggest thing that happened to me that weekend though, was that I was in a car accident – rear ended by some guy in front of Delaware State.

Or at least I thought that was the biggest thing. Little did I know the pain of sore ribs, a concussion and whiplash would be dwarfed by the mental anguish and heartbreak I felt when I heard the news.

Mom called me that Monday at school to tell me about Ken. How could someone so alive, who lived life to the fullest, not be? My heart ached for him, for what he must have been going through. The hell his parents must be in, dealing with the death of a child. And especially for Kristin. My oldest friend. Ken’s little sister. She’d always looked up to him and now he was gone. What do you say to that? How do you even begin?

Mrs. Bethel drove up to U of D to pick up Steve and me, to bring us home for Ken’s funeral. That was one of the quietest car rides I’d ever experienced, everyone lost in their thoughts and memories. The funeral was surreal. There were literally busloads of people there – all people who loved Ken in their own way – whose lives he had touched. I wish he knew how many people cared so much about him. Maybe it would have made a difference.

I’m saddened by the loss of someone who was such a presence. I’ve also been angry at times, for I feel he robbed people of what their futures should have been and altered them permanently. The anger is fleeting - I think of that winning smile and sense of humor and I know that he wouldn’t have hurt others on purpose. The pain he must have been feeling had to have been overwhelming and then my heart aches for him. I’ve felt his presence on numerous occasions and I know he still shares in this world somehow, watching over, and I know I’ll see him again some day.

When I think about Ken now, I picture the grinning face from birthday party snapshots and childhood pictures – he’s forever young in my mind, like back in the carefree days of Mayfair.

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