Old Wounds and Family Scars

Page 3 of 8

They found a small house on 13th Avenue and Magnolia Street, and on October 4, 1971, Kathie gave birth to their first child, Arron. They moved to a second house, on Parker Road near the High Line Canal, and on March 4, 1974, Autumn, was born.

July 11 of that same year was an especially rainy day. Curt was at work, and Kathie decided to visit some friends. The rain turned into a thunderstorm while she was driving home on a four-lane section of Parker Road near I-225. She had both kids with her, Arron in the backseat and Autumn in her car seat.

Ahead of her in the oncoming lane, a flatbed semi began to jackknife across the highway.

She never knew what hit her.

The truck went into the driver's compartment and sent Kathie's Subaru into a utility pole, sandwiching the little car. Kathie died later of massive internal injuries at Fitzsimons Hospital.

Curt's landlord was the cop on the scene and had driven in from out of his area when he heard the report over the radio. He identified Kathie's body and recommended that Curt not go to the morgue to see his wife. Curt took his advice. Ever since, he has had an uneasy feeling that maybe it was not really his wife in that room. "Your mind does weird things to you sometimes," he says. "I never got the closure I needed."

Arron was only two at the time of the accident, but "he remembered things from the accident that only someone who had been there could remember," Curt says. He received only a couple of bruises, but he had to endure numerous X-rays following the accident. "If you saw him, you would never have known he had just been in an accident," Curt recalls. "But all those X-ray machines and the poking and prodding afterward -- that wasn't good for a two-year-old."

After the accident, Autumn, who was cut across the face and still bears scars, went to stay with her Grandma Delilah and her Aunt Sabra in California while Curt took Arron camping at Bass Lake in Southern California for a couple of weeks. Curt finally returned to work, but now he had a three-year-old son and a six-month-old breast-feeding daughter to take care of by himself.

Arron would talk about the accident whenever he and Curt parked near a telephone pole or passed by places that reminded him of Kathie. "We would sit and talk about whatever was on his mind," Curt says. "I didn't know what happened during the accident, so mostly I would just listen to him. I was living in Denver by myself. My job was to raise the kids and get them back in the flow of living. I tried to get them to not forget what happened, but push it back. I felt what was required was a sense of normalcy for the kids."

Despite the trauma, Curt's health remained strong. He was taking insulin on a daily basis and, according to his doctor, was doing fine. But since the practice in the 1970s was to have diabetics fast for a day before their blood-sugar levels were tested, his doctor wasn't getting accurate readings, Curt says.

In addition, Curt was fudging the readings himself by eating well only for the days leading up to the tests. "It was a test, and I wanted to pass it," he says. After the test, Curt would go back to his regular eating habits.

Neither Curt nor his doctor had any idea how serious his diabetes was.

In 1976, while Curt was in Los Angeles on a business trip, he ran into a striking blonde on the beach with her six-year-old nephew. Diane Bower was a 33-year-old divorcée who was getting ready to become the assistant superintendent of education at Federal Prison Butner in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

"[Curt] looked like he was nineteen," Diane remembers. "But he was thirty."

At the end of that summer, Diane quit her job and moved to Colorado to be with Curt. They were married in Fairplay on February 5, 1977, in a church smaller than the living room of their current home. In their wedding picture, Arron looks sad. Curt says it's because Arron had accidentally dropped Diane's wedding ring into the snow. But on further examination, the kid simply looks disoriented and confused by what's going on around him.

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Sean Neumann