An Open Letter to My Sisters

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.

My 1970’s

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. 

Your brother…



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18 responses to “An Open Letter to My Sisters

  1. Ginny Kane Calvert

    So beautiful and enlightening! I knew that your sisters shared a special bond with you and now I know why. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Sounds like a great family!

  3. Theresa

    Donald you are a truly irreplaceable person to all of us. You have given us such wonderful childhood memories to look back on. I’m so lucky that we still share such a closeness, as adults. You’re a great brother in so many ways, a friend and a wonderful, kind person that anyone would love to have in their world. You are one of a kind and I don’t know what our lives would be without you in it. Thank you for all the caring, advice, and well I have to mention, good times!!
    Love you so much xo Theresa

  4. Mike Wawrzynski

    I know I’ve ‘only’ been a part of the family for 21 years, but you really are awesome. We’ve all seen the love you have towards your family, but even us ‘outsiders’ feel a bond with you. Yeah, yeah – I know, it’s because some of us are awesome too – but it’s more attributed to the character of person you are, than it is anything else… Love reading all of your updates and hopefully at some point soon, you’ll be lucky enough to see us again soon… 🙂

  5. Wow! Such truly amazing responces, I am honored and VERY flattered. I have so many loving, caring and supportive people in my life, both in my family as well as, to quote Mike, “outsiders.” The fact of the matter is that once someone is in your heart, they can never be “outside.” Thank you all for being in mine.

  6. Your four sisters are the lucky one’s Don. I am sure that anyone who reads this would agree. What other brother takes his little sisters to the park, lake, religion, the first day of school.? Just to name a very small few. None that I know. I have so many wonderful memories of my childhood because of you and sometimes often feel guilty because you had such a diffrent childhood then I did. Nobody could ask for a better brother then you and I can’t ever thank you enough for always being there for me, teaching me and being “The wind beneath my Wings”. xoxo Ps If your wondering “I want an Elephant for Christmas”. =)

  7. Janice

    Wow. I KNOW!! We all had an amazing childhood-not always perfect, but ALWAYS full of love and good times. Believe me, I see what’s out there. I know we were truly blessed with an extraordinary family, and I thank God for it every day. Thanks for being the best big brother/friend a girl could ever have, and for reminding us all, during our busy lives, just how fortunate we are to have one another. Love you!! (Oh, and the other ones too!)

  8. Maddy

    Congratulations Don…how beautiful…and wonderful…I always admired your whole family…I never left your house without laughing ( a lot ) I am glad you decided to share your stories…

    • Thank you Maddy. I am sure you know how much we all loved that you were a part of our lives too… happy times! They shaped us into who we are today and we will always hold them (and more inportantly, each other)very, very dear

  9. Maureen Rothwell

    My wonderful, talented, funny, younger brother! I love you to death! We are the lucky ones to have you! I have the same memories as you, but somehow I remember myself quite differently: chubby, shy, a little lonely (except at home) but always spunky! We had the best times, always broke but there wasn’t a kid on the block that didn’t love to hang out at our house! Lots of music blasting, TV, good eats, laughter, NEVER to this day any jealousy or meaness between any of us! Ring ding, ring ding, wish I had another ring ding….:-)

  10. Dear Don: You are a blessed man in so many ways. I am blessed to have read your blog! It is wonderful! What a family!! You are now my inspiration to get moving and keeping my blog up to date and to finish my book, which is less than half way finished or started; whichever way! LOL!

    Keep up with the blogging because I will be looking forward to reading it!!

    Love, Cory (Dolling)

  11. Dear Cory,
    Thank you so very much for your kind words. I have been truly blessed in so many ways and believe me, I never take it for granted.

    Welcome aboard! I thank you for wanting to take this journey with me.

    I look forward to reading your blog and book one day. You’re half way there already! Good for you… keep it up my new friend. I am sure you will be happy that you did.

  12. Jacqueline Martin

    Dear Don,

    The words you write about your family are a true inspiration to all families. I am so thankful to have been blessed with having you and your family as my extended family. We have all shared a lot in 25 years and I know that I was so very blessed for having shared these times with all of you. Thank you Don and the Abate Family for all of the love, laughter, tears and many wonderful memories. Love you all!!!

  13. Robin Rice-Pappas

    Don you are truly an Inspiration! I am so proud to say that you were part of my Childhood even if it was for a short time,Its something that I wouldnt have traded for the World, and to know that I will be able to read more of your childhood with your sisters and family is something that I cant even put into words, guess thats why your the Author, LOL! Thanks for Bringing your memories to Life!

  14. Thank you Robin. Those years in bayside were some of the best in my life. For Maureen and me (and my parents) it was a whole new beginning.
    I thank you my dear old friend for all of your love and support. It means the world to me. God bless you. XO

  15. Kathy

    WOW! I am crying (tears of joy). What a beautiful family. So much love it is an inspiration to us all. It must have been wonderful for those that knew you to have had you in their lives. Keep up the great writing! 🙂

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