Of Powdered Donuts and Chocolate Milk (A Memorium)

Many readers may find this post an odd addition to the present countdown and be concerned it is out of place on this blog. The more regular and attuned readers will see its significance and hopefully understand its placement.

For those who have consistently read this and my other blog on Christian music will most likely recall the several mentions of my brother-in-law, Curt.  Curt Kisner played a vital role both in my life (as well as countless others), especially in the area of which this blog (and the other) specializes in.

My biological brother left the house to join the Air Force when I was pretty young. We shared a room for the first 12 or so years of my life, but the six years that separate us meant we were never living through the same “life experiences” at the same time. By the time I was old enough to begin sharing some similar experiences he was either in the Air Force or married, living over 3,000 miles away. I love my brother like a brother and always will.

But it was at that time my sister brought home a young man named Curt she had met at Church. He had long hair and liked rock and roll. He played guitar and would be a part of a few “bands” during his high school and college years with many other friends from the youth group, including my sister.

My father was a police officer and my brother and I always had very short hair and rock music (even of the Christian variety) was limited in the house. Then along came Curt. He eventually won over my parents with his unending humor, joy of life and his immense love and dedication to my sister. He was the only man in her life…EVER!

I loved Curt immediately. Not just for the rock and roll hair and cool guitar, but for so many other reasons that naming them here would be impossible.

I loved watching sitcoms with Curt in my family’s living room. He laughed at everything! I mean everything! He made the shows funnier as I learned to see the lighter side of life through his twinkling eyes (even the lazy one) and loud laugh. He loved to laugh. He loved to laugh more than anyone I can recall. He loved to make others laugh as well.

I loved the fact that he allowed some snot nosed kid, six years his junior to “hang out” him, his girlfriend and all their other friends and band members. I am friends with many of his peers because he allowed me to be a part of his group, despite the age difference.

One day, when I was about 12 or so, I had clearly gotten on my sister’s nerves and was “seriously hanging around too much” and she made it clear I was not invited to stick around. Being an immature little kid and not getting the hints it was time to take off, I was told, in no uncertain terms, I wasn’t welcomed. Like a little child I took off on my bike, upset and crying. It was Curt, I later found out, that lead the search party for me, making sure I knew it was OK to be a part and convincing my sister to let me stay around. Since that day, I have admired and loved my sister and her husband for their never-ending attitude of inclusion.

Curt never met anyone that wasn’t his best friend. He was always reaching out to me, my friends and people at Church like very few people his age. I watched from a distance and saw his actions. I only wished it would have rubbed off a little more on me.

My sister and Curt started a band called “The Lighter Side Band,” a Christian rock band that I always hoped would “make it.” They never did, but I always thought they were the greatest band ever. I “sort of” ran sound and would hang out at the band rehearsals at some Baptist Church in downtown Anaheim. The band even went to Magic Mountain together for a fun day and Curt brought me along.

The day he was going to propose to my sister he told me about it and sent me on an errand to “Mini Mart.” Mini Mart was a little market/liquor store two houses down from the house I grew up in. Everyone on the east side of Anaheim knew “Mini Mart.” My sister and Curt would regularly sit and watch TV while eating powdered donuts and drinking chocolate milk. He would ALWAYS give me enough money to get some for myself as well. ALWAYS!

That was the way of Curt.

Curt handed me a few bucks and sent me down to Mini Mart to pick up these delights. I did as requested and then sat on the store’s stoop and ate the donuts and drank the chocolate milk myself, giving Curt the time he needed to propose. I came back to a teary-eyed and smiling sister and a proud and joyful set of parents.

Before all that, though, Curt did something that would change my life forever. He took me to Disneyland for one of their regular “Night of Joy” events. The only thing I remember before going was that Barry McGuire was going to be there, and Barry McGuire was one of the few contemporary Christian artists whose music was in our house. What I didn’t know was that Barry McGuire was sharing the stage with this new band called the Resurrection Band!

Nothing would ever be the same.

My love and obsession for Christian music, especially Christian rock flourished. It lead me to work in a Christian bookstore, work in Christian radio and work for a Christian music label or two. The music that has completely consumed my life and filled the multiple pages of this blog was birthed and later built up by my brother-in-law, Curt.

Curt would be for me my first two Christian albums: “MrGuire” by the group McGuire and “This Time Thru” by DeGarmo and Key. The latter would become a staple in my catalog and remain a favorite to this day.

He took me to see DeGarmo & Key at Knott’s Berry Farm a week before their classic “Straight On” was released. He took my to my first Calvary Chapel Saturday Night Concert to see this guy named Darrell Mansfield, that used to be in this Christian country-rock band, Gentle Faith. Mr. Mansfield wasn’t “country” anymore.

But the most memorable night was when he bought an extra ticket for me to the Universal Amphitheater for my very first “real” rock show. The band was KANSAS. It was the Vinyl Confessions tour and I was in awe. I was already familiar with the band and loved everything the band or Kerry Livgren had done, but seeing it all live was beyond what I could have imagined.

The love and passion I have for the music that has populated this blog is directly related to my brother-in-law Curt. Curt and my sister later got into Country music, which I have never understood, but change is sometimes inevitable.

Curt also introduced me to my great love in high school; cross country and track. Curt could run. His build is that of a runner. Long, lanky and muscular legs and really cool long hair that blew behind him as he ran. My sister ran as well. I followed several years later and had a very good career. I ran both cross country and track and Curt was there all the time for my matches and competitions. He would coach at local High Schools and may be the most beloved coach in the sport. Just ask his athletes!

I also learned about humility and grace from watching him and my sister. I learned about patience and devotion from their example as well. Curt loved my sister with a deep, unconditional and unending love. You could see. In fact, it would be impossible to miss. There was a grace and graciousness about him that could never be missed.

My first daughter, Camille, was always afraid of men. Especially men with facial hair. Curt had a beard for as long as I could remember that made him look like Jesus. He was a shoe-in for the Easter Cantata role of Jesus and on more than one occasion was hung on a cross for that purpose. But Camille would have none of that. But once Camille grew to an age to understand and recognize Curt for who he was inside, her love for him knew no bounds. She adores her uncle.

My family and I would move around the country for most of the last 20 years, but would always be mindful of “Uncle Curt” and my sister. They would visit us in San Diego or Colorado, it wouldn’t matter. Curt was always the same. Content to rest leisurely on a reclining chair and watch TV…

…and laugh.

This morning (1/13/11) I received a phone call from my mother at a very early hour. Early hour phone calls never bring glad tidings are explosions of joy. This call rang true to form. Some time during the night, the sweet Lord Jesus came and gently escorted this wonderful man to his eternal home, lovingly helping him escape from a cancer ravaged body that had furiously impacted his final days.

A few days ago, after being released from the hospital and arriving at his home for hospice care, he whispered to those around him, “I’m ready to go home.” Everyone knew what he meant. He was in his house, but was ready to go “home.” Several days ago I had written a poem for my sister to encourage her and give her a glimmer of hope in these trying days.

I Saw a Glimpse of Your Future

I saw a glimpse of your future

And it was better than it seems

I saw a glimpse of your future

Something greater than your dreams

The air was so much sweeter

As it filled your lungs like grace

The mountains so much steeper

A heart beating with the pace

I saw a glimpse of your future

With face glowing in the sun

A race not built to win or lose

But a race to simply run

Breath bursting out in pleasure

Legs finding strength again

In a future created for you

With no sorrow, loss or pain

I saw a glimpse of your future

A home where love and grace collides

Where a Saviors’ love holds warm and tight

The heart where faith resides

With arms reaching toward heaven

With no time to pass or tell

Brand new creature and creation

To whose soul cries “all is well”

Oddly enough last night while working at my Church I was listening to my Zune. I have aver 19,000 songs on my Zune and had it on shuffle. In the several years of owning an mp3 player and placing it on “shuffle,” I had never heard the same song play twice in a row. Until last night. Perhaps I accidentally hit the “back” button while walking along, but I cannot know for sure.

The song was Keith Green’s version of “The Victor.” Though an “Easter” tune and directly relating to the Resurrection of Christ I noticed a particular section that just literally floored me. It immediately reminded me of 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul reassures his readers that the same Resurrection provided to Christ by the Father is guaranteed for those who are His as well.

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.

In the song Green sings:

The gates of hell
They’re falling
Crumbling from the inside out
He’s bursting through
The walls with laughter (Hah!)
Listen to the Angels shout

Bursting through the walls with laughter? God, that sounds just like Curt!

So I sit here, pausing countless times to wipe the tears that have blurred the screen in front of me, not knowing what to do next. Click save this draft and walk away? Click “publish” for the world (or at least my little world) to see? I do not know. I do know one thing:

Today I will be having Powdered Donuts and Chocolate Milk.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by David on February 18, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Awesome tribute. Thanks for sharing. My dad passed away five days before you wrote this (part of the reason why I just now got around to seeing this post).


  2. Posted by Steve Durbin on March 21, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Thanks for this labor of love. It is a blessing. I have many of the vinyl albums you listed. I am thinking of digitizing them and file sharing them. Is this lawful for out of print albums? Is there a web site that has these albums? Thanks for your help.


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