In a lineup of siblings, first-borns traditionally shoulder the heaviest burdens. Katae has always gracefully shouldered her world, praying that God would make her a good example, always considering her brothers and sister. In our home Katae would do what needed to be done; she’d find the holes and fill them; she’d enlist her siblings to help. First-borns are often leaders that way, sympathetic to their ragged mothers. Katae was the one who cared. She never saw me as Super Woman or– most likely, never even saw me as Capable Woman. All my shortcomings hung way out in those early years when I had more littles than bigs.
Katae played soccer until homeschool status prevented her from playing at the high school level. Then she helped Bob coach. Up through the ranks of Civil Air Patrol Katae worked, becoming a Master Sargeant in just two years and hating every minute of it. In an activity even more hated, speech and debate, Katae also shined. It doesn’t matter how Katae feels about a job: she gives it her all. I don’t have to see her to know that she does exceptional work at QDRO (a company that divides 401K and retirement packages according to divorce decrees). At twenty years old, Katae graduated from Bowling Green State University and landed a good job in an economy when even bad jobs were scarce. At twenty-three, she’s still shouldering her world gracefully.
Because they love her so, Katae’s leaving felt like a mortal wound for a while. I didn’t even recognize it at first. One day I realized that the kids were just… off. And Gabe said, “I miss Katae.” It’s the way things are supposed to be. A daughter grows up. She meets a great guy. She gets married. And we all miss her. But we’re happy for her too. And when she comes for a visit, Katae’s a rock star. Really, we didn’t lose a daughter; we gained a son. Paul is as beloved as Katae. He brings a playful spirit into every pursuit. Can I still cry when, after a lovely visit, they get on their motorcycle and leave?
When Bob and I went away on our 20th anniversary cruise, it was Katae and Paul who took Gabe to his swim meet so he didn’t have to miss it. Anyone who has experience in swim meets knows we asked a lot of Katae and Paul, like six hours’ worth of stifling hot, chlorine-asphyxiated swim meet on one of their two weekend days. I trust Katae to be kind to her little brother. I trust that she loves people the best she knows how, that her intentions are good. Katae has always been a kind spirit. Sleek and soft and beautiful, like her many cats, is Katae.