Today I came upon an open letter that I had written to my sisters about a year ago. In lieu of my traditional blog, I hope you will indulge me by excusing my behavior whilst I wear my heart on my sleeve by posting the letter (so full of raw feelings) here in honor of my special family. I thank you all in advance.
To me the 1970’s will forever be the happiest decade of my life. The radio airways were filled with cheery, innocent pop tunes, that made the perfect soundtrack for the happy, innocent, if not downright puritanical, teenage life that I led.
As the only brother of five children, I was totally devoted to my parents and sisters. In my world, I had the most beautiful and perfect mother. With her hair always done, make-up applied and smartly dressed, she kept a lovely decorated, neat-as-a-pin, home and cooked the best food I have ever tasted! She was funny, loving and very cool. What more could a teenage boy hope for? I had a father who adored his family, worked hard to get us all that he could (sometimes holding down three jobs to do so) and still managed to teach us respect for people, places, things and ourselves.
Then there were my sisters, all four of them! Now I know that you may think that the only boy surrounded by four girls every day of his life, would have longed for a brother. One might think that the girls might have even formed a special “sister bond” leaving me to feel a bit left out or isolated. Well nothing could be further from the truth. You see, I was so proud of my sisters and my heart overflowed with love for each and every one of them. So much so, that they became the source of joyful memories that would forever help me through the roughest times in my life.
Maureen, my only older sister, was a knockout beauty who was smart, funny and always seemed to have the best advice whenever I found myself in need of it. She and I had been through an awful lot together and we knew that come what may, we would always be there for each other. She had the honor (or the burden) of being all the firsts. She was the first to graduate and get a job, first to get married, have a baby and buy a house. She was beautiful, excelled in school, made friends easily and all in all, was a very tuff act to follow. However, I was too busy being proud of her to realize it.
The remaining three were all younger… much younger and I felt protective, proud, and most of all, responsible to do all that I could to create happy memories and show them the best time any big brother could.
You see earlier on, before the three younger sisters were born, I lost my only brother to teenage suicide. The mark that his death left on our family was astounding. This tragic and senseless death came only two years after Maureen and I helplessly stood by and watched as our thirty-nine year old father suddenly died of a massive heart attack in our mother’s arms.
If there could be a sliver lining to a cloud so dark, it was that I knew that my family was the most important thing in my life. I wanted my sisters to always be aware of how much I loved them and hoped to protect them from the pain that my older sister and I had gone through.
Putting tragedy behind us, my mom eventually remarried to the man I call my father and their love created three beautiful girls who are anything but HALF sisters. The best way to describe our “unusually functional” family would be “Leave It to Beaver” meets “The Brady Bunch!” In our house there was no swearing, no sibling rivalry of any kind and hardly any arguments (well, at least in MY recall!) We always shared with each other because it was “the right thing to do” and were all totally supportive of one another.
While other guys my age were involved in sports, dating, and partaking in that great American teenage pastime, “hanging out”, I was content to “hang out” with my family.
I was happy to help my mom around the house and I actually had the joy of teaching two of my younger three sisters to walk. I taught them all to ride a bike, jump rope and swim. I was there each year for their first day of school; I picked them up from religious instruction class and I made sure that each of them had their own special time with their big brother.
Weekends were spent taking them on day trips to Oakland Lake or picnics at Alley Pond Park. There were afternoons at the movies, and in the winter, probably our favorite pastime of all; holiday sightseeing at the local florist where Santa would set up a full workshop and hot chocolate flowed freely! I would try to buy a Christmas decoration that we could all enjoy for the holiday season and a small gift for my mom that would be from all of us kids.
The amount of joy that these small, inexpensive items gave could not have been any greater if they had cost millions. To this day, our Christmas would not be the same without hearing songs from a one-dollar record album that I purchased from a wire display stand. I Want An Elephant For Christmas It immediately brings to mind bundling up my sisters in their warmest jackets complete with scarf & mittens for the long trek to Kiel Brothers florist. We would laugh and sing all the way there, and I always had my trusty camera in my pocket!
What guy anywhere was as lucky as me? I felt as thought I had the world on a string and thought that these moments would last forever. Sadly, time slips by quickly and the present becomes the past all too soon. However, one of the best gifts that God gave mankind was the ability to hold memories in our minds and hearts forever. My heart is chock-full with the most beautiful memories of wonderful times and I will feel forever blessed because of them.
Here’s to my sisters, Maureen, Janice, Theresa and Sharon! Thank you all for filling my heart with more joy then most others will ever know in their lifetime.
I love you all more then any words I can possibly pen onto these pages could ever express.