Thursday, February 10, 2011

An Essay on My Sister

I have one sister, Susan.  She is five years older than me.  She is my hero.  She doesn't always remember this because she has more struggles than I do.  I work at home.  She commutes an hour each way to school.  I teach individual lessons to highly committed piano students.  She teaches special education in a public junior high.  Not only are her students and their families frustrated learners, but they are at a tender and sensitive age that makes their lives even more stressful.  She teaches them to read. Talk about love, patience and compassion. . . not to mention paperwork.

She is not perfect.  She accused me of having time to write this blog when I didn't have time to email her.  And, she just sent close to 35 of those lovely intellectually stimulating Rainbow Fairy paperbacks to Mary. . . they are currently scattered all over the living floor.  This is not simple nor beautiful life.  I'll get her back for that.

She has always been a teacher.  Growing up, she taught me how to read and do math and play recorder.  She always spent time with me.  Inevitably we played school. . .. She treated me kindly even in front of her friends.  I idolized her.  She played piano and french horn, and she sang in the show choir.  She tolerated my mouse in the corner presence when she and her boyfriend sat on the couch in the living room.

After college she followed me to Texas.   Then I got married and moved to Minnesota.  Eventually she moved back to Iowa, and with the help of my Dad, she and her husband Paul built a log home on a parcel of my folk's land.  Life was busy with two working parents, but with the help of my Mom and Dad things went along.  Then my Dad got sick.  Suddenly instead of being the care receivers they became the care givers.  Paul is also my hero.  Now, without my Dad he is at the beck and call of my mother.  Neither Susan or Paul can count on their time being their own.  My mom is extremely generous with her own time, taking care of Savannah and helping out.  She is also highly motivated and very likely to call on Saturday morning and say something like, "I stopped at Walmart and picked up 35 pine trees on clearance.  We need to get them in the ground this morning along the back 40 before it rains.  In 20 years it will be a great wildlife shield". . . Or she might say, "Paul there is a dead deer in the back field and the dogs keep getting into it, could you please get rid of it?"  No small task when the ground is frozen and it is 10 degrees below zero.  Gross. They are my heroes.

Susan is my hero for taking over the direction of the Trinity Lutheran Church Choir in Tipton, Iowa.  Does being a high school drum major for three years, and singing in All-State choir for a year qualify you to direct a church choir?  It does when you are carrying on the legacy of your father.  My father adored that choir.  Susan doesn't have time for this anymore than she has time to plant the trees, but she does it.  I know it takes a toll, but I hope there is also some healing in it.  For her and for the choir.  She can passionately continue my Dad's obsession with dynamics and diction.

For all these things and just for who she is,  I still adore and idolize my big sister.  To get back at her for the Fairy books?  I'm collecting a box of Happy Meal Toys, Polly Pockets and Littlest Pet Shops that Mary can give to Savannah next time we get together.  Maybe I'll even send them in the mail for a surprise.  Oh, and Mary cut close to a ream of paper's worth of snowflakes this winter, I'll send some of those too.