Since it has been a month since my last post, and since today is a very special day, I figured I’d share a little bit about someone who I have spent most of my life with, and someone I could not imagine life without.
My sister, Beth.
In the early 1970s, there was no way for parents determine the sex of their future child. They had to choose boy and girl names and be ready for the outcome. My parents chose Elizabeth Ann for a girl, and Robert Carl for a boy. When I was much younger, I wondered what it would have been like to have Robert Carl instead of Elizabeth Ann. But that wonder was short-lived. I couldn’t be happier to have my little sister in my life. I thought so then, and I think so still today.
As siblings, Beth and I grew up fairly close. Naturally, we had our share of big fights, as any siblings do; but for the most part we got along really well. We were each other’s best friends at times when it seemed like we didn’t have any others around. We stuck up for each other, and watched out for each other. We still do.
I can’t really remember my earliest memory of my sister, but thanks to a decent long-term memory, thousands of family photos, and a few treasured audio recordings from our childhood, I know we always had a fun time together.
Our bedrooms were our playrooms and we’d mess them up with games and puzzles and whatever else we could get our hands on. We played our Bee Gees and “Grease” albums until the grooves wore down, and sang along until our voices were hoarse. Beth was always a better artist than I, but anything we could do to be creative was fun for both of us; from coloring to drawing to painting-by-numbers.
We had active and wild imaginations, and always came up with creative games to play, from “School” to “Radio Station;” to huge villages made of “Little People” houses or streets and mansions in our sandbox that our Dad built for us. We fashioned forts in the living room out of various items, or in the backyard with our lawn chairs. We had the most intense paper airplane wars known to mankind, and spent hours playing Monopoly, with games that lasted not hours or even days, but WEEKS.
So many fun things we did are fresh in my memory: Backyard baseball (and knocking Dad’s prized rose buds off with the baseball bat); the swingset, swinging so high that the set would ‘pump;’ making Chef Boy-Ar-Dee cheese pizzas for lunch; phone calls to WRKR and “The Real Mike Neal;” roller skating in the garage to the “Muppet Movie” soundtrack; hunting for caterpillars in Turco’s field; picking and eating the fresh raspberries in the backyard and avoiding the bumblebees; long bike rides around the block and beyond; endless summer trips to Anderson Pool, which was right at the end of our block.
The list could go on for paragraphs, and you would be reading it for hours. It seemed we always found something to occupy our time. Most times we did things with friends, but many times we did things just with each other. Whatever we did, we had fun doing it.
One thing we shared that has remained strong to this day is our love of music and theater. Beth took tap dancing first, and as the story goes, she was struggling while practicing with my mom and I came up and showed her how to do the step. My mom asked me if I wanted to take tap, too; and before I knew it we were both taking lessons. We did that for most of our childhood, performing in recitals alone and together. We made quite a team.
Naturally as we got older, things changed a bit. Pre-teen tensions caused occasional angst, but we were still often together. We both played basketball in grade school, but she was much more active in softball, soccer and volleyball. I always admired her for her athletic ability, which was clearly greater than mine. As we entered high school, we kept our love of music and theater alive by performing in chorus and in musicals. We didn’t always get the biggest roles, but we still had a great time.
When we got old enough to get jobs, we even did that together– heading down to Six Flags Great America with our friend and long-time next door neighbor Becky Turco to apply for jobs. Little did we know at the time that we’d both spend over 10 years working at the park, learning skills that would help us determine our future careers.
But as time wore on, we finally started plotting our own paths. I moved to Chicago in 1997, and Beth, who was the first to move out of the house in around 1994, stayed around Kenosha for a while. Eventually she met her future husband, Geoff, and they moved to Delavan, WI together just before getting married in 2002. It would be five years before they had their daughters, Abby and Emily; and in the span of that time, we suffered the loss of our father. Somewhere in the course of the last decade, we became full-fledged adults. It all happened so quickly.
I love and admire my sister so much. I probably don’t tell her that very often, and I need to be better about that. She married a wonderful guy, has a wonderful family, and is raising her beautiful daughters with so much love and affection and attention. She’s a wonderful mother, wife, daughter and sister. I think she needs to hear that more frequently.
So today, on her 37th birthday (sorry, Beth, but I’m still closer to 40 so you have nothing to complain about), I wish her a happy and wonderful birthday, with many more to come.
Happy Birthday, Beth. Love, your big bro.