What is it about the holiday season that insists on compressing so much good and bad into the same moment? I couldn’t make it to California so when my siblings got together at mom’s place Saturday I arranged to video-chat with them. I was a little disappointed to find that older sister, Kathie, wasn’t in attendance. I was told that Kats wasn’t feeling too good that day. So, I got to briefly visit with mom, brother Matt, sister Mich and Kats’ boys. The boys rushed off after another call came in and then the the video-call went dead. Typical tech-fail, I thought. After a few failed video reconnects I got the tearful voice call from Matt’s wife, Marty, that my oldest sister, Kathie had passed away.
It’s been two-days but I’m still having difficulty processing that this force-nature who was my sister isn’t around anymore. I had just talked to her the day after Christmas. We covered the bases: she was excited that her daughter, Lisa, was going to give her second a grand-kid in a matter of days, she was disappointed that I wasn’t able to be there when everyone would be together for the holidays and we talked about the energy needed to deal with the grand-kids. She let on that she was tired and I urged her to hang in there and then I asked for details about when everyone was getting together on Saturday so I could setup the video-call. Having gone through something similar to what she was going through, I knew that just dealing with the constant pain and need for sleep was almost all that one can handle and her condition had gotten far worse than I had dealt with. I had no idea that she was that close to death. I’m glad we got the chance to talk on Thursday and especially that we were able to end the call with our “I love you”-s.
My oldest sister was the most naturally-gifted visual artist I had ever known. Painting, drawing, cartoons… even quickly drafted notes were in a penmanship that amazed me. Of course I knew that her penmanship had been built upon the stern ruler-backed-up persuasions of the nuns who forced her to switch from her natural left-handedness to writing & drawing with her right. It’s just now that I realize this ability to convert pain into something beautiful that she possessed. Of course we come from practical-folk, so Kats didn’t go after more artistic-pursuits and went to work, spending most of her working life with the phone company (then called Pacific Bell before morphing into whatever). Funny that this artist bend resurfaced with a vengeance in her oldest son, Brandon, with his painting and illustrating and youngest son, Dan, who seemed to have a natural gift for any stringed instrument and drums. But in its own special way, this makes perfect sense in that the only thing stronger than her art was her passion to be a mom and most recently a very proud grandma.
Family was the highest value for her and whatever she did, whether you agreed with her or not, was based on what she thought was best for the family. To say that she was strong-willed might be soft peddling things. I guess we all exhibit various levels of strong-mindedness, to the frustration of our significant-others, but regardless of the issue we never let the differences become an excuse for not communicating or getting together whenever possible. And Kats was always there to make sure, “Did you call your sister for her birthday?” I think that even though she might not be around to remind us about this or that thing, but her influence and strength of character will always remain. It’s alive and well in our memories, in the lives of her children and it’s going to be most interesting to see how it manifests itself in the future in her grand kids.
Over the past few months I’ve been working on old family photos. Please feel free to visit and leave comment on the section about Kats: https://jbbsmediaprojects.wordpress.com/1952/06/30/the-early-bustillos-family-years-mr-mrs-baby-kathie/