12.25.2004

An Unexpected Christmas Visit
I was an uninvited Christmas vistitor

During my Christmas Day adventure at my father's there was a point in the afternoon where I felt that ten month old Grant would do well to be removed from the action where he could relax and take a nap
with mention to no one but my wife Lisa I snuck out the front door and into the car
Grant was strapped into his car seat, started to squirm, then with a turn of the key, the start of the engine, and a push on the gas pedal I was rolling forward and Grant was asleep
rather than risking "the transfer" I opted to take a restful holiday drive
restful for Grant
restful for myself
unsure where I wanted to go I just drove
a few blocks away from my father's Bethesda home and I headed my truck down the path of an old holiday tradition...
Christmas at the Wilborns
somewhere in my adolescent history I became part of the Wilborn family

I have many memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas visits to the Wilborn house where I would join in on the holiday fun
(and of course there are many memories of visits with much non-holiday fun as well)

on this Christmas Day I arrived to a quiet house
(as I had expected having had email correspondence with both Mrs. Wilborn and her son Peter earlier that week)
not the open house of years past.....well not yet at least
the house was not completely dark
Mrs. Wilborn aka Belinda was busy in the kitchen....just starting to prepare for a grand multifamily production in that classic Wilborn Holiday Style
as she hustled around the kitchen I joked about the short time till the guests arrived
we talked of her eldest son Peter and the call from his family on their cross country ski vacation in Minnesota
then there was mention of the yongest brother Burke and how he was out looking at various properties for refurbishing investments
rather than mention of the now deceased middle son Jim we spoke of the wife that survived him, Sarah, and how she is spending her Christmas this year
the chatting was light
as Belinda was busy getting ready for her guests
I was trying to stay out of the way as well as someone can do who has just stopped in uninvited on Christmas Day
as Belinda multitasked her way about with lighting candles, folding napkins, and setting places I tried to be helpful with an occassional stir of boiling cranbrerries
but more than anything I tried to stay out of the way
as Mrs. Wilborn worked I walked about the sparsely decorated kitchen and let memories pass through my head: there were scrabble games, undercooked brownies, underage drinking, and lots of parties....mostly family and neighborhood parties
the refrigerator was deocrated with images of the three Wilborn boys at various stages of life
some images with the three boys together and many of them apart
I stared into the eyes of Jim Wilborn in various photographs and wondered who and what he would be now if he were still alive today
then looked at a picture of his now remarried wife Sarah and wondered if the man in a group photo was her new husband
then tucked on a shelf with various cook books I found a photo of their small black and white family dog, Maggie, and made a comment
Belinda chimmed in that it was a card from Jim that he sent after Maggie had died
I asked if I could read it
Belinda said I could

I read the letter slowly and clearly in my head
paused
then asked without thinking, "did Jim write this letter about the death of this dog or about the death of himself?"

I wish I had a copy of the note to post it twice
once with Maggie's name and another with Jim's

I stayed for only a few minutes longer
as it got tiresome running out to the car every five minutes to see that Grant was still sleeping
I gave Belinda a hug and a kiss then drove home, Grant sleeping all the way
so I could get back to my family festivities and she could get back to preparing for hers

I replayed that message about the passing of the family dog Maggie one more time in my head
without control I cried
the Wilborn family was like a second family to me
those three brothers were like another set of brothers to me
each one as individuals having a significant impact in my life
all impacted me dynamicly
all impacted me individually

Jim died on his bicycle
although he was at times seemingly wreckless or out of control
he had an amazing natural talent as an athlete to get in and out of danger with finesse
in the case of his death he was killed stopped at a stop light waiting for the light to change
a car ran a light colliding into another car sending that car flying through the air and ending Jim's life in an instance...all a mater of chance....might as well of been lightning or a meteor
at this point in life much of his wildness was behind him
(well, other than his experessiveness on the bike, skiing, or any of his other physical persuits)
it seemed he had figured it all out
somehow in his early 20's he had learned to live without the distractions of various bullshit
the specifics of Jim's death are not important to this story
what is important is that a family with so much love lost a significant player
a mother and a father lost one of their treasured sons
two brothers lost their middle brother; a special brother at that
a women lost her husband and soul mate
and many people lost a good friend

Jim was buried the same day my brother got married
it crushed me to experience my life moving forward
while his life was literally stopped dead
so many things which I was going to experience
Jim was certainly going to miss
the pleasures of family and fatherhood
the excitement of growing forward and getting to look back and laugh
that drive from Washington DC to northern New Jersey for my brother's wedding was a tough one
I bawled uncontrolably at times as I sped dangerously through Interstate 95 traffic, while lisa slept calmly at my side
it was hard to plot a positive speech as a best man
when such somber thoughts were active in my brain

as I watched my brother's life flurish
on the other side of the country Peter and Burke watched their brother Jim's life spend its final moments above ground

I did cry when I toasted my brother
that painful mixture of happy and sad was more than I could contain
on that day I celebrated the marriage of my brother
and the death of another who was as a brother to me
rather that toast my brother with mention of my old friend Jim I made a metaphor about the relationship of brother with imagry of the relationship of my dogs; Roscoe and Brutus, who are brothers

that was many years ago.....

life does go on
everyone has moved forward
we all miss Jim in our own ways and for different reason
he is gone....we have all independently learned to accept his death whether we like it or not
but most certainly Jim Wilborn not forgotten

I will not try to sum up life and death
not for jim
not for anyone
but I most certainly will try to read that letter again
because I think that Jim tried to explain his loss before it even happened

merry christmas jim
and
merry christmas to the whole wilborn family


here is a memory of Jim....

when I lived in Breckenridge Colorado the youngest Wilborn boy, Burke, was one of my housemates, we lived in the garage of a group house an ice cold unfinished garage with our futons on the floor and a freestanding bookcase separating them Jim was in school in Boulder at the time and would make occassional visits to ski Burke and I would snowboard while Jim would Ski Burke and I were carving down the mountain tearing up the powder when we both wondered what had happened to Jim we paused at a ski run crossroads unsure which direction the group of us wanted to head we looked about and waited for Jim just then we see a blurrrrr! Jim was screaming down the mountain right past us instead of stopping at the top of a very steep bumped out run Jim flew off the cat track lip and went flying all the while his head was turned to the side making complete eye contact with Burke and then myself Burke and I pointed our boards down the steep bumped out ski run, taking each bump one at a time, and then finally joining Jim at the bottom Jim was elated! a wide grin all teeth perhaps a little salava coming out his mouth as he uttered...."that was the best run of the day! lets hit that one again!" to this I questioned, "best run of the day? you launched it with such speed that you missed the whole run nearly landing on the flat at the bottom!" that is just one instance of how Jim lived his life so much energy so much talent a seemingly out of control manauver that would have put most anyone else into the hospital was not an out of control adventure but just another run on the ski slope
will have to read over these posts when I have more time
the boys are done with their dinosaur pancakes and would need help being entertained

I have taken a second to reread this post
no desire to edit or proof to any great level
as I would rather add to the idea or start another tangent

but I will add one more idea
the time that lead up to Jim's death was an emotional one
Jim had grown through high school and then college with a close group of friends, with one who may have stood our as his best friend, Rob Williams
Rob was similar to Jim in that he was a handsome, well liked, charismatic, and quite the athlete
Jim and Rob had moved from state to state together and both had grown and changed together
after college in Colorado they moved further out west to Oregon and then Washington state
I remember one Christmas at the Wilborn house where Jim announced his engagement to Sarah
it was a somber celebration
as Rob Williams had died in a car accident just a few days prior
Rob was in a car with his fiance and his future mother-in-law when the car hit a patch of ice and spun out of control...only to be crushed by an 18 wheeler
As a gift to Jim and Sarah I gave a book, "The Alchemist"
the book was given in an effort to help Jim and Sarah understand or perhaps deal with their loss
there was no knowing that the path of death and negativity was going to continue further
life does go on
even if we never grow to understand its meaning

The Alchemist is a book I would recommend to most any and all




the specifics of the death of Rob and Jim may be less than accurate
these actions occurred many years ago
the memories are faded and the stories themselves may have reached me second hand
I aplologize for any innaccuracy
to those who were truely close to Rob and Jim I hope that my post is not offensive to you, just as I hope that my mention of Jim and the Maggie card did not offend Mrs. Wilborn
my intentions are pure
my feelings are true

I think that I will have to re-read THE ALCHEMIST myself
it may help me to figure out a few more things
as life is a riddle that I am always trying to solve



4 comments:

fatmarc said...

f-cking outstanding.
it is this passion that keeps me coming back day after day.
I am sorry for your loss. But value you experiences and sharing of them. I am glad you have come into my life.
merry christmas my friend, merry christmas...

shawnak said...

Beautiful. And this angers me, once again, at careless drivers...our vulnerabilities on bikes, but mostly as humans, all of us.

I should re-read The Alchemist.

horsefacts101 said...

Joel,
that is a beautiful passage. It's really strange how 13 years have gone by since Jim died; 25 since Leigh died, and is it 16 years since Robert? Strange how time marches on and stands still at the same time.
It's nice to run into your words on the internet.
Hope your life is happy and healthy.
All the best
Jenny F

gwadzilla said...

JF and others...
yes, it has been many years since the world lost Leigh, Jim, and Robert
not sure if anyone can make sense of all of this
not sure if anyone can answer the question, "why? why, why did this have to happen?"

the world would be a better place had these three people not been taken from it

thanks for reading
glad that this piece touched you

I will try to be a better person and enjoy life and those that I love
we all take so much for granted
I must try not to take things for granted

enough on this
I best get a tissue to wipe the tears from my face before someone walks into my office

love and luck to your and yours

I wish my kids were within range so that I could give each of them a hug and tell them that I love them