Many of my happiest times that I recall from my childhood included my sister. I remember...
- making forts in the woods with her;
- taking the row boat out on the lake, going around the island, and sometimes "parking" the boat on the sandbar to swim and explore the shallow water in the middle of the lake (the sandbar was off the northeast part of the island);
- doing practice "fire drills" in which we would load our pillowcases with our most valued possessions and climb out our basement windows, trying to beat our previous times; and
- playing with Barbies and the Sunshine Family dolls, their camper, and their four-room home decorated with accessories we made by hand.
In high school, during my senior year and Mary's sophomore year, we were able to take some elective courses together which was nice. Sitting next to my sister made the classes more fun, and often we were able to be partners when working on assignments.
One of my favorite memories is when we were both in college and drove to Illinois to videotape my dad's relatives and places he lived. A friend from college (Sue) and a friend of hers helped edit the raw footage together to create a video we called, "All I Want Is Your Love." It had this title because when we asked my dad what he wanted for Christmas, he woud say, "All I want it your love."
Now, even as adults, I know I can count on my sister to be there to listen and for encouragement; and (hopefully) I provide that same support to her when she needs someone to talk with.
Mary and her sons at Sophia's and Olivia's First Communion.
(Taken in January 2010.)
We have enjoyed working on projects together and learning new things throughout the years. Some of my favorite classes I took with Mary focused on learning to cook and/or food.
We both managed to decorate a lot of cakes during a cake decorating class we took many years ago. I'm not sure they would win any awards, but it was nice to learn something new with Mary each week.
Mary, my mom, Sophia, Olivia, and me on my mom's 80th birthday
(Taken on April 24, 2010.)
During the past couple of years since my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, we have been trying to take more pictures together as a family. At almost every gathering we have, we have tried to get pictures of our family together since we never know what the next year...the next month...or even the next week will hold for us.
Mary, Jim, and I with our parents.
(Taken on May 8, 2011.)
On my last birthday in June, I turned 45 years old. Mary wanted to make the day a special one for me for which I was so grateful. We spent the day picking strawberries in the morning; and then she, Sophia, Olivia, and I enjoyed lunch at a nearby restaurant.
Mary, Sophia, me, and Olivia on my birthday.
(Taken on June 29, 2011)
One of the most special pictures I have that was recently taken was on the day that Mary hosted a birthday party at my dad's nursing home. After we ate a nice lunch and had cake, we went to the healing garden and took pictures of the family.
My mom and dad with their children and grandchildren.
(Taken on October 9, 2011)
Shortly after the picture above was taken, both my parents were hospitalized. My mom was released after three days and is doing well; but my father (who was released after 11 days) is not faring as well. He is heavily medicated now, can barely lift his head, and sleeps most of the day.
Having this picture of him looking up is one that I am so happy to have...and for which I am truly thankful. Had Mary not hosted the party on that day, I would not have this picture or the memory of a wonderful day spent together.