I never actually saw her myself, but Kirk swore up and down that his vision was real. About a year before he died I asked about her again and he held tight to the same story he always told. It was right after our parents divorced (on the 4th of July no less) and Kirk had been crying and praying in bed with the door cracked. He was about ten or so at the time, and although I vaguely remember the night our father left, Kirk was deeply affected. After praying, he lifted up his head, opened his eyes and looked through the doorway to see a woman draped in a blue cloak walking down the hallway. She stopped at his room, smiled, and then proceeded to walk towards my room at the end of the hallway. If I remember correctly, he also said that she was holding an open book in her hands.
Kirk had always been a deeply spiritual person. Despite all of his problems, he always turned to God to save him and to relieve his pain. Once, as a child (no older than six or seven), he was cornered by a vicious dog that threatened to tear him to pieces. Alone and scared to death, he closed his eyes, clutched his bicycle, and prayed for God to somehow intervene. The metal horn on his handlebars had been broken for quite some time, but as he squeezed the rubber bulb, a familiar honking sound escaped through the flared bell scaring the dog away. That was Kirk’s life. No matter how much trouble he got himself into, prayer was always his solution. After our parents divorced, he prayed for God to give him a sign that he was still there and that he still cared. That was the same night he saw the lady in the blue cloak.
Divorce is never pleasant. No matter how clean the split or how civilized the two parties behave, the ending of a marriage takes its toll on everyone involved–especially children. My parents’ divorce was neither clean nor civilized, but I don’t remember them fighting too much, I just remember all the pain it left behind. Dad left mom for a younger woman whom he had met at the real estate office. Although he used to wear a cross around his neck and even taught Sunday school a couple of times, he somehow lost his way and eventually declared himself an atheist. Mom spent most evenings curled up in a ball sobbing in her closet, but for the most part, she held it together for us kids. I do remember one incident though when I walked out into the garage to find her screaming and throwing paint cans at the wall. I stood transfixed by the chaotic rainbow of colors splattered across the white sheetrock until she yelled for me to, “Go back inside, baby!” Divorce is never pleasant, but through it all, Kirk and I always had each other.
He loved to tell the Superman story. I hate it. Like a family heirloom passed down from generation to generation, it’s something I will never live down. I was about seven at the time and Kirk was about ten. In typical big brother fashion, he somehow convinced me that I could fly like Superman, I just had to believe – and take a running jump. He assured me that he had done it many times before, but for some reason failed to provide any sort of proof. So, I took a running start, leapt into the air, and plowed face first into the textured wall. Yeah. You better believe I tattled on him — Mom, Kirk told me I could fly like Superman – but he was so convincing! Tears of laughter filled his eyes every time he retold the story, and of course, his version was always much more dynamic than mine.
On the night my dad knelt down at my mother’s feet and told her he was leaving, Kirk and I were in the front yard popping off fireworks. I remember wondering why mom and dad weren’t outside with us, but Kirk kept telling me not to worry and to stay outside with him. Between dodging whistling chasers and misguided roman candles, I managed to step bare-footed on a lit punk. Despite Kirk’s protest, I ran inside to tell mom what had happened and found her seated on the couch, her head in her hands, and dad on his knees beside her. My hurt foot no longer seemed important. “Go back outside, baby,” she said in a muffled voice. Independence Day rang true that night. When mom asked him why, why he would leave his family, why he would turn his back on God, dad simply replied that he just didn’t believe anymore, that he couldn’t feel it in his heart, but that, “maybe one of the kiddos will change my mind someday.”