I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, July 7, 2013

My siblings

Me, Norma Jean, PJ, Buz, Markee, and Fia in 1983
This picture was taken thirty years ago, in summer at our parents' home in Ft. Worth. It simply astounds me to realize that we were all so young, but we were also pretty much grown into the people we would become. There is an almost exactly twenty-year age difference between the oldest, me, and Fia, the youngest. Now Fia is a grandmother and is about to remarry next month at the age of fifty. When I saw her this past Thanksgiving, she told me she was very upset about the half-century mark she just crossed. She still looks very young to my eyes, but she feels as though she's practically got one foot in the grave.

I remember my fiftieth birthday. It was a tough one for me, too. Reaching fifty is a true milestone, and one that is hardest, I think, for women. You stop thinking of yourself as the person that most advertisements are geared toward, for one thing. The mature woman begins her journey into invisibility. I don't think it's quite as difficult for men. But what do I know? I look at my life partner and think he looks pretty much the same as when we met, but of course he doesn't. I can look at an old picture to realize that time has changed him also.

Fia was married to Jim for well over 25 years, and he told her one day that he was in love with another, younger woman. They separated and Fia went through a very difficult period. She was absolutely taken by surprise, since she thought their marriage, with two grown children who had already left home, was solid. She is very close to Markee, the sister closest to her in age, and their relationship helped to carry her forward into a new life, along with plenty of other family support. It was a truly rough patch, but she came through it and met a wonderful man who will become her husband next month. I am so happy for her.

Markee met and married a Canadian many years ago and moved to Alberta with him. She and Bob have raised three children, twin boys and a girl who is now in college. The boys are still at home, but Markee was a registered nurse who worked for most of her life, eventually moving into management. When I saw her at Thanksgiving, she was quitting her job, which had become onerous, and now she teaches young nurses. She has taken some of them to India, where they are ministering to others. (She may be back home by now, I'm not sure.) I hope she is happy with her life now, and I know that she and Fia are incredibly happy to have one another. After Fia's marriage next month, she and Russ (her intended) will honeymoon in Canada with Markee and her family.

My brother Buz. Right in the middle of all his sisters, he is probably one of the most sensitive and caring people I've ever known. He and his wife Phyllis are the family members that I stay with when I visit Texas. Their home and their life together fills me with peace and contentment when I am there. Buz was married once before, and his daughter Trish has married and recently graduated from college. I know about her life with Matt mostly from Facebook, since they live on the East Coast and I only see them occasionally. Buz is very proud of her, but Phyllis is the center of his life. Their marriage is strong; you can feel it when you are around them. Phyllis is one of the sweetest people I have ever known.

My sister PJ and I have never been close. She has two grown children who live close by her, and she has grandchildren who are the apple of her eye. She and her husband Stewart have had several health issues this past year, but things seem to be better lately. When PJ had a heart attack this past springtime, it was touch and go for awhile, but she is on disability (last I heard) and has gone into early retirement. I hesitate to call her, because right now things are good between us and I don't want to rock the boat. She and I get into tangles every time we try to communicate, it seems. I love her but we are just very different people, I guess.

And next comes Norma Jean, who most of my readers know is the family member I am closest to. We grew up together and share so many memories. She and her husband Pete were married almost a half century when he died in 2011. Although he wasn't very old, he was a smoker who developed emphysema and still couldn't completely give up cigarettes. They fought more about that issue than probably any other, and Norma Jean came close to leaving him over it several times. But they stayed together, and when he died, I went to Florida to spend three weeks with her afterwards. Their two children could not be more different from each other: Allison is a Lt. Colonel at the Pentagon, and Peter is a multitalented computer whiz who has recently come to live with Norma Jean. He was laid off from his job in Michigan and went off to California to seek his fortune. When nothing panned out, he came to live with Norma Jean in Florida and is a real help to her. I frankly feel much better about Peter being there. I worry about her and come up with some real doozies when she doesn't answer her phone. I don't know how long he will stay, but I hope it's for awhile. The two of them returned yesterday from a visit at Allison's.

And me, here in Bellingham with my life partner, with my two sons long gone from this earth, no grandchildren in the picture, but a full life nevertheless. I made four skydives yesterday with my friends in Snohomish, and today I'll head off into the wilderness with some of my hiking friends. Monday I will go to the movies with my friend Judy, and now that the Independence Day holiday is behind us, my routine can be reestablished. On Wednesday I will have a nice video chat with Norma Jean; it's so much better than a phone call, and we will visit for a couple of hours and share what's going on in our respective lives.
Thanksgiving 2012
This picture was taken last Thanksgiving, in the same birth order as the first picture. None of us look much like we did thirty years ago, but we are still here, still sharing the planet, and I feel incredibly blessed that my parents gave us life, gave us each other, and that we are all still here to enjoy life together. I know that one of us will die one day, and it will never be the same again. So I rejoice to know that the time has still not come and fervently wish for many, many more years together.

21 comments:

Rian said...

My reading list is back... don't know why... but I'm happy. Love this post, DJan. 20 year difference between the oldest and youngest - wow! There was almost 10 years between my sister and me (I?)which meant we really lived in 2 different worlds and didn't get to know each other until grown. I was 10 when she married and moved away. I think you have a wonderful family... and love those pictures!

Linda Reeder said...

I am the second oldest of seven siblings. Two have passed, a middle sister with downs syndrome, and the youngest, the baby sister, of alcohol poisoning. she led a troubled life. but the rest of us, the five survivors, are still kicking around, and still somewhat close. We are spread across the country, with a brother in the Boston area, and the rest of us in Oregon or Washington. We northwesterners get together fairly often, and we will all be together at a family picnic in August.
We have different personalities too, and some relationships are stronger than others. that's just how it is. You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family. but still the bond is there.
Thanks for sharing your family today.

gigihawaii said...

What a great post! I loved reading every word. Those photos are priceless. I hope you all have many years together!

amanda | wildly simple said...

I sure enjoyed reading this post. It's an interesting relationship, being siblings. Born of the same parents. Connected. Yet not necessarily close.
My husband is one of three brothers. They have had their ups & downs. The other two are close, and he has often been the "black sheep." We hosted them and their families Saturday for a meal & gathering with everyone together at our house for the first time in years.

I find myself disappointed in my relationships with my siblings. My two sisters, particularly. But I remind myself to be at peace with the way things are. We are different people. Tough when there are three, though - and two are so involved on a daily basis, while here I am, raising my family, often unnoticed, it seems.
I am not needy for the help and attention, though.. and I think that's why I don't get it from the sister without kids. She is so involved with my other sister's 4 kids... but they really do need it more than mine do.
Here I go.. spilling my thoughts. Thanks for sharing your insights on your siblings. The photos are wonderful.
Sibling dynamics really are interesting!

Linda Myers said...

I have only one sibling, my sister Alyx, born on my 7th birthday. Our lives have been quite different - mine more conventional, hers much less so. She was close to our mother and I was not. Since our mom's death in 2008 we have become very close. I can't imagine life without her now. That is nice!

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I always like reading about your siblings. I'm the oldest of six. I had a sister and four brothers; one brother died a few years ago in his mid-50s. Some of us are close, but mostly we are not, and because one brother has had a problem personality family gatherings often have been tense. That seems better now, and when everyone came together for my birthday in March we had quite a nice time. That seems to be the best I can hope for...I can try to keep the peace but I can't fix things among everyone!

June said...

You and PJ have one thing in common now: that gorgeous hair!

I can't imagine having more than one sibling. In fact, I can hardly imagine having the one that I do have!

Arkansas Patti said...

Poor Buz, right in the middle of all those women.
Interesting how such a large family can all be so different.
Tell your sister turning 50 that I'd love to be 50 again. Those were some of my best years. At 50, the head is on right and the body still works pretty darn good. Just enjoy.

Gigi said...

I've always wished I had more siblings - particularly since I have the one that I have. But as you said, we are different people with different personalities and it can't be helped.

Reach out to PJ - just keep it short and sweet....thinking of you and hoping you are well. I think she would appreciate it.

Red said...

Always interesting to hear you analyze the family dynamics. I think all families go through different stages...some good some bad. It's difficult these days to keep a good relationship when we are far away from each other. Here's to many more years together.

Retired English Teacher said...

I admire your honesty and authenticity in this post because she spoke so realistically about sibling relationships. It is helpful to know that others don't have perfect sibling relationships. In fact, some of those sibling relationships are difficult at best. I think what struck the most about this post is that you spoke so freely about each sibling. I kept wondering, "Do they read DJan's blog?" If I spoke this freely about my siblings, I think I'd be tarred and feathered by them.

You siblings and you are all interesting individuals. Together, you paint a wonderful picture of what it is like to be a part of a large family that spans two decades. I see much acceptance, love, and pride in this family portrait. Thanks for sharing.

Cynthia said...

I enjoyed reading about your siblings and comparing the two photos. I only have one sister and we couldn't be more different, but the one thing we share is the same sense of humor. I can't laugh with anybody else like I can laugh with my sister!

Jackie said...

You are blessed to have the siblings you have Jan. I loved reading about each one of you. I found myself using the scroll button on my mouse and going back and forth between the two photos ...loving the fact that you all were in the same order in both of them.
Hugging you and knowing that your love for your siblings is a forever love.
Always,
Jackie

Mel said...

What a great post. It's interesting how similar and different siblings can be, and how complicated the relationships can get. Thanks for sharing your siblings with us. Hope you have a great hike and enjoy your movie :)

Dee said...

Dear DJan, I hope that your five siblings have the opportunity to read this posting and to savor the gentleness and love with which you wrote it. Peace.

Keicha Christiansen said...

Your words "I know that one of us will die some day and things will never be the same" really struck a chord with me. You're so right and so lucky to all have each other. Your words show you understand this. Enjoy every moment you can with your siblings.

troutbirder said...

Beautiful post DJ. All in all a strong family. I wish I could say the same. Estranged from my two brothers, my eldest son taken from life by the effects of bi polar and the youngest far away with children I'll probably never see again due to his psychotic and abusive psychologist of a wife....

Rita said...

Lovely, lovely post and especially great to see the pictures of you all then and now. My sister and I have to tread lightly in conversations, too. She's not as touchy the older she gets, so maybe one day we'll be more comfortable with each other. Family is family. You are so blessed to have all of you still together on this fragile earth...that you land upon from the sky. ;)

Star said...

Lovely pictures and memories too D-Jan. You are so lucky to have siblings. I have said that many times before, since I have none. I can only guess what it is like to be surrounded by people who know you better than you know yourself. Of course I am very lucky too because I have my family at the other end, so to speak. We are both very lucky people aren't we!

Far Side of Fifty said...

Families can sometimes be difficult. Sometimes people march to a different drummer. Sometimes I wish my sister who is sixteen years younger than me could be a person I could lean on..but I cannot stand her drama..so it goes. I find being the oldest hard sometimes..the least wanted.
I do have wonderful relationships with both of my brothers..I am very thankful for them.:)

Glenda C. Beall said...

I love this post about your siblings. I had six brothers and sisters and lost four of them, three in the past four years. I am still reeling from the loss of my older sister. We were so fortunate to have each other for as long as we did and to have a great relationship. If I could go back, I'd make sure all my brothers knew how much I loved them. You are right, when one of them dies, it is never the same again.