Saturday, August 9, 2008

My Hero; My sister

My sister Maureen is the kind of person you meet and immediately hope she'll be your friend. She's kind, compassionate, funny, comfortable in her dorkiness. She's an amazing mother, sister, friend, confidante. I say that with complete confidence because she has served as all those roles to me.
Born August 10, 1955. She's the fourth child of eight (ten when you include later in life additions.) She has this goofy ability to close one eye while the other one remains completely open. It's creepy, but that's Reenie's trademark. Photos of her as a child reveal this endearing talent. She's considered the middle child; the peacemaker.
On August 11, 1965 Maureen received a most unique gift: ME! I nearly arrived on her birthday. Due to this timing it seems we were bonded. Destined to be two peas in a pod. Wherever Moe went -- Missy followed (that's my nickname.) She never complained about having this miniature companion. If she did, she never made me feel in the least bit slighted.
My earliest memory of our sisterly time involved a red bicycle. It was a boys bike. It was not a 10-speed. Maureen would lay a cushion across the bar for me to perch upon. We'd ride for what seemed hours. I think I have a permanent indentation across my butt and thighs where my hiney sat for long rides. Up and down the hills of our neighborhood she'd tote my skinny little fanny around. My legs dangling to the side. How she managed to keep her balance with me teetering around I will never understand. A sister's love can obviously defy the laws of physics. Her keen balance with that red bicycle reflects her ability to balance life no matter what obstacles are tossed in her path.
We've shared many birthdays. Even when we were apart we always manage to be in touch. We aren't twins, but I believe we've developed the ability to read one another because of our birth bond. Maureen would hold off celebrating her birthday until August 11. She didn't seem to mind. Every birthday, Christmas or special holiday there's been a gift that suits me. One year for Christmas I longed for a Barbie Jet Plane. I didn't think I'd get it because back then it was a pricey gift. Maureen came through for me. I treasured that plane as if it truly had the power to transport me and Malibu Barbie to foreign lands.
When our mother fell victim to cancer and died in June of 1981, it was Maureen who sheltered me from the storms. She and my sister Mary saw to it that I didn't go through the agony alone. Our father had been reeling from losing his wife. Everyone succumbed to grief that left me home alone often. I was only 16 and too young; too immature; too devastated to know which way was up. By Christmas that year I was living with Maureen. Imagine being a 26 year old woman in the prime of her single life and raising a child. A TEEN AGER! She made very little money working as a secretary for the school district, but she managed to make ends meet without complaining that I was a burden.
She was involved in my activities at school. She sewed my Princess Diana inspired junior prom dress. She accompanied my show choir on away competitions. She was in charge of making up surly teen agers for our school's production of "Flower Drum Song." When I participated in the 1983 Miss Kankakee Pageant she sewed my turquoise, moire' taffeta gown -- I won evening gown! Maureen did everything everyone elses's moms and dads did.
When I got married there was no question who would serve as my matron of honor. I stood up for her at her wedding. When my son was to be born I asked her to be there. I needed her to be my support coach. Yes, Man-cub's father was there, but Maureen was the rock I needed. Maureen, nose to nose with me, got me through the most excruciating back labor without pain medication. She took a stand when the nurses claimed my contractions weren't bad. She knew our family history and insisted that once I was dilated to 5cm that I would go quickly. I tried to only rely on my Lamaz training to get me through contractions. My bambino was far more content staying in the face up position. OW!
My pleas for medicinal assistance were futile. As she'd predicted, I was too far gone to receive an epidural. Demerol was administered to ease the pain. She held my hand and let me squeeze the blood from her fingers. When they finally moved me from the uncomfortable gurney to the labor/delivery/recovery room it was Maureen who coached me. Man-cub's father, in all his effort, couldn't maintain composure. His gag reflex nearly had him white as a ghost. He helped push me up when I need to bear down. It was my big sis who witnessed the actual birth of my 9 lbs 2 oz brown eyed baby boy. It was natural for her to be his Godmother.
This summer has left our family emotionally bruised and battered. Maureen's husband of 23 years passed away. She's raising 2 teen age sons. Her eldest will be leaving for college 3 hours away in two weeks. And, most recently, she was told a carcenoid had grown to the size of a large grapefruit. There are numerous complications as a result of it's positioning. Surgery is inevitable and she goes into it like the champion I know her to be. But I also know she's scared. If she wasn't I'd be more worried. Without going into too much detail, this surgery is delicate. It may last up to 8 hours. Loyola's doctors are confident that all should go well. There's always buts, howevers and potential dangers and risks.
For the first time in what seems ever I am actually finding myself in the position of being a support to her and her boys. The roles are being reversed, but it doesn't feel uncomfortable. It feels right.
I praise God for the number of amazing years I've spent being Maureen's little sister. I pray for many more. I want to be the old ladies hitting the casinos in our gold lame' turbans and caftans. I have a lot more birthday cakes I need to share with my hero.
Whenever I hear the first song in the video below I think of my sister. She's an inspiration. She's my inspiration. I love you, Maureen. There aren't enough words in the English language that can aptly express what you are to me. You are the wind beneath my wings. You've given me room to soar higher than I could ever imagine. You remind me that I'm important when all else seems to be letting me down. No one on this earth knows me the way you do ... Happy Birthday ... and many more.

continue listening if you enjoy the sounds of Shirley Bassey. This video had the best quality of the song, WIND BENEATH MY WINGS


  1. What a great tribute to a great sister! Sending good thoughts for her wishing a very smooth successful surgery. Happy Birthday, Maureen!

  2. Wow! You are not the only lucky one here, it sounds like she is just as lucky and blessed to have you!

    I hope her surgery goes well. Happy birthday to you both!


  3. What an amazing post. Thank you for sharing. You both seem like amazing women who are lucky to have each other. I'm sending positive thoughts her way for the surgery and wishing you both a happy birthday.

  4. Wonderful tribute from an amazing woman to what sounds like another amazing woman. Crossing fingers and toes and mojo for positive surgery and a great birthday for you both.

  5. Beautiful tribute to your sister. I am so glad you are able to be there for her as she has been for you. Such an amazing bond you have!

    My prayers to all of you, please keep us posted. Glad I know of this blog now =)


  6. Thank you for sharing your beautiful sister with us! Happy Birthday to you both. I'm delighted to know you and grateful to meet her through this post.

  7. Wow, what an incredible tribute!

    Wishing you and your sister strength and peace as you tackle the battle ahead of you. And praying for her to have a successful surgery and full recovery.

  8. I am sending both you and your family positive vibes during this stressful time. It sounds like you have an incredible bond and strength to make it through almost anything. Thanks for sharing.

  9. That is such a touching tribute to your sister. It brought a tear to my eye and now I want to go call my sister and tell her I love her, even if she did boss me around when I was a kid! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Very moving, and again, the way that you weave video clips into your blog from time to time is really something else.

    As for Shirley Bassey, I'm shocked to learn how much Yoland Adams sounds like her. She's known as a Christian artist but she was the amazing voice on Tears For Fears' Seeds of Love album (remember "Woman in Chains"?).


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