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, March 12, 2017

Family dynamics

Fia, PJ, me, Markee in 2008
After having written about my partner in last week's post, all week long I've pondered writing about my siblings, or my parents, or somehow tie together all that I am feeling about how fortunate I am to have my family. Mama and Daddy have been gone for a long time, but each of us carries within us so many traits that are part and parcel of our parents' personalities.

My sister Norma Jean did not come to Texas for Thanksgiving this particular year, so she's missing from this picture. I especially like it because it shows those sisters I know the least well. Fia and Markee are the youngest, and they are very close, like Norma Jean and I are. PJ was seven years younger than me, and she didn't have another sibling close to her in age, but she grew to be quite close to our brother Buz, who was nine years younger and lived nearby.

PJ died three years ago now, of heart disease, our family nemesis, and the reason for my parents' premature deaths. At least I consider them premature, since Daddy was only 62, and Mama was only 69. Both of them suffered for many years from the side effects of high cholesterol and high blood pressure. I feel very fortunate to have lived in a time when we have much better treatment for these ailments, such as statins. I believe every single one of my siblings takes them; I know Norma Jean and I have taken them for decades now. They make a huge difference when you have a familial tendency toward what is called hyperlipidemia, which we all have. My son Chris had it, too, not only from my side of the family, but from his father's side as well. He only lived to be 40.

So it was with much relief that I received the results of last week's blood tests, to find that my tendency towards heart disease seems to be in remission, as long as I continue with my healthy lifestyle and statins. The tendency is so strong in our family that it makes me wonder if there is some survival benefit to hyperlipidemia that has yet to be recognized by the medical profession. Maybe if we lived in a time when you had to be active from morning to night, it wouldn't have been so bad for you and had some beneficial effects. But these days we spend so much of our time sitting or lying around and not being active as we stare at some screen or other.

When I listen to stories of the family dynamics of others when they were growing up, I realize that our family was very fortunate to be as close as we were. Although I was not particularly close to any of the three sisters in the picture because of lack of proximity, I recognize them as my family because of the way they interact with me, and with each other. We are all outgoing and successful in our chosen professions, and each one of them reminds me in one way or another of our parents. I was thinking of writing about my mother this morning, but I went looking back in my archives here and realized that I already did it, and that there is no way I could much improve on what I wrote in "My Mama." I considered taking that post and reworking it for today, but once I read it along with the comments from back then, I couldn't bring myself to do it. Instead, I decided to give you the opportunity to read it as I wrote it seven years ago.

My sister Norma Jean and I talk to each other on FaceTime a couple of times a month, and I look forward to it with anticipation. It's so much more than a phone call, where we just talk to each other. Instead, we see each other in our own settings, and I can tell how she is much more than if she was only a voice. She also keeps me in touch with my grand nieces Lexie and Alicia, because she has become somewhat of a nanny to those two. Between Norma Jean and her son Peter, her daughter Allison has all the child care she needs. Alicia is now in her terrible two's and a handful, but Lexie has grown old enough now (she's seven) to be an actual person who can be reasoned with. I enjoy seeing them on FaceTime, but it reminds me how fortunate I am that they are so far away from me most of the time. You know that old saying about "absence makes the heart grow fonder"? It's sure true about small kids, for me at least.

This morning we go back to Pacific Daylight Time, and I'm losing an hour of sleep. I see it's later than I expected it to be by the time I've written this, but that's because we did our usual trick of taking an hour from the morning and tacking it to the end of the day. Tonight the sun won't set until after 7:00pm, but it also won't rise until almost 7:30am. So it will be dark for awhile in the morning as I set off for the bus, but since we are so far north it won't last long; our daylight hours are increasing by more than three-and-a-half minutes every day at this time of the year. We are not far from spring, but since we've been colder and wetter than normal for what seems like ages, our spring has been slow in coming. I read that last year by this time we had 17 days of 50°F or warmer, and this year only one. No wonder it seems colder: it really is.

And rain? I could grouse about the weather but I won't. It doesn't change anything, and I know for a fact that things will green up. All the rain in California has caused a Super Bloom in the deserts, something that happens now and then, and this year it's just started and is nowhere near its peak. I wish I could go there and see it in person, but I'll be busy here, starting my garden planting and visiting the tulips in the Skagit Valley before long. My favorite time of the year around here is springtime, and it's a-comin' faster than one can say "Yahoo"!

With that (hope it brought a smile to your face), I will wish you a wonderful Sunday and a blessed week between now and next week, which will only be a few days away from the Vernal Equinox. Be well until then, my dear reader.


Elephant's Child said...

Happy Sunday.
I am so glad that you are on top of your family tendency towards heart disease - and love the closeness of your family. A gift.

Gigi said...

I am so glad to hear your numbers are good!! I think it's down to you as you take such good care of yourself.

I'd never read the post about your mother before - it brought tears to my eyes. Indeed she was a strong and courageous woman - and you can see the love pouring out of her face as she gazed upon her children.

Thank you for sharing that post.

Have a wonderful week, DJan.

Tabor said...

You are very lucky to have such a good supportive group of related women. I have lost one sister to cancer but have one other. We are reasonably close but life very far apart and see each other once every two years or so....

Linda Reeder said...

It's now afternoon here on Whidbey Island as I finally get to your Sunday post. We came up to take delivery of a new mattress set and to hopefully work in the yard. Jill and the kids decided to join us over night. They have gone now, the garden is weeded, and the mattress has just been delivered.
It's quiet. Ahhh.
As you know, I have a large family too. It's interesting to see which personalities are most alike, and who takes more after Dad or Mom. I definitely look like my dad's side of the family.
This week we'll pass through the Ides of march and on to St. Patrick's Day. Spring is just around the corner. Some warmer spring weather would be nice, and I here it is coming!

Marie Smith said...

I loved reading about your mother. She was such a strong woman, not just physically. You were blessed to have her.

By the sound of it, you are living the life she would have wanted for you.

Anonymous said...

It's nice that you have such a good relationship with your sisters. Blessings all around.

Red said...

When you know there's tendency to heart disease you have the choice to do something . However the choice to do things isn't easy. The exercise regime you are on is tough to keep to. I was within a year of my brother and 2 years with my sister. My youngest brother is 15 years younger. I really don't know him.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

All I have left is my sister 10 years younger. My kids are very close. We are all in touch daily and now the little grandgirl has been added. What's app is used where the Facetime is not available. While you are talking of statin being a help studies 10 years ago proved that to be not the solution. Activity is a big boost and little or no sugar is the best way to cut back. My Dad died at 42 of heart disease. I have high lipids but now it is known not all are harmful. My arteries are not blocked. My BP is normal when sress is low. I just has a uterine biopsey and no cancer cells were found. Phew! Dodged that. Once was enough. As for spring, we are to be pounded by a huge snowstorm Tuesdat to Wednesday.
I love these Sunday posts of yours. Have a great week.

Rita said...

It's so nice that you and Norma Jean are so close. That is definitely something to treasure and nurture.
So happy your numbers are good. We all want you around for a good long time. ;)

The Broad said...

What a wonderful and loving family, DJan. It is among the greatest blessings in the world to have a family that loves and supports each other. Your mother was an extraordinary woman and she passed down her extraordinariness to all her children...

Arkansas Patti said...

I just finished reading about your Mama with tears in my eyes and a tight throat. I am glad you didn't rework that, it is perfect as is. What an amazing, strong, determined woman she was and mercy, what medical torture she went through. Marie said it well, your mom would be so happy with your life. You didn't fall far from the tree but right under it.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Spring might be visiting here soon but I doubt it will stay...the weather is just crazy :(

b+ (Retire In Style Blog) said...

You made me smile...such a lovely flow of loving words just makes me happy. That is good. Thank you.

And if you should decide to come south in March to see the flowers in blow let me know. Linda and I would love to have coffee with you...right Linda?