Goodbye to Tom Kuh
Earlier this summer, I found myself passing through the pool area at Burbank High School filled with water polo players. I had to get to the gym to watch a basketball summer league game. The smell of chlorine and the walking across wet pavement as kids splashed and joked around brought me back to my childhood. It’s been forever since I was in a pool horsing around like that.
The thing is, I used to do it all the time. If I wasn’t at Raging Waters, I was swimming at my old home in Tujunga. If I wasn’t at those places, then I was at the Kuhs’ house, with Tom and Ann. They had a house in Sunland in the 1990s with a pool, a place to barbecue and a garage that blared music from the boom box that was plugged in. They also had two kids that decade, Taylor and Ian, and so it was a real a family affair when we would get together on the weekends; myself, my mom Sue, my step dad Max and eventually my younger sister Halie.
On blazing hot afternoons, I would jump off their diving board, see if I could swim to the other side while holding my breath and play other pool games.
When the Kuhs’ eventually moved to La Crescenta, the fun didn’t stop. They had another pool and held annual parties for everyone to have a good time. But the biggest reason why I always had so much fun was because of Tom. I was a kid, so he’d jab some punches at my ribs and let me beat him in an arm wrestling match. I loved sports, and he was always there, watching games with me if they were on TV and quiz me on sports trivia.
Those were the times when everything was fun, and steady. Unfortunately, as many families know all too well, things fall apart. Tom and Ann divorced several years ago. So did my mom and Max, so we stopped coming around. I used to go over to the Kuhs’ and watch football on their Direct TV package, but it’s been so long.
The last time my mom spoke to Tom, he was selling the house and moving into a condominium near the Verdugo Hills Golf Course. He was apparently excited to turn the page and start a new chapter. He had been retired as sergeant from the Glendale Police Department and was teaching at Glendale Community College.
My mom and I found out this week that Tom passed away in June due to cancer. He was even in a coma for a bit. We never knew, and wish to God we had. It was the drinking that got him; Tom and Ann were some of the most social people we knew, and they could always be seen with something in their hand. The first time I remember smelling whiskey was out of his glass.
I have a videotape in my closet of stuff my mom recorded when I was 6, maybe 7. One stretch of the tape is of an afternoon at the Kuhs’ house in Sunland, poolside, with everyone having a good time. My step dad can be seen flexing his arm for the camera, I’m in the water splashing away, and Tom is there, handling the barbecue and walking around.
Taylor went on to have success in water polo at CV High, and is now attending San Diego State. Ian is, well, struggling to find his way as an 18-year-old. Ann has moved on, although she’s still in the area, and my step dad moved to Texas. With Halie currently out of town, it was just my mom and I receiving the news of Tom’s death on a Friday afternoon. We will have to say goodbye to him at his service in August, which is never how we thought any of this would end up.
Tom Kuh was a police officer. He was a Washington Redskins fan. He made my sister and I laugh instantaneously. He was the friendliest host you could imagine, and his house was without a doubt the best place to visit when I was a kid. Now, he is just missed.
These summer days are a long way from the ones at Tom and Ann’s house, when we were a family, and they were too. For all I care, those pools will forever be empty.