It’s Kimmie’s birthday!
Kimmie and David have birthdays that are closer together than any of their other siblings. They are only three weeks apart. Gina doesn’t get older for another couple of months, in late November and Ricky is all by himself in distant May.
Under the circumstances, it seemed only fair that seven-year-old David got to choose her name. Well, her first name. Her middle name runs in my family; a string of younger daughters have the middle name Renee. Looking back, I realize that name, which means “rebirth”, is perfect for her.
The fact that Kimmie’s birthday is today was not a matter of choice for her. She was late so I elected to have the doctors induce labor. That, I am suddenly realizing as I sit here typing this, caused all kinds of problems. Since we induced labor, the baby wasn’t really in the right position for labor. Because of the ways in which the doctors tried to deal with that situation, she ended up with a paralyzed arm and I wound up with 22 stitches.
When I got to take my baby home, our pediatrician sent me to a physical therapist, who gave me exercises to do with my new baby to get the mobility going again in her arm. Unfortunately, the exercises she gave me were limited; she gave me no rotator cuff exercises, so there’s a whole range of movements involving turning the arm over that are easy for you and me but that are hard for Kimmie. Like serving a volleyball. Or touching her left shoulder with her left hand. Or styling her hair.
This was to be only the first time that professional incompetence would make Kimmie’s life more difficult than it needed to be.
She was the most delightful child. Possibly I say that because she and I were simply a good fit. I have always found her hilarious because it so happens that we have much the same kind of sense of humor. When she was a toddler, she enjoyed the Let’s-See-If-I-Can-Make-Mam-Chase-Me game. Do you know that one? Steal a pen off my desk and run away, laughing. Sometimes, I’d just let her keep the pen, which was a terrible disappointment for her. But sometimes, I would chase after her and, of course, I would catch her. I would tickle her mercilessly and she would drop the pen and give me a big hug, still laughing delightedly. Then I got to reclaim my pen and she would go back to stalking me for her next opportunity.
Kimmie was the offspring who told me that she knew better than I did what I said a few minutes ago because she could see my brain.
She is also the one, many years later, who responded to my complaint that her little brother was immune to hand bullets by suggesting that I try real bullets.
It wasn’t always stand-up comedy with Kimmie, of course. For many years of her life, I didn’t understand her and we had fights. Once I did understand her, the fights stopped but the rest of the world couldn’t seem to share in that understanding, no matter what I did. Kimmie was still suffering from professional incompetence. That’s because I sent her to school. By the second grade, she was acting out what looked to me like Oppositional Defiant Disorder but I was really baffled because she wasn’t acting out at home like that.
As she got older, it got worse because she was encountering still more, and more profound, professional incompetence. Rather than teaching her coping mechanisms for her meltdowns, her teachers got into power struggles with her, goaded her into fits, repeatedly humiliated her, and convinced her that she was juat a naturally bad little girl. And when I and her counselor tried to teach them how they needed to handle her, they would disbelieve me when I told them that she didn’t act like that at home or they would insist to her counselor that they were doing just what he said.
At a certain point, I pulled her out of school and taught her at home when they wanted to send her to a day rehabilitation program like the one David had gone to after he’d been diagnosed with schizophrenia. She nearly broke my heart when we got home from the special ed meeting and she told me that maybe she should go to the school with the other bad kids, because then she wouldn’t stand out so much.
It took me years and years to prove to her that she could get through a school year without getting expelled, without throwing any furniture at anybody, that she could even get good grades.
We know now that Kimmie suffers from both bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. She had a years-long manic episode that started shortly after she entered second grade. Then she had a years long depressive episode that began somewhere in the vicinity of her twelfth year and got exponentially worse when her father did what he did to her. Really, Kimmie’s entire childhood was a war zone.
To this day, I feel guilty and useless and a bunch of other things I don’t even have words for, because I wasn’t able to protect my laughing Kimmie from the doctors and from the schools and from her father. The only thing I can say about that is I am so sorry, Kimmie.
Kimmie, besides being one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, is one of the strongest people I’ve ever met. Right now, she’s out in Arizona with her big sister and I miss her terribly. She is still hurting but she is also still laughing. She still has a lot of healing to do but I know that she can do it. I just wish I could help.
But that’s a selfish wish. The important part is that she’s okay and she’ll get okayer. Her life spreads before her, as full of promise as it was twenty-two years ago when she first got here. She has been through so much and I am so proud of her because she is getting past it all.
Happy birthday, Kimmie! I love you!