Tribute to Kat Woman
Kathryn, Kathy, Mom, Sis…we all had a special name for her. I called her Kat or Kat Woman, and she was one of two people who I didn’t mind calling me Bob. During our inseparable years, which were plenty, we were the Bob Kat. But make no mistake, Kathy was an individual, and no one else was like her.
Kat often said that she wanted to make a difference. She wanted to leave her mark on the world. I told her only days ago that with or without a passport, she’d left many footprints in many hearts over the past few years. Mine included. She left them in the hearts and minds of the children she taught, including her own son, Brian. If she was anything like she was when I was in college with her, she left her stamp on all of her classmates who were fortunate enough to meet her. She always had a winning smile, a helpful hand, and an encouraging word.
She got her start loving children and working with them inside her own family. I don’t know how many times she referred to Dewayne as “my baby” and the tales she told me of growing up with Karla and Ray were numerous as well. By the time I’d met her, she’d done a lot of babysitting, and she was one of my boy’s first babysitters, certainly the one who made the greatest impression on him. She helped him learn how to swim, helped him catch a tarantula and train the tarantula how to jump rope. Actually it was a piece of string, but the idea worked.
I was able to observe Kat with the elderly as well – her job in Stillwater at the retirement home kept her busy monitoring not only temperatures and pacemakers but attitudes as well. She kept the place lively.
I got into more trouble with Kat than I ever did with everyone else I know combined. Whether it was at the river, at the lake, at home, washing off a car at the car wash, walking down a mostly deserted street – the two of us were trouble magnets, but it was usually fun, and I don’t regret a second of it. I grew up with Kathy – she knew me as well as anybody, better than most. She knew the dark secrets, the longings, the frustrations, all of it…and she put up with me anyway.
Kathy is the first person to stick a Writers’ Market in my hands when I said I wanted to be a writer – only her advice wasn’t what everyone else gave, that nobody made a living at it, that I couldn’t do it, that I’d be wasting my time. Her advice was “Quit talking about it and do it.”
She taught me about personal finances and how to keep a budget; she showed me how to forgive when I stubbornly wanted to hold onto my anger. She nagged me into learning how to test myself when I developed diabetes. She nourished my soul when sometimes I felt I had none.
As for what she liked – Kathy loved children, ice-cream, and great socks. I used to raid her sock drawer all the time when I’d visit her. She liked movies and music…Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel were our constant companions in the 80’s. She loved meeting new people and was rarely in a room with strangers. She loved her family most of all.
Some things you may not have known about Kat: She was a really good graphic designer and wanted to design record albums at one time. She was an amazing seamstress who often made her own clothes and made gifts for other people. One of the presents she made for her sister Karla was a blue jean quilt, using scraps from all the kids’ jeans, including pockets for Karla to put her hairbrush, comb, tanning lotion, and whatever inside.
Kat was a good writer who had some great ideas for both fiction and nonfiction, and only a week ago she asked me to complete a nonfiction book or two for diabetics that she and I had discussed.
Kat wasn’t an engineer, but she built the most worthwhile structures anyone ever could…she built confidence and acceptance, love, commitment, a sense of honor and well-being in everyone she met. Now she is with her baby son who only lived a few days, her sister Karla, and her father, but the lessons she gave will live on.
I may have technically been the teacher when we met, but she’ll be my teacher forever.
I love you, Kat. Thank you for being in my life.
And for those who follow my blog, I gotta post the cat friends one more time in honor of this woman who means so much to me. See you after the weekend...