We said goodbye to John Robertson Kinnett at First Presbyterian Church this morning. That beautiful room was filled by a great collection of people and I particularly enjoyed seeing Claire Kinnett Tate, Bright Kinnett Wright, Frazer Kinnett, Jean Kinnett Oliver, John Robertson (“Bob”) Kinnett, III, and Josephine (“Jodie”) Kinnett Klumpenhower and their cadre of young people, all with that very strong family resemblance. My memories of the Kinnett family were when the six siblings were small children. My father worked for many years at Kinnett Dairies and because of the Kinnett’s emphasis on family, I got some priceless time with my father during many hot summers in rural Georgia. My daddy drove ice cream trucks and milk trucks through the sun blanched region around Columbus.
He would nudge me out of a deep sleep in the early morning, well before the sun and we’d go to breakfast. The smell of coffee and bacon, a cold glass of Kinnett Dairies milk and hours and miles in an open-sided dairy truck, weaving a trail in and out of shady gravel parking lots, and under the boughs of giant oaks. Dad would read the order sheet, and we’d spring out of the truck and into the frosty cloud of supercooled air coming through from a place every boy should get the chance to explore.
He taught me how to pull the orders, stack them on the hand truck and then came the best part. I got to watch him interact with all kinds of people. Large and small grocery store owners and proprietors, convenience stores clerks, school cafeteria workers, restauranteurs and every kind of curb and vegetable market clerk and he never met a stranger. He didn’t know any of their names, but he could and did tell me stories about them. Then, we’d roll back into the dairy in the afternoon and go up the stairs and into the business office, where my left handed dad would absolutely smoke a manual calculator and hand-draw big gothic looking letters and numbers as he checked up for the route. He always took great pride in his job at the dairy and I am thankful for the strong influence John Kinnett had on my family’s sense of family.
This morning, my mom, Ann, met me at the Columbus and the Valley offices and we walked to the church. After the visitation, we walked on north and west from the church to Uptown Vietnam Cuisine where I successfully connected someone I love to something I love. The wonton soup there has coaxed my taste buds into full flower and it was fun watching mom enjoy the dish so much while being frustrated by how best to deliver it to her mouth. You know from the way that soup smells that it is hardwired to hit the ahh center of your brain. Everyone has their own style of eating it. I like to watch people who have obviously spent their entire lives using chopsticks. Mom and I had a nice day together and it is pretty special being as old I am and being able to share a meal and several hours with the person who brought you into the world almost 65 years ago.
My surgical wounds are healing, the antibiotic is returning health to my gut and reports from my latest scans and lab work are encouraging. My kidney function is high, the holes in my spine that kidney cancer had devoured are being replaced by recalcified bone and I appear to be on a trajectory to be able to have surgical/radiological intervention to stabilize my spine and be returned at some point to more robust health.
I’ve been used to hearing bad news for the whole of my recent history — Eight. And. A. Half. Years. Interspersed in these months there are pockets where, despite your physical limitations, you get delicious slices of the summer peach of the cancer timeline. No drugs. Diminished side effects. The total eclipsing of your newest, clothes horse, food-centered normal over the hot, angry ogre of chronic disease, just at that moment when you can take off the protective glasses and bask in the golden glow of a 360-degree sunset. I feel total, open-armed thankfulness for this day and a warmth radiating from my bones that only hope can ignite. Fear is cold, but easily driven out when hope is in the house.