There is always joy in marking the day of a human’s first breath on earth, even if he no longer walks among us. Keith’s first breath was on January 12, 1957. My first stop on the birthday celebration tour was for McRibs Saturday night. Not one but two. One for me and one for Keith. Who am I kidding – it was really just a cover for wanting to eat two. My mom had sent me a message that morning announcing that she was looking at a McRib trayliner and was thinking about Keith. From the moment I read it on, I needled my poor new companion, Gary, for the rest of the day until he buckled and reluctantly joined me in the ceremonial consumption of what Keith and I fondly referred to as “McCrack”.
Keith and I literally would cheer and dance when we would see the first commercials for these artery hardening highly addictive sandwiches. We’d mark our calendars with the release date so that we could be the first ones on the golden arches’ doorstep as soon as the sloppy treats were on the menu board. He could eat two in a sitting without a problem. We would have them every day for weeks on end and weep upon their departure.
His cousin Henry called me while I was half way through the second one and we were in the third quarter of the Ravens vs. Broncos game. Convinced that Keith would have something to say about the outcome of this game on his birthday, we texted each other our victory chant when the Ravens won. A fitting birthday gift for both of us.
Today, I filled 10 seats at the local hibachi joint with my son, stepson and girlfriend, Agent Jay, and the whole Kilmon/Frase household. Little baby Landon experienced his first fire on the grill and the wait staff complemented him on how good he was. They said that most babies cry. Landon, of course, did not. Keith loved babies but I think he would have been overly fond of this little composed man. Ginny shared the story of how she first met Keith and how she couldn’t stand his pushy, bossy nature. She would hide from him whenever he showed up to work the concession stand with her. I had to laugh and asked her if she could have ever imagined him being the one to give away her daughter on her wedding day. We all talked about the time our little devil dog, Grommit, jumped into his lap and proceeded to wipe her butt on his nice white tee shirt, leaving a big brown stripe right down the center.
As our chef passed out the treats from the hot grill, I did my duty to Keith and took on the extra fried rice. Unlike the McRibs, I’m saving some for lunch tomorrow. Brandon pointed out that I would have to walk twice as much if I continued to eat for both Keith and me.
Friday night, the Damnwells’ song, The Great Unknown played as I was driving down the road. Today, it played again as I left the restaurant. The bulk of the song reminds me of many things and people other than Keith. But one line always makes me see him, crystal clear, in his red Cobra with the top down, grinning from ear to ear –
Just follow the stars and speeding red cars, into the great unknown.
That is how we are all born – into the great unknown – and that is where we go in the end. Everything in between is following stars and speeding red cars, with occasional stops for McRibs and fried rice and to find a clean tee shirt.
Happy Birthday Keith. Never slow down for us. We’ll catch up with you one day.