In December of 2010, I was in a hair salon, drifting through the newspaper standing at the counter while my co-worker performed hair service. I read the page with the youth athlete photographs, as they sometimes print them for the softball teams and the school acknowledgements. Sometimes, I read these pictures because I see children with names of people I know and I see them as the offspring of my friends. But, today I did NOT read them. I was “drifting” through, ready to turn another page when at the bottom of this page, I read the last name on the page of the last photograph. The little girl’s last name was Kirkland. I read, “Kelsey Kirkland”.
The next day, my husband had a heart attack toward late morning while I was at work. No one knew. He was alone. Mother upstairs did not hear him calling out until nearly two o’clock. He was desparately ill, and dying (as the emergency room doctor would later say).
I sat in the hospital while my husband was in surgery, hours long surgery. This was already a long day as I worked on my feet the entire day and evening was soon upon us while I waited at the hospital. The surgery was so long that I was becoming frightened to hear the eventual final news alone. I called my husband’s nephew. I told him, “Don’t come, but will you please stay by your phone. I may fall apart before very long when the doctor comes out.” I didn’t relay the desperation but my voice probably did. I told him where I was and ended the call, and I went into the waiting room, where I had been for hours on the surgery floor, to wait, alone, some more and more.
While I was waiting, minutes dragging by, waiting for word, a couple sat on the adjoining couch. The young man was in work clothes, crying, and it was his mother who sat next to him holding his hand. The doctor came to the door, and at first I believed he was my husband’s surgeon, but what he said sent shock through me in that moment. He said, loudly and firmly, “I want to talk to the family of Kelsey Kirkland.” Seems our little girl softball-player, from the newspaper photograph I had seen the day before, had struck a telephone pole in a 3-wheeler, riding alone, and the doctor did not give any hope at all of her recovering. He virtually recited that he expected her to die tonight. The little girl was eight years old. When the doctor left, the man turned to his mother and said, “Mother, I’m about to lose my only child.”
Suddenly, we were three people, all losing our loved ones at the same time. Perhaps, I was the strangest stranger-lady, but I moved next to him and put my head on his shoulder, and he put his arm around me, while his mother held his other hand, and leaned upon his other shoulder. We sat like that for ten minutes, all three of us. No one said any words, just all three of us crying. Mother held one of his hands; I held his other hand. Some time later, I got up and left because the nephew called that he was there, to come and find him in the hallway on the floor I was on.
Somehow, Kirklands and I connected, in a most similar moment, when we all had no more words.
My assessment of The Name Game? … I’m where I’m supposed to be at the moment I’m supposed to be there. And, this is the proof. The Name Game always happens this way, over and over, though not ALWAYS critically inclined.
That evening, I was sublimely humbled.
It’s called the Name Game because the occurrence is too odd to already have a name. My phenomena began so many years ago it’s not possible to determine my age then anymore.
Name Game “ramped-up” in 2006 and 2007 when my brother had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and I lived with him in Houston in the Heights. I was in Santa Fe for the day and I had talked with a lady at our Big Chief grocery. We introduced, shook hands and right away I was struck that she was a different sort of acquaintance than the regular meet-and-greet encounter. Of course, I didn’t understand at the time WHAT exactly was different, just eerily unsettling, making me smile and wonder. She gave me her name as Christine Nelson. She was just a nice lady who helped me buy some of her hand-made jewelries laid out on her table, jewelry made by women recovering in a half-way house from drugs and domestic abuse. We talked extendedly about how they were made, what they were doing to raise money with their half-way house and child care issues, and how, yes, she WAS cold today. So I bought her coffee, sat at her table, and we talked longer. I really didn’t want to leave yet because I was still trying to figure out what the heck was happening about her and I. She helped me so generously and in the end sold me five necklaces at $7.00 each. She did this so generously with a smile, helping me select three items of jewelry on her table. She made a big impression on me. Such a girl, who easily could be seen trying very hard in life to keep her child, live well, and remain totally devoted to the half-way house she had become a part of for one and one-half years. She didn’t understand when I told her, “I think I met you somewhere before.” “Yes, you look familiar too.” We hugged and I left. $35 bucks. Only thirty-five bucks to help other women who were trying to make it with their children in difficult situations. I gave my gifts away that night. I did buy with particular people in mind and made ever so careful selections so as not to be done too soon, or be expected to leave too soon.
Later toward evening that day, travelling home to Houston, the most memorable occasion occurred when I stopped at a stop light at the busiest intersection in our neighborhood, right on the Interstate 45. Actually, this was my exit to Fulton Street, and on to Moore Street. Three women were collecting money with their buckets on the feeder road at my exit and I pulled up next to them while the light was red. One lady began walking toward my car so I rolled down the car window.
The lady walked up to my car on my left and asked me if I wanted to donate to their charity. Normally, that would be a “no” answer, but I noticed her bucket was not imprinted or written upon. I respectfully replied, “Sure. I’ll give you a dollar to find out what you’re collecting for,” and I dropped in my dollar for her bucket.
She began to say, “I am so glad you asked that. My name is Christine Nelson. I have been a drug addict all of my adult life. We are collecting for our “House”. I am in a sanctioned group-home with 11 other women who are trying very hard to stay clean, body, mind, and soul. I am where people love me and my needs are met. I don’t need much, but I am just participating today in helping the others to get by as I have been helped.”
I was quite surprised and really could not explain that immediate queer feeling that told me I was supposed to meet these two women; two women named Christine Nelson, two towns fifty miles apart, two half-way houses, two identical stories, unexpectedly, and on the same day.
I felt pretty good; I KNEW I wouldn’t see either woman ever again. But, I knew enough to pay attention to the odd occurrences and to not assume. This Name Game has always occurred and convinces, validates me, that I was in the places and times I was SUPPOSED to be. It’s like a mile-marker pin-pointing that I was in the right places, where I should have been, and no other places but these.
Short Story –
Galveston Island, Texas, West Isle, has very nice high-dollar homes on the Gulf of Mexico. My electrician friend received an A/C service call to a home (excuse me, uh, mansion) and arrived to find the gentleman sitting in a rocking chair, waiting on the porch. Long hair, blue jeans. He was rocking and patiently waiting for the arriving technician. My friend walked up, introduced himself, and proceeded with his service call, being let in to work. Big house, big area, the two gentlemen walked the house together. An hour went by.
As my friend was leaving, he says to the client, “Are you Galveston, because I think you are very familiar to me?” Client says no, he’s just house-sitting this vacation home. “But, you ARE someone I know, right?” The client replied, “Could be. My name is Willie.” My friend was, firstly, thunderstruck, and then he nearly fainted. His “customer” was Willie Nelson.