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Header: Jess Anderson in Madison Wisconsin
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The Smith/Hays Family
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Kim and Vicki are remarkable.

Kim used to work where I worked in Madison. I was sort of her unofficial mentor, helping her become familiar with the fairly byzantine ways of the place. One of its features was an apparent inability to recognize and reward unusual talent. Kim was one of those unusual talents: incredibly bright and thoroughly organized in everything she did. But the glacially slow pace of professional progress at our place was stifling her growth and dampening her interest in the work.

Over the course of her several years in Madison, Kim and I became close friends outside of work, as well as at the office. For one thing, we both have an earthy sense of humor, so we would often be laughing our hinders off and making smartass remarks. Naturally, we also have many other kinds of bonds as friends. Each was probably the other's closest friend at the office, and we are still very tight pals.

Vicki was completing a PhD program at the UW-Madison. Though I have known Kim longer, Vicki and I also became friends very easily. As befits a person in a helping profession, she is a great listener with a strong sense of nurture, and we've often counted on one another to hear out concerns and offer constructive support.

To my great sense of loss, they eventually moved away from Madison. Kim went Ann Arbor, Michigan, there to begin her very rapid rise as a network engineering professional. Vicki moved to Columbus, Ohio to do an internship. The plan was to keep their options open about the future, but when good fortune provided a staff opening at the University of Michigan that suited Vicki, they decided to settle down in Ann Arbor.

A key part of the story, however, concerns Minneapolis, a place they had considered moving to. My mother lived in the Twin Cities, and I suggested they get in touch with her, for she was very well connected there and would surely be only too glad to make certain they got shown around the town properly. They got along famously with my mother (I knew they would: all three of them liked me quite a lot, heh heh), and they had a great visit to the Twin Cities.

Now comes an example of the sort of thing that has so endeared them to me. In June, 1992, after a very brief and fortunately merciful illness, my mother died. This was a very heavy blow for me, despite being prepared for it, accepting it, and even feeling it was the best thing under the circumstances.

That fall, around Thanksgiving time, Kim and Vicki casually suggested that I come to Ann Arbor for Christmas. That seemed like a good plan and I readily accepted the invitation.

But I was actually there already before I realized what they had really done for me. For they knew that I traditionally made a fuss about Christmas primarily on account of my mother, the only person I really wanted to shop for or give presents to. They recognized long before I did that this would be the first holiday after my mom's death and had invited me in part to distract me from being unhappy on that account, to provide for me a warm and loving atmosphere. It worked wonderfully well.

Not very many people would have thought of doing that. I myself didn't at first, for they had done it too gently for me to detect any motive behind it other than good friendship. That's a very good kind of love to get, I think.

These two are fabulous friends to have, life-givers both. We speak of each other now as family, and the direct evidence fully supports the whole idea of closeness and family love. In the spring of '95 I was having some tough times emotionally, and they really came through for me in the support department. I do love 'em a lot! We see each other when we can, either here in Madison or there in Ann Arbor.

Something wonderful happened on May 11, 1998: Kim and Vicki had a baby, a 10 lb, 5 oz boy named Jordan. He is strong, amazingly so, and obviously bright. I'm so happy for them and few people would know better than I what great moms he has!

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