Why I am a Stand-Up Kind of Girl

dad vietnam“Dad, watch that car!” Vince yelled as we passed through in intersection about 2 miles from our home in the family’s new shiny red car with bucket seats. Dad was t-boned by a woman who ran a red light. It was a bad accident, and all of us were hurt. Vince was knocked unconscious and had a concussion. Dad had broken ribs which effected his kidney- he was peeing blood for a while. I was thrown and jerked, my leg caught between those bucket seats, breaking my femur in two pieces and jamming the bone upward. I also woke up to a very bloody arm and glass all in my hair. My dad and I were hospitalized, and Vince was not happy he didn’t get to stay with us at least one night. As sibling rivalry goes, I won on the injury contest.

After 2 weeks in traction, which was very painful, in Wilford Hall Hospital, I was taken in to be casted. I was going to have to be in a body cast for a couple of months. It was the end of September- and the 1968 Olympics played during my cast incarceration. But back to the cast. I had been in bed with a weight tied around my ankle so bone would be pulled back into alignment.It didn’t work, and even though I was 8 at the time, I remember the pain of the experience well. To put the cast on I had to be put on a midieval torture machine which was meant to stretch and set the bone. My bottom was placed on what looked like an old-fashioned bicycle seat, my legs were strapped to two planks and my arms were tied to the sides. Why did the nice doctors of Wilford Hall Hospital not give me anything for pain, or at least knock me semi-unconscious, I do not know, but there was a lot of screaming in that room on that day.

“Crank it two more times.” When they cranked whatever they cranked, I screamed. Then they took an x-ray. “Crank it three more times.” Repeat until done. Once the bone was set the cast was put on. It went all the way down my left leg, partially down my right leg and up to my chest. The plaster cocoon was on; I got to go home! My mother had prepared a bed in the living room for me with a good view of the TV. I had schoolwork which I was grateful for while existing  on that bed.

In the living room I watched as my brothers and sister would leave and return from school each day. My father was stationed in Killeen, so he came home on weekends. Our last time together as a family, really. He had already been carrying on with the future step-monster, but he tried to keep us together as best he could during this time. He would sit on my bed for hours talking and reading to me. My dad and I had been close, but how could he not love a little girl who worshipped him? He would clean my cast and help me with my homework. I was happier when Dad was home- period.

One night Dad and I were watching the Cowsills, the singing family which included a young girl, my dad looked at me and said, “Look at that little girl Kimmy. She sure can sing and dance!” I was positioned on my side, leg up in the air, staring at the tv. The little Cowsill girl was cute, and my dad was ‘seat-dancing’ to their song. He turned to me with this big smile, pointed at the tv and said, “Can you do that Kim? Dance and sing like that? She sure is good isn’t she?”

Yeah Dad, prop me up and I’ll bust a move in the body cast.

From that moment on, I hated the Cowsill girl. Whenever I heard the songs I would sneer, “I love the flower girl, and she is ugly…”Surprisingly that is how mean I was! I vowed that once the cast came off, and I could walk again, I was going to learn to dance. I started singing every song I heard to be a good singer. My mother was not appreciative of my talents, “Kim, I would like to hear the song.” Ouch Mom, but I have to sing and be better so I, to can be like the Cowsill girl!

Singing and dancing were not my talents; however I sure could make my friends laugh! In school I was the class clown, mean at times, but funny. I was the funny friend. I enjoyed watching peoples faces when they laughed and I was the one who helped them do it. While watching stand-up comedy in the 80’s I remember thinking; these are my people; I think just like they do. I knew that I had the desire to be famous which may stem from my very bad relationship with my mother or it could of had it’s genesis with the Cowsill girl episode. Either way, I felt and still feel stuck with it. My first time on stage I told a joke about my dad and it worked. I told that joke for at least a couple of years and he knew the joke and loved that I was including him in my act. I still talk about him a little, and it is funny.

I traveled to Louisville to see him because he had promised to give me his old Buick for Kristi. He said he would give it to me when he died, and apparently what I did had reverberated throughout the step-monsters corridors to my blood relatives. I said, “When you die? Are you driving the car? No? Okay, we need it can we have it now?” He said yes and the rest is rewritten history. That incident turned me into a taker. All I can say is, Lord, help me be a better step-monster. When the girls and I arrived at my father’s side door, he was sitting in a chair next to an oxygen tank. He was having breathing problems due to the asbestos mine of his youth. We immediately got to talking and telling stories. My daughters loved their Grandpa! I don’t remember what I said, how I said it, but I was funny that afternoon. So funny, that my father lost his breath, and had to reach for the machine. He took in the oxygen and still kept laughing. Is it bad to feel proud of that?

My father’s last words to me were, “Kimmy, I …. love…..you.” He could barely speak. Inbetween a word he struggled to get enough air to say the next one. That was Sunday afternoon. He died Monday morning. I don’t know the time, I was pushed out, remember I am a taker.

My father was buried in Louisville against his final order. He had gathered us together and said all his wife had to do was make a call and the Army would handle the rest. He had been definitive in his desire to be buried with Vince. He trusted he would be. I asked an uncle to call me with what was happening , and he never did. My last call was the day he was buried- I wasn’t even at my father’s funeral–

I spent some days in mourning. I felt like he was mad, but that may have been me. I was really mad. I learned two things: 1. Have a will. 2. The only thing we take with us is love and the harvest of our relationships. Performing is still necessary to me, and I think it is because of the Cowsills and jealousy and wanting my dad to be proud.

While driving home from the comedy club one week from his death I was listening to the radio. I started crying. I missed my dad. On the radio came the Cowsill’s song, I Love the Flower Girl. “Okay, this is cool. God if this is really for me, play my mom’s song next.” Leaving on a Jet Plane, my mother’s song, was indeed next.

Isn’t that cool? I’ll TAKE it!


4 thoughts on “Why I am a Stand-Up Kind of Girl

  1. Didn’t you drop a charm inside of that cast?I seem to remember that. Oh and I had to have an angiogram in 1969 at Wilford Hall. They strapped me to a gurney, tied my little wrists and ankles to the sides with gauze and cut, then inserted the probe. Hurt like hell. What were they thinking?

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