Friday, January 7, 2011

Remembering Ryan


On January 10th, 1984, I was given a new best friend. It was my little brother, Ryan James Kingsbury. Growing up in rural Kansas in the 80's we had a lot of time to fill with imagination. Ryan, Steve (our middle brother) and I spent hours running around our farm playing games, exploring, doing chores, and riding our bikes together. It was my job as a big sister to look after my little brothers, but it usually ended up with Ryan and I finding trouble to get us all into.

Ryan was extremely talented at finding trouble, a trait that would haunt him his whole short life. All through school he was the class clown and trouble maker. Even though he was exceedingly stubborn and opinionated, he had one of the biggest hearts around. When you were Ryan's friend, there wasn't a thing he wouldn't do for you or an obstacle he wouldn't help you through. Whether that meant taking sole blame for taking Dad's truck out with some friends, even though no one was of age to drive, and crashing it; finding time to hang out with a friend who really needed the company; or riding along to California with his sister when I moved because I was scared.

As Ryan grew up into a young man, he went from being the class clown to the life of the party. Everyone wanted to be where Ryan was. He was always smiling and laughing, usually because he just told a joke or had played a prank on someone. That was how you knew you were his friend, you were always included in his deviousness. Whether you were the target or the audience, he always made you feel loved. If you were ever loved by Ryan, you were always loved by Ryan. His loyalty to those he cared for was immeasurable. That may be why he had so many close friends both girls and boys.

One of Ryan's many loves was music. We would sit and listen to music for hours together just talking and hanging out. He loved classic rock like Tom Petty, The Doors and Jimmy Hendrix and new rock like Stone Temple Pilots and Smile Empty Soul. One of his favorite songs of all time, which was also his personal mantra, was George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone." Everytime we went out somewhere with a jukebox, he would beg Mom for quarters so he could play "his" song.

The biggest love of Ryan's life, however, came in the form of a third generation Chevy Camaro. I am not into cars so I don't know the exact year (give me a break I am a girl), but I know it was an early 8o's model. This car was such a hunk of crap when he got it. He spent all of his free time fixing up his car, a job that he never got to finish. He did get to enjoy his car though. In 2002, he was in his last year of high school and his Camaro was looking so nice he stood proudly in front of his prized possession for quite a few of his senior pictures.

After High School Ryan went to North Central Kansas Technical College in Beloit, Ks where he made many more friends. But Ryan's heart was always in Dorrance. I tried to convince him to move to California to live with me because I missed him so much. I even took him along with me and my now husband and step daughter to South Carolina on vacation in August of 2003. When we got back to Kansas to drop him off, he told me he belonged in Kansas and he loved me, but he wasn't going to leave where he grew up. And he never did.

The day after Thanksgiving, just three months later, Ryan was in a single car accident. He was driving the car I had just given to my parents, a 2001 Chevy Cavalier, because he was in the middle of some work on his Camaro. He didn't come to a full stop at a stop sign and caught the sight of a local policeman. The policeman seeing the California plates on the car decided to pull him over. Ryan, being the troublemaker he was, thought he could just take a couple dirt roads and evade the police car. What Ryan forgot was that the car he was driving was quite a bit lighter than his Camaro and he took a corner too fast. He slid off the road and hit a limestone fence post, flipping him over multiple times into the field.

Fortunately, there was the policeman still behind him, or he could have died right there in that field. They called in the ambulance and he was eventually Life-Watch helicopter flown to a large hospital in Wichita, Ks. Ryan had cut his face very badly and had lost a lot of blood, but worst of all, he had broken his neck. With that injury came many complications, ultimately resulting in his death. On January 6th, 2004, something went wrong with Ryan's nerve receptors. The signals his body was getting was that he was cold. His temperature kept rising. The nurses and doctors were doing everything they could, ice baths, medications, anything, but nothing worked.

Shortly after midnight on January 7th, 2004, Ryan left this world to the tune of Silent Night. Our mother, father and brother were at his bedside singing him the lullaby Mom always sang to us when we were little. I was with him in spirit, still stuck in California, awaiting my 6am flight.

His funeral was held in Russell, Ks, the same town he was born in. The church was packed full of his friends and family, so much so the late comers had to stand outside. Ryan was laid to rest in the Dorrance cemetery, just down the street from the field we all played baseball on and a few blocks over from the elementary school we went to as kids. The grass is now covering the earth where he is buried, but the spot is marked by many tokens of love left by friends and family. These mementos are scattered all around the thick black granite monument adorned with the senior picture of Ryan and his Camaro.