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, February 26, 2017

My wonderful siblings

Me, Norma Jean, PJ, Buz, Markee, Fia
I love this picture, taken in the early 1980s, in my parents' back yard. Daddy took it, I'm pretty sure, and although none of us look like this any more, we are all recognizable as the people we have become, except PJ who died of heart disease three years ago now. There are twenty years between me, the oldest sister, and Fia, the youngest. We are arranged by age. Fia is now in her mid-fifties and a grandmother three times over.

I didn't have any gray in my light brown hair, and I don't have that smooth neck any more, but otherwise I think I look pretty much the same. Age changes us all. It's been decades since I wore a skirt, and Norma Jean bore a strong resemblance to Farrah Fawcett in those days. Buz, our only brother, was a handsome young man sandwiched between his many sisters.

Although I love all my siblings, you can see how it turned out that the two on each end of the picture became closer to one another than to the others. When I visit Norma Jean in Florida these days, we talk about the old days and realize that none of our other siblings share our memories. It's the same with Markee and Fia; they are very close and visit each other often.

The last time we were all together was three years ago, for PJ's celebration of life. It was a hard time for all of us, but especially for her husband and those who live nearby and saw her often. Years ago I would visit Texas at Thanksgiving, getting together for the holiday. Norma Jean in Florida often wasn't there, and Markee who lives in Canada came more often, but all of us being together was rare. Now it isn't even possible, since PJ is no longer with us. These days I see her children and grandchildren growing up on Facebook, and it amazes me that times passes so very quickly.

Our names might seem unusual, but they aren't really. I was always called by my middle name, Jan, skipping over Dorothy, my paternal grandmother's name. Norma Jean grew up being known by her first and middle names, but she dropped the "Jean" part as she grew older. I have never known her by anything but Norma Jean, and when I would call her at work and ask for her, whoever answered the phone would call her to the phone with, "it's your sister." I didn't have to announce it.

PJ is short for Patricia June. As she grew up, she stopped being known by her initials and became Pat. PJ is all I've ever known for her, too, and when she finally got onto Facebook, she used "PJ" instead of Pat, which made me smile. She had four grandchildren who were the apple of her eye, and she would call them over to me when I visited so I could also see how delightful each one is. They are only known to me because of Facebook, and I marvel at how quickly they have grown from little people into young adults.

Buz is really Norman Francis, but I have never heard him called anything other than Buz. He was nicknamed after a family friend by the same nickname. You wonder how these things happen, when time has blurred the reasoning behind it. I was a teenager by the time Buz was born, and we all know how self-centered teens can be; I was no exception. I did notice that he was a beautiful, talented child. And my dad got the boy he had always wanted. Today Buz is married to a wonderful woman and has a daughter in her mid-thirties.

Somehow at this point in my parents' life, they decided to have more children. The family story is that they couldn't bear to put the high chair into the attic. but who knows? My mother carried a child almost to term, a little girl Tina Maria, who lived only a few hours, but we always think of her as being one of us. My father and I are the only ones who witnessed her tiny body put into the ground.

Markee's name is a contraction of Mary Katherine, and when she was little neither name seemed appropriate to such a little one, so I guess that's how it came about. I had left home by the time she was born and had a son a month younger than she was. At the time I lived in Puerto Rico with my Air Force husband, who was stationed there. My son Chris was born there as well. Markee is now called Mary by her family, and she has three beautiful grown children.

Fia is really Rita Sofia, named after my mother (Rita) and perhaps a distant aunt. I wish I knew more about the naming rationale behind each of us. Fia, the baby, was sometimes called FeeFee, and she was the only one of us who really looked different from the rest of us. She was born bald as an egg and very fair-skinned, and as she grew she developed the prettiest white-blond hair. She actually is the only one who resembles her maternal grandfather, who was Welch. She didn't ever have to do anything to keep that gorgeous blond hair, which she has to this day.

My siblings. Although twenty years separate the oldest from the youngest, we will always be connected by the bonds that we share. There's a little bit of each parent that shines through us in our daily lives, flavoring the present with echoes of the past. Perhaps it's inevitable that as I age I see more of our similarities emerge. Norma Jean and I talk to each other using FaceTime a couple of times a month, but I only see my other siblings on Facebook, and mostly it's their offspring who post on there. My nieces and nephews, and grand-nieces and grand-nephews are quickly growing into young adults. Beautiful people all. I am so blessed to have at least some way to keep in touch as time goes by. I never knew I would become so attached to a social media site, but I have.

I suppose it's inevitable that as I age and look back on the decades of life I've lived, that there are several versions of each of us. I was once a young mother with two beautiful children, and now the ghosts of my nonexistent grandchildren shine through each one of my relatives' progeny. Life is like that, I guess. I'll take it, happily.

I'm sure that I've written about my siblings before, but they are on my mind today, and I hope I've given you a little peek into why they are so special to me. I've got a life that I enjoy and cherish today, but I am also enriched by a long line of pretty exceptional people. Desmond Tutu once said, "You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them."

And with that, my post is finished. I've got to get up and start my day, and I'll be heading off to the coffee shop to join my family of the heart who love coffee as much as I do. I'll be watching the Oscars tonight, hoping that my favorites get honored. Plus I love to see the gowns. Until next week, I hope that you will stay safe and will find much to enjoy in your days. Be well, my dear friends.


Linda Reeder said...

I enjoyed reading about your siblings.
I am one of seven, five of us surviving. I am the second oldest, sandwiched between my two surviving sisters. Number four, Penny Ann, was born with Downs Syndrome, was institutionalized at age six, and died at age 41. Our youngest sister, Betty Jo, number seven in the line up, dies of alcohol poisoning at age 33, after a troubled life. That leaves me with two sisters and two brothers, most of which live in the PNW.
My younger sister has been much on my mind because of our very different political philosophies in these turbulent times. I have been open about our disagreements, and she has responded, each tiptoeing carefully so as not to break the bond of sisterhood.
It seems that growing up together does not mean we have all the same memories. I have been impressed by how differently we remember the same events. I think that, just as now we see things differently due to our personalities, so did we back then in our childhoods.

Tabor said...

My siblings remember things differently than I and I move away across the ocean and across the continent, so their memories are better than mine of my parents later years. I guess I am the black sheep being so out of touch.

Marie Smith said...

You were fortunate to have so many siblings. Such a great family. Social media has helped us keep in touch with the younger generations for sure. So sorry you lost your sister at such a young age.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Interesting names and nick names. Some families used nicknames more than others.
Some of my memories are different from my brother who is three and a half years younger than me, it just depends on what your brain retains. I read recently that when we sleep at night our brain off loads the unimportant stuff.
I am very close to both of my brothers...not so much my sister who is 16 years younger than me. Times change she grew up differently than I did.
Have a good Sunday! :)

Linda Myers said...

You've really brought your siblings to life in this post. I can tell you have lots of good memories

Gigi said...

What a beautiful family! And a testament to your parents that you are a close bunch.

Have a great week!

The Furry Gnome said...

Nice to meet your great group of siblings all together!

Red said...

I wondered where you were going with this post but you concluded it with what is today. Names are funny when it comes to family. I've done a post on our family names. My dad always called me grandfather. None of my siblings called me grandfather. I WAS THE OLDEST SO YOU KNOW WHEE dAD GOT THE GRANDFATHER IDEA.

Anonymous said...

You have a very nice family. Blessed you are.

Buz said...

Sofia was Ernestina's mom.

Rita said...

Even when you are born closer together you can have very different memories.
What a beautiful family! :)

Arkansas Patti said...

Thank you for the introduction to your siblings. You painted a very clear picture. What a large family you enjoyed and thanks to media, still can. You haven't really changed all that much. I could have picked you out.

Sally Wessely said...

What fun it would be to in the same room as you and all of your siblings. As I read through this, I thought of how families made up of more than three or four children usually have nicknames for each other. It is always interesting to hear where these names came from. I loved hearing about the names you and your siblings have.

Your family is beautiful. You were blessed to have so many siblings, but it is sad that we age, we don't see our siblings as much. Thanks for sharing these great memories.

C-ingspots said...

Oh yes, how treasured are those memories and those old photographs! You have such a big family - lucky gal! I'm one of 3 girls, and I was certainly not planned, but always told I was a much-loved surprise. My oldest sister is 20 years older than me, and my other sister is 13 years older than me. I was close to neither one growing up, but had more in common with their children. Since the death of our parents, we've grown apart even more. I have no contact with my middle sister, and only occasionally see my oldest sister. I wish it were different, but it is what it is. They're my family and I love them, just don't have much in common.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I enjoyed reading about your siblings and how life’s journey tied you all together. When you said, “I'm sure that I've written about my siblings before, but they are on my mind today…” I had to wonder if there was some telepathy going on amongst your blogging friends, well, at least you and me. I say that because last Sunday I was feeling down having lost my only sibling, my older sister, just a couple of days earlier. At the same time I was thinking of how you help seniors prepare for the end and I was hoping my sister and niece and nephew had consulted someone like you so that final arrangements would go smoothly. My sister lived to be 85 and had a full, wonderful life. Her last few years were complicated by a fall in her home which left her hospitalized for two weeks. She never fully recovered. Another coincidence last weekend happened when I found an interesting article on the web by Parker J. Palmer called “Withering Into the Truth”. http://onbeing.org/blog/withering-into-the-truth/? Palmer is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. In his article he offers six life lessons he has learned. From the sixth lesson, which I found very encouraging, he said, “I have no idea what, if anything, I will learn from dying. This is all I know for sure: I have no bad memories of wherever I came from when I arrived on this planet, so I have no good reason to fear where I’m going when I depart.” Thanks, as always, DJan. John