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The gift of family at Christmas

By Walter Geiger Dianna Borders has had some hard times though you wouldn’t know it from the smile that splits her face almost every minute of every day now. In September, 2013 her son, Air Force veteran Cliff Borders, put a gun to his head and took his own life due to what seemed to him to be insurmountable family problems. Cliff’s wife had a three-year-old when they married. Then they had twins one of whom died. Another daughter arrived five years later. Dianna, daughter of the late Buck Buchanan and Jean Buchanan, grew up in Barnesville. She is divorced from her husband, Freeman Borders. She came back here for a high school reunion and became reacquainted with Kenneth Johnson. ‘He said he always wanted to ask me out but was too shy. He hugged me and I felt sparks fly,’ Dianna said. Kenneth helped her considerably in the aftermath of her son’s death and a serious, subsequent setback. Eight months after Cliff’s suicide, Dianna was at the beach in Orange Park when she fell ill. She had a brain tumor. A botched, subsequent surgery left her completely blind in one eye and 75% blind in the other. ’Kenneth has been my rock. He had this house in Barnesville for sale, took it off the market and we moved in. I decided God wanted me to be blind back home in Barnesville,’ Dianna said. There were more blessings in store. In February Dianna got a social media message on her tablet from Marian Ali. Marian, also an Air Force vet, had met Cliff at Clovis AFB in New Mexico when both were stationed there. A relationship budded and Marian was contacting Dianna to let her know she had a grandson named Ian Ali that she knew nothing about. ’I thought somebody was hacking my phone,’ she said. Cliff and his wife had kept the news from family including their own children. Marian had promised Ian she would tell him about his real father after his second year in college but he had to get to college. Marian became a teacher after leaving the service. She never married. She drove her only son to succeed. He not only made it to college, as an elite student at an upper crust high school in El Paso, he got a free ride to Dartmouth where he is studying physics and will soon be headed to Rome to study abroad. ’I actually applied to Emory but they turned me down. I also applied to Harvard and Yale but Dartmouth has been great for me. I plan to go to graduate school there’ the Ivy Leaguer said. Ian made his first trip here back in June to meet family. As blood kin, he fit right in. Ian has no recollection of his father but actually lived in Georgia at a very young age. His mother moved him here as a child and used DNA testing to prove Cliff’s paternity and draw child support. That was kept secret from his Barnesville family. ’I thought I would one day meet my Dad. I did not know he had died until the attorney general’s office told us and cut off support,’ Ian said. Ian was back in Barnesville from Thanksgiving until last week when he flew to Pasadena to see his maternal grandfather, a minister. ’Ian has just been a joy. He has made a big difference in my life. He has meant so much to me and to my daughter, Michelle,’ Dianna said. Ian has been bonding with extended family all over the state and has gotten along famously with all of them. A newly met cousin, Ryan Buchanan, is going with him to Rome for awhile. His great-grandmother Jean dotes on him. ’It has been great to have him here. I take him with me around town, to church and even to my WMU meeting. Of course, he has learned that the ladies there will feed him,’ Jean reported. Ian has developed a fondness for his local family, Barnesville and southern cooking. ‘I love Barnesville and hanging out at the Pastime. It has been like coming home,’ he said. Immediately upon his arrival, Ian passed the sniff test of one key member of his newfound family. After Cliff’s death, his American Bulldog Sadie came to live with Dianna and Kenneth. When Ian first walked in their home on Collier Road it was if the young man and the dog had known each other forever. ’Sadie knew him. She sleeps with him. If he closes his door, she lays outside and whines. She follows him around. She stares at him and he stares back. It is like they are looking into each other’s souls,’ Dianna said. Dogs know blood kin. Ian is enjoying the gift of family this Christmas. So are his kin here in Barnesville – Sadie included.

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