When I was reading Bellamy’s description of the “Invalid Corps” last week I immediately thought of my cousin Kathy. She passed away just a few years ago, after living a long and happy, though some might say “non-productive” life. Most people who knew her wouldn’t think that. It always seemed to me, for the entire time I knew her, that Kathy’s job was mostly being happy. Though she had a few spells, most of the time she was a joy to be around. Always smiling, always happy to see you, and always wanting to share things even when you weren’t sure why she was sharing them.
I remember when I first visited Kathy as a teenager, at Grace and Bills house in Heavener, Oklahoma. She was immediately taken by me and always smiled and blushed when I was around. She was just a few years younger than me, and quite proud of her collection of Prince Albert cans, given to her by Bill. Bill was a piece of work. He kept a still up in the hills, and a “pouting house” in the back that he could go to when he and Grace got into spats. Grace and Kathy were inseparable; though Kathy wasn’t her biological daughter, she took her in as an infant and as Grace got older and had to go into a rest home, Kathy went along.
After Grace died, my Mom and Dad visited her every week and took her out to eat either pizza or Kentucky Fried Chicken. My mother told me that they had tried to enroll Kathy into a program to “work” in the 70s, and Grace had to fight to get her back out of it. Grace was on welfare her whole life, and the social services people were just sure that Kathy should be “trainable” to do something commercial. Grace disagreed, because the separation involved with hauling Kathy off to the program just made her miserable. Above all else, we all wanted to keep Kathy as happy as she kept us.
I remember when my dad died I tried to take Mom and Kathy out whenever I could; it always made everyone (including me) happy. My mom would try to make sure that she kept Kathy’s stuffed animals rotated around so that they wouldn’t get too worn out. She had hundreds of them; too many to keep in her room at the home. Everyone who knew her loved to get her new ones, and she couldn’t bear to part with any of the old ones.
It didn’t surprise me that Kathy passed away within a few years of my mother’s passing, but I feel most of the time that as long as someone remembers, all these people are still alive.