April 2018

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Sister Jenn

Today is my sister Jenn's birthday, so this entry is for and about her. This is her birthday present. I think she'll love it, though such a gift may be the adult version of making a straw necklace for Mom for Mother's Day. The thought's kind of nice, and pretty cute, but you wouldn't want to wear that necklace out of the house. As I remember, sister Jenn made such a necklace for our mother. To visualize this necklace, do not think of the kind of straw that's like hay that was in the baby Jesus's manger. Think about those red, white and blue straws you get with a soda at the old school soda fountain. The straw necklace sister Jenn made for mom was a patriotic straw necklace, and Mom dubbed it her "kitchen necklace," a necklace she would wear in the kitchen. Sister Jenn was thrilled that her gift had such a special appellation, and Mom never had to wear the necklace out of the house. Brilliant.

Sister Jenn was born about a month before my third birthday, so though there are picture of me before she was in my life, I only remember life with her. I was always aware, of course, that she was my younger sister, that I was the oldest, and that I was therefore responsible for her. I think she's turned out pretty well, so I'll take the credit.

Even though Jenn was younger than I, she was in many ways my mentor. When I was in high school and wore no make-up, Jenn noted that her friend had similar blue eyes to mine, and yet everyone remarked on her friend's blue eyes whereas mine went unnoticed. Jenn convinced me to wear eye make-up. In another moment, when I agonized about where to go to college, Jenn said she'd always thought I'd go to Davidson as it seemed a good fit, so that's where I went, and I wore my eye make-up there.

My Sister Jenn has always been exceptionally beautiful. People liked to compare her to Brooke Shields in the days of The Blue Lagoon, but I always thought Jenn was prettier. When I was first teaching in Dallas, a male student stole my purse, and when the purse was found in the boys' bathroom trashcan, everything was still there except my cash and a photo of Sister Jenn. Creepy.

Jenn's one of those beautiful people who is also smart, so I'm guessing she's inspired some jealousy in her time. As the older sister growing up in my younger sister's shadow, I might have been bitter, but because she was always so loving to me, I just felt proud of her. I still do.

About six years ago, Jenn had brain surgery--a couple of years before I did. Hers was for a traumatic accident, a fall from a golf cart, whereas mine was for a tumor, but still she could advise me: "Whenever they say morphine," she instructed, "you say yes." She also gave me the tip to keep a list of those people who say, "Let me know if I can do anything." That way, when you need a casserole or a car wash sometime down the line when not so many people are offering, you'll have a list to draw from. Maybe she learned such brillliance from our mom of the kitchen necklace.

After my brain surgery, Sister Jenn came to stay with me for a week. One day, when my headache was especially bad, she drove me to the emergency room, but she couldn't figure out how to fold up my wheelchair, so she shared the front seat with the wheelchair rammed in, and I sat in the back. It has just occurred to me that the hospital probably had wheelchairs I could borrow, and we needn't have risked life and limb. Since we've both had brain surgeries, though, we have built in excuses for such oversights.

Sister Jenn loves her four children and truly enjoys them, even though sometimes she says that they drive her to distraction. Her children, now aged ten through 14, used to be younger. One Christmas quite a few years back, Sister Jenn put a special trophy in her own stocking, and seemed delighted when she found that Santa had left her a trophy for the World's Worst Mom. That trophy she still displays proudly on the mantle beside the kids' tennis trophies.

I'm not sure sister Jenn knows how much we love her. When she had her brain surgery, we were afraid she might not live. I burned a candle to protect her spirit. Our brother Matt, in an outburst of love, slammed down his toilet seat and broke it. (I think this remains my sister's favorite story about him--or maybe about anyone.)

Sister Jenn is is alive and funny and having a birthday that is a multiple of eleven. What you can't see now is that she has some unresolved physical issues from the surgery: she cannot put a flip flop on her left foot without using her hand, and she cannot raise her right eyebrow. For that, she is going to physical therapy, but I don't think she has a caringbridge site yet.

Happy birthday to my dear little sister. Mary

1 comment:

  1. aw shucks, merv, i was just about to go to bed thinking my birthday had been unremarked.
    can't complain, it was a day like any other, but was thinking as i was shuttling the little chickens around, i would not want a day any different.
    i feel blessed to have such an extraordinary sister. and also to check "getting mentioned in a blog" off my lifetime "to-do" list.
    thank you so much, for the blog and for being the incredible sister/person that you are. i have always looked up to you, and feel somekindablessed that i get to have you as a sister.
    much love,
    sistah jen.


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