We last saw each other when I was twelve. I’d spent my final summer in Upper Michigan hanging out with my best friend Kim and her family, staying the night at her house and watching episodes of Roseanne (because Kimmy’s mother was a huge fan of her stand-up comedy), riding our bikes up to the Shoppette with aluminum cans and trading them in for a dime a piece. That’s how we made money. That’s how we could afford all those boxes of Lemonhead candies and sticks of Jolly Ranchers.
Kim was also the one I ran to with my little brother when my parents had to give our dog away. Our new house in Maryland wouldn’t allow pets so my folks found a nice woman, newly divorced with two little kids, who owned a farm in Negaunee. That’s where Brownie spent her last years. But that day, when Brown Dog hopped into the backseat of that woman’s car and was taken away from me, I stood in Kimmy’s yard and cried. My best friend and her brother, Chuck, hugged me and tried to make me laugh while my baby brother rode his little bike around their yard, oblivious to the sadness our family was about to feel.
For a few years after my move, Kim and I kept in touch with each other. By then I was in Maryland and her family had moved to Pulaski, Tennessee. We shared letters, cards, school pictures, and the occasional phone call. The last time I heard her voice she was telling me about what it was like living in the place her parents grew up and meeting people only to discover later that they were related. “Can you believe I actually almost went out on a date with my cousin!?!” We had such a laugh over that one.
It’s been about 18 years since I’ve had any contact with her. I searched and searched for her in every way possible. MySpace and Facebook were the most recent opportunities I had to find Kim or Chuck. My success rate for online searches is pretty high, thanks to my knack for remembering what kind of license plates were on my friends’ parents’ cars or where their Grandma lived (as a military kid, you learn how to keep that kind of stuff around to clutter your brain) because that’s probably a good place to start. But I never had any hits on Kim or her brother. Even her mother’s name brings up over 700,000 hits and it’s not a very common name, at least I didn’t think it was.
So I gave up.
On Wednesday this week, I saw him on my side bar – one of my “suggested friends” because, as Facebook claims, I may know this person. And, hot damn – I DO KNOW THIS PERSON! There was Kimmy’s brother right on my computer screen, Chuck’s profile picture showing him throwing his head back with a bottle of something going down his throat. Yep, I thought, it’s been nearly twenty years since I’ve seen him, but that’s him. That’s totally him.
I sent Chuck a Facebook message and asked if he remembered me and, just in case he didn’t, I threw in a sprinkling of Remember THIS and Remember THAT and How’s Kim!?!?! I was so excited to have finally connected with someone who could get me back in touch with Kim. I must have checked for Facebook messages every hour. When I finally got a response, all it said was Call me and he’d sent his phone number. And I knew right away that I didn’t want to call him. Because I didn’t want to hear him say it.
At nine o’clock this morning I started working up the nerve to dial Chuck’s number. Three hours later, I did it and left a voicemail. He called me back within an hour and it was so good to hear his voice. He told me about his time in the Marine Corps and revealed to me how far Kim’s independence had gotten her, which didn’t surprise me as she was always so spunky and fun. We didn’t get a chance to go back through a whole lot of memories because he was at work and time was limited, but he did share with me what I wanted to know and didn’t want to know but needed to hear. And, again, I cried to him.
There is no point looking for Kim anymore. She’s been gone for nearly 6 years. And the next time I come across her school pictures in my photo box, I will smile and know one thing…
She’s not lost anymore.