I hadn’t thought about Kyle for a long time. I usually think about him when something reminds me of my early Little League days. And thinking back to those days, I probably only knew Kyle for a short time – the length of one baseball season, really. But when you’re a kid, you can make friends that quickly. You can also lose friends just as quickly, usually when you move on to a new baseball team or a different class in school.
But when you’re just nine years old, you’re not supposed to lose a friend to a sudden death.
About a month ago, I was at the library looking up some genealogy records. One of the most basic types of records I rely upon for my research is an obituary. The genealogy room at the Main Library has a handy database that allows you to search for people’s names and obituaries in the Albuquerque Journal. For some reason that I can’t explain, it occurred to me to search for an obituary or news article about Kyle’s death. I sent a text message to my mom, and asked her if she remembered Kyle’s last name. She didn’t immediately remember, but a few days later, my dad told me that my mom finally remembered it was Enriquez. My dad asked me why I wanted to look up Kyle’s obituary. I didn’t really have an answer. I was curious. I had very specific memories of Kyle and his death, but I was just nine years old. Maybe there was more to the story.
This is what I remember. Kyle and I played on the same Pee Wee team, called the Robins, at North Valley Little League. I had other friends from that team; Marty Chavez would remain one of my best friends. But Kyle didn’t go to the same school as we did. We attended Ranchos Elementary, and I didn’t remember where Kyle went to school until I read his obituary. (He attended Alvarado Elementary, a few miles to the south of Ranchos, now called Los Ranchos.) I remember Kyle’s home just off 4th Street, with the huge trees lining both sides of the street and his house at the end, near or at the cul-de-sac. I remember spending the night there, at least once, and we either watched an episode of the TV show, SWAT, or we pretended we were elite police officers from SWAT, holding our rifles in the back of the cool black SWAT vehicle, racing to save a hostage at some crime scene.
But the memories that have haunted me over the years aren’t really memories at all, because I wasn’t present when they happened. In 1978, Kyle was at a bowling alley with his family and some friends. At some point, the kids left the bowling alley, I believe to go to a nearby convenience store, although I’m not 100-percent sure about that. While crossing a busy street, Kyle turned back for some reason, tripped on the pavement and was struck by a vehicle, killing him instantly. That’s what was always in the back of my mind. I have always thought that I was supposed to be with Kyle that night, but for some reason I couldn’t go with him. But my dad recently told me that wasn’t the case. He said he wouldn’t have let me go at that age.
The other memory that has been burned in my mind is of Kyle’s funeral, which I didn’t attend. My parents attended, and they probably felt I was too young to deal with it. I assume they told me about it, because I have always had this vivid picture in my head of Kyle in an open coffin, in his yellow Robins t-shirt, with his glove and a bat next to him.
Kyle has nothing to do with my genealogy, but he obviously left an indelible mark on my life. When I searched for his name, I found his obituary and a newspaper story, which basically confirmed what I remember. I didn’t know that he was struck by a teen-ager driving a truck. But the police said it was an accident, and the driver was not cited. I wonder how he dealt with the tragedy.
According to his obituary, Vincent (Kyle) Enriquez was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Jesus Enriquez, who lived on Placitas, N.W. He had two sisters, Paula and Barbara. His grandparents were Mr. and Mrs. Carlos Salas and Mr. and Mrs. Juan Enriquez. He attended Alvarado Elementary School; was a member of the Cub Scouts, Pack #8, Den 5; and played baseball at North Valley Little League.
After finding the obituary and news article, I went to my shed and retrieved a box with my old Little League team pictures and a dozen or so home-run balls I kept. I found the team photos of the Robins from 1977, and while I was pretty sure I knew which one of the small boys was Kyle, I had to ask my parents for confirmation. My dad said Kyle was the only guero, or blonde-haired Hispanic, on the team. I reminded him that my friend Marty was also guero. In any case, both my mom and dad easily picked Kyle out of the photo. Later on, my dad told me that Kyle’s parents stopped by our old house; around the time I graduated from Valley High School, to see me. He said they only stayed about five minutes and left. I don’t recall that visit at all. I can’t imagine what they were thinking about when they saw me.
My daughters are 11 and 7 years old. My 7-year-old, Isabella, suddenly started asking to let friends spend the night at our house. Actually, she didn’t ask, she invited first. But when I think back to my care-free days and my friendships with Kyle and Marty, I see Bella’s viewpoint in a whole new light. I hope she appreciates the friends she’s making now, and never forgets them.