Thursday, November 27, 2003

My Sister and Me

"Now therefore, our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name.”
~ I Chronicles 29:13

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope we all take time to count our blessings – not just today, but every day.

There are three people in my family who have birthdays right in a row this week. My mother, whose birthday was on November 25th (she would have been 77 this year). Then my sister Patricia, whose birthday is November 26th, and our nephew Zach whose birthday falls right on Thanksgiving this year.

This week I’d like to write about my sister Patricia. Here’s a poem I wrote for her on her 50th birthday.

My Sister and Me
My sister Patricia was born in 1950 -
eight years before I joined the family.

When she tried to fix my hair, I complained in exasperation,
“No! Go Away! You’re the older generation!”

Patricia has always been full of fun,
Her smile and laughter are second to none.

Everyone is blessed by her personality,
Although at times we have questioned her normality!

Like the time Peggy and I went to Florida with her,
We laughed so hard; it’s all a big blur.

She assigned new names, to everyone in the room,
I was Dynomite Doris; Peggy was Betty Boom-Boom.

Rita the Risktaker, was her new nickname;
I think our dear old Dad, thought we’d all gone insane.

And although our times together are few and far between,
I cherish these memories of my sister and me.

Peggy, Patricia, Me and Dad


My sister Patricia lives near Seattle on Whidbey Island, Washington. She has to take a ferry to and from work every day, but based on the pictures I’ve seen of her beautiful home tucked away in the woods, I can see why the one hour commute would be worth it.

Patricia loves nature and especially bird watching. Patricia is multi-talented. She’s a gifted photographer and we’ve all benefited from her efforts. Every year at the reunion, while we’re all enjoying the various activities, she is the one behind the camera documenting every event. Then at the end of the year she takes a collection of photos and uses them to create a calendar for our dad. One year she made a special one for us with pictures of just our family.

Patricia’s always been very involved in the arts, including directing several plays. Now she is a successful administrator for the Seattle Transit Authority. Patricia is also a fighter, having survived breast cancer which is now in remission. Patricia is a free spirit.

Due to the difference in our ages (Patricia was the second child in our family and I was the seventh), we were not especially close growing up. Those of us on the tail end of the family stuck together, as did those on the front end. I wouldn’t say it was like two different families, because we all ate together at dinner and went to church together on Sunday morning. But the older siblings eventually graduated and moved on so then we saw even less of them.

My mom used to tell the story about how our youngest brother Bob was sitting at the table looking all forlorn one day. When she asked him what was wrong he said, “I liked it better when all the elbows touched.”

My dad used to play games at the table. He’d take a quarter out of his pocket and say, “The person who guesses the lucky number will be the one who wins the quarter.” So we’d all guess a number and wait with great anticipation to see who won the quarter (we acted like it was all the money in the world). Then he’d say, “The one who wins the quarter is.....the one who guessed the lucky number! And the one who guessed the lucky number is the one who wins the quarter!” This would go on and on at our expense. We’d just groan and beg him to reveal the name of the lucky winner.

I remember we played another game where Dad would announce from the head of the table, “Order in the court, the monkey wants to speak. No laughing, no smiling, no showing your teeth.” We all sat around the table trying not to crack a smile and one by one we’d be eliminated until there was only one person left. Then that person was rewarded with a dime or quarter.

Sometimes Dad would lead us in this game where he’d say, “Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar? Who me?” Then in unison we’d all chant, “Yessss, YOU!” “Couldn’t be!” And we’d answer “Then WHO?” Then Dad would pick someone from the crowd and say, “Connie stole the cookies from the cookie jar!” And Connie would answer, “Who me?” “Yesssss, you!” And on and on it went until it made the rounds to everyone. Those were some really happy memories of times together growing up in a large family.

As you can imagine, we are a diversified bunch. But despite our various differences, the family bond always keeps us close. The biggest difference between my sister Patricia and me is that Patricia is gay. About 10 years ago when Keen and I sponsored the annual family reunion in Alma, Patricia decided to bring her partner, Nikki. At first, this made some people in the family a little uncomfortable, but Nikki put everyone at ease. She’s a wonderful person. Now she’s just a part of the family and has been at every reunion since.

Nikki & Patricia

You hear a lot about tolerance these days. I think tolerance goes both ways. We should learn to respect each other’s differences. Although we may not always agree when it comes to personal philosophies, each person has to choose their own path in the world – the one that seems right for them.

The bottom line is love. When my mom was on her death bed, she was repeating the word, “love, love, love.” My sister Mary asked, “Do you want everyone to know that you love them, Mom? Is that what you’re trying to say? Do you want me to tell everyone that you love them?” Her eyes widened and she nodded her head up and down. Then she whispered softly, “Always stay together….all nine.”

We will, Mom. We will.

The Van Kirk Children Then & Now