Thursday, August 7, 2008

From Wendy (Layton) Jett

I wasn't there when he died; I wasn't there to go to his funeral. I didn't even know about it until weeks later. And to this day I have harbored guilt that I wasn't there for my friend Kristin during such a tragic time. The phone call came from Kristin personally while I was just into the first semester of my freshman year at U of D. I sat on the top bunk of the bed in my cramped dorm room and listened to her tell me about Ken's passing. I was in shock; it didn't seem possible. I can remember the words she spoke, of how many people came to his funeral, to grieve the life of this person so adored by everyone. I have wondered for a long time if Kristin resented me for not being there, for not knowing, for not doing more afterward.

She doesn't know that I grieved for Ken.

Ken was Kristin's older brother to me. I spent many hours at the Spengler home on Kesselring Avenue, living just up the street on Alder Road myself, and Ken was always in and out with his friends. He would make a teasing remark, like brothers do, and be on his way. Sometimes as Kristin and I would head up to her room I could hear Ken and his friends in his room down the hall, door closed and KISS records blasting away. Kristin would try and drown it out with our love for Shaun Cassidy or Journey on her own record player.

But what I will remember most about Ken was his voice and his laugh. I can still hear it now.

One afternoon, Kristin and I were in the den watching tv, on the Spengler's tv that you had to use pliers to turn the channel because the knob was missing. Ken was on the couch behind us. Whether we were watching an MTV video or Ken just wanted to annoy us, I don't quite recall, but he began to sing "Roxanne" by the loudly as he possibly could. The repeated lines of "ROOOOOXANNE, you don't have to turn on the red light" was screeched sarcastically. And it only became more and more obnoxious as Kristin would tell him to stop. Then, Ken would laugh. A bellowing laugh that only Ken could make, loud and forced, like the song he was butchering for our benefit. As Kristin would scream his name, he would just relax, stretching himself across the couch as if he had no intention of stopping this personal entertainment.

When I hear that song on the radio, Kristin doesn't know this, but I cry.

And if I am totally alone, I scream the words to the song loudly enough that maybe Ken can hear me in heaven.

We miss you, Ken. I am sorry that I wasn't there to say goodbye.

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