A few words about my recently departed brother — a short, incomplete remembrance, if you will:
Kirk was born November 22, 1946, on our parents’ third anniversary. He was named Kourken Haig, after our father’s mother’s youngest brother, Kourken, and after our father’s older brother, Haig, who was killed in the Second World War.
Kirk didn’t begin talking until he was four — then, suddenly, he started in with what our parents called “a full vocabulary.”
When Kirk was twelve, he was almost killed by the blow of a baseball bat in our backyard. He was catcher; our other brother, Jim, was pitcher; and a farm friend from a few miles up the road was batter. Kirk was standing too close when the bat came around and hit him squarely on the nose. You can imagine the scene: the howls of pain, the frightened boys, our parents running out to see what had happened. Kirk’s nose was crushed — a bloody pulp. He was rushed immediately to the family doctor, who, when he saw what had happened, called a specialist from a neighboring town fourteen miles away. That doctor, with our father looking on until he passed out, somehow managed to salvage Kirk’s nose — or, at least, a nose, as the procedure involved some reconstruction. Later he told the family that Kirk had come within a fraction of an inch of being killed. And so that’s why Kirk’s nose was slightly crooked. I don’t remember if he snored. The batter’s parents, of course, insisted on paying the doctor bills. In those days there was no insurance involved, nor did there need to be. The boys remained friends. The batter’s mother was my dear piano teacher, Mrs. Crawford.
Something else happened when Kirk was twelve: he was given a chemistry set. That’s when he decided he would be a scientist. And a scientist he became, esteemed for his talent, commitment, humor, generosity, and friendship by friends and colleagues the world over.
By the time Kirk left for Canada in 1970, he had earned two degrees in his chosen field. His Master’s was accomplished in nine months by working from six in the morning to midnight, seven days a week. Once, when he was told that with his background and knowledge he could work as an officer in a less bloody part of the war, he said, simply, that he would never use his knowledge to harm others. He earned his Doctorate in Canada, which welcomed his efforts, and his eventual citizenship.
During our growing-up years, we played together, worked in the vineyard together, ate together, went on family outings together, visited friends and relatives together, and even watched the San Francisco Giants and Willie Mays together — all as a simple matter of course. That’s why, I suppose, watching him get on the plane for Canada on that strange November day was one of the hardest things any of us in the family had ever done. And there had been plenty of hard things. A book would be needed for all of the details. Would he ever be allowed to return? As good fortune would have it, years later, yes. But he only came for visits. Not once did he consider living in this country again. Early on, after he was settled, he called the love of his life, Diane, and asked her to join him. They were married in Vancouver in 1971. I was his best man. I would have moved there myself had the war not “ended.” Yes — when it comes to war, quotation marks are still needed around such a term. For war will not, cannot, end until we end war in ourselves.
Kirk and Diane had two sons. Their youngest, Kent, cared for his father at home from the moment he was diagnosed with a brain tumor until his death ten and a half months later. Their eldest, whose name is also Kourken Haig, is a professor of philosophy in France. Diane, a victim of Multiple Sclerosis, passed away at the age of fifty-five in 2003. What more can I tell? As I said, a book would be needed. Or maybe this is book enough — a short book; a sweet book; a book that ends with a smile.
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Categories: Sweet Sleep and Bare Feet
Tags: Amnesty, Books, Canada, Departures, Diane, Family History, France, Kirk, Love, Memory, Mrs. Crawford, Multiple Sclerosis, My Father, My Grandmother, My Mother, Names, Noses, Our Old Farm, Peace, Philosophy, Smiles, War, Willie Mays