NEW LIFE – DIFFERENT GOALS
It was as though a “breathe of fresh air” came when Linda and Steve Tittle moved to Kirby Pines. Their youth and joyful spirit were a welcome addition to our community. After losing their only child, Brian, at the age of 26 to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), the Tittles were finally able to transition from life focused on survival to one of a “normal” existence. How did this couple who seem so compatible meet? Well, they lived only three houses apart!
Linda (Lott) Tittle was born in Selmer, Tennessee, in 1946, but her family moved to Memphis when she was one year old. They moved again when she was in the sixth grade, a move that would later become an important one.
Linda graduated from Kingsbury High School in 1964. She was a member of the Latin Club but admits she was not involved with many school activities. As an only child, she welcomed the opportunity to play with the neighborhood kids, occasionally babysitting with some of the younger ones.
Following graduation from high school, Linda enrolled in Draughon’s Business College and worked in secretarial jobs until her son, Brian, was born. Following Brian’s diagnosis at the age of three years, Linda (and Steve) cared for Brian until his death. According to Linda, “Everything centered on Brian’s care and comfort.”
Steve Tittle was born in a small town in Alabama in 1942. Steve describes life there as resembling the song words, “Coal mine, moonshine, or move on down the line.” Soon after Steve’s birth, his father was called to serve in WWII. Steve and his mother lived with his father’s parents; life with his grandparents was good. Steve was three years old when he was re-introduced to his father.
Steve and his family eventually moved to Memphis, three houses from the Lott family. Steve graduated from Kingsbury High School in 1960, and then spent three years in the Army as a Specialist 4th Class, stationed primarily in Germany. Following his return to Memphis, Steve attended Memphis State University for one year. Unable to decide on a major, Steve chose to enlist in a steamfitter school sponsored by the Steamfitters Union. For 35 years, Steve worked as a steamfitter. According to Steve, “I enjoyed working with my hands, doing construction in chemical plants, installing air-conditioners, building boilers, and running natural gas lines for heating equipment.”
While Steve was in the Army, Linda became acquainted with the Tittle family, occasionally babysitting Steve’s younger brothers. The difference in their ages and the Army service kept Linda and Steve from meeting. According to Steve, this is how they finally met: “I had just returned from the Army and was talking with a neighbor in the front yard. He asked me if I had met the young lady who lived up the street, who, at that moment, was playing ‘stick ball’ with neighborhood kids. I told him I had not noticed her. He said, ‘Do I have to tell you what to do?’ I left my neighbor standing there and hurried down our street to meet a very pretty young lady named Linda.”
Linda and Steve dated for two years before marrying in 1966. Their first and only child, Brian, was born three years later. When he was diagnosed with DMD, Linda and Steve knew that there would be limited time for Brian to have a normal life. “When we found that his fate was sealed,” admits Steve, “we vowed to make the most of his early years. We went to every theme park you could name, visited museums such as the Smithsonian, attended special celebrations, and, of course, Tiger basketball games! We went until he couldn’t.”
When Brian became homebound, a friend from church who was a nurse came to their home and stayed with Brian one afternoon a week, giving Linda freedom to leave her responsibilities for a few hours. That nurse is now Kirby Pines resident—Sylvia Statham! “She was our angel,” declares Steve. Sylvia became a good friend to Brian and, knowing that his favorite band was Chicago, arranged for Brian to attend a concert in Memphis AND visit with the band afterward. “Brian was on ‘cloud nine’ and refused to wash his hands for a week,” laughs Steve.
It was time for rebuilding for Linda and Steve following Brian’s death in 1995. One life with all the struggles and dreams had closed, and a new life with different goals began. According to Linda, “We became roller coaster fanatics; we rode the biggest and best. We were also heavily into line dancing, attending classes twice a week.” Steve adds, “We are past that now and hoping to make the grade as ballroom dancers.”
For 14 years the Tittles occasionally visited Kirby Pines. “One day, while visiting the new ‘L’ Wing, we loved one of the apartments and decided this was no longer a dream,” states Steve. “We moved in, we love it, and we have never looked back,” he adds. They are now involved in many activities of Kirby Pines, including the Theatre Group.
When asked to summarize their feelings about life at Kirby Pines, both Linda and Steve agreed: “Not until we moved in and met the residents did we realize that Kirby has a hidden quality—special people live here! They practice the ‘Golden Rule.’ We were accepted immediately and made to feel like family.”
Written by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines.