I have two sisters and two brothers. Lately, I have been thinking about the enduring connections among siblings. I am closest to my brother, Dave, two years older than I, and my sister, Denise, (or Denny), six years younger. That is mostly because our other siblings are quite a bit older than we are, almost like they were one family, and we three were another. I think Dave loves me as much as I love him, but he is not a good communicator. Denny and I have done a better job of keeping in touch.
I can’t describe to my satisfaction the “blood” bond between us siblings. It has to be that we spent all those years living together, sometimes playing games, sometimes squabbling, sometimes furious with each other. Love was just a given, a baseline from birth, but never talked about among us.Denise and I have always been close. She was six and I was twelve when our mom went back to work full time. We were the two youngest children. My job in the family was to come straight home from school so I could babysit for Denny. I never minded much, because she was sunny and sweet. In fact, she has a sweetness about her that I can’t define, but it is part of why I love her so much. She has an open, adaptable personality that makes her attractive.
Nowadays, it might be frowned upon for a family to require a child to babysit every day, but I think it was more common in the 50’s and 60’s, when we grew up. The age difference between Denny and me as children meant we were not equals – I was the boss, which seemed to suit both of us. I could hone my bossy skills, and she could just be a sweet little girl. In later years we joked that she was my first child!
Singing was a regular pastime for Denny and me. When I went to Girl Scout camp, I developed a love for harmony, bringing all the songs home to teach her. She had a pure soprano I could easily harmonize with. My dad was a Boys Club Executive Director, and all the family was involved summers with the Club’s Brady Camp. I remember Denny and me performing songs for the campers around the evening campfire.
Denny and I stayed close after we grew up, though we did not live near each other after we married. Visits became less frequent, but Thanksgiving and Christmas together were always a given. Thanksgiving was at my house, Christmas at our parents’ for many years. When my first husband, Jim, died suddenly, Denise was a freshman at Syracuse. Nobody expected her to get to the funeral, just two days later, over 300 miles away in Pennsylvania. But she managed to find a guy friend with a car who was willing to drive her. I cried when I saw her, knowing she had realized how much I needed her.
This past year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Denise and I have grown even closer, as she grieved the loss of Ed, her husband of 46 years, and I mourned my second husband, Jerry. They died early in 2020, just five weeks apart. We sisters have talked by video every week since March, 2020, and have come to cherish those calls. In the early days we cried – now we talk about everything. We are trying to make our way and find some direction in these new lives we each have been challenged with.
After more than a year of talking every week, with much urging on my part, Denny came to visit me in May. I had not seen her since the day she and Ed came to see Jerry while he was in hospice care last February. We got along so well while she was here that I am comfortable with the idea of us as traveling companions.
When an Alaskan cruise we were scheduled for this summer was cancelled, I became obsessed with the desire to travel in 2021. Why? Because I am feeling fatalistic. Every time I turn around I see another senior who has fallen down, including myself, or has developed some other disability. I am healthy now, and I want to travel when I am feeling good. When my sister and I are both in good health, for that matter. Plus, we have been through so much that we deserve some pampering. Oh, yes!
We looked at several websites with interesting excursions, but they were all booked. We had about given up when surprise! I saw a Viking ad for European river cruises in July, 2021! I texted her immediately, and we found a trip, Paris and the Heart of Normandy, that fits both of our schedules. I am so excited that my travel dream is coming true. The Paris trip I missed in 2018 is happening!
This cruise will be a first for me, and I am hopeful that this will not be our last trip together. We have siblings in Florida, Canada and California whom we have not seen in years, and none of us are getting any younger. Watch out world, here we come!