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“The best way out is always through.” — Robert Frost
I love that quote. It rings of all the things we learn across life that are basic and true – finish what you started, just keep going, don’t quit, get up, endure, just keep swimming – just keep swimming. I’ve seen a fair amount of non-quitters in my time. I’ve seen some seriously tough soldiers; I know a guy who’d die before he’d quit. We all know lots of people say that but he’s the one who’d actually do it. He left the Army, became a missionary in the mountains of Burma and now he’s in the middle east saving kids in war zones. I saw guys swim underwater knowing they were going to pass out; no swimming for the side or trying to stay on the surface, they’d just go limp and start to sink. I have seen it across all walks of life well outside my military world too. Oftentimes one does not get a choice in what happens but they can choose to get through it. 10 July 1961 is a date that would affect my life forever despite not even being born. That was the day my sister arrived on the planet.
She has chosen to go through and it has made all the difference.
She’s a piece of work and I mean that in a good way. I call her “T” and she was born 20 years too late as she is a natural-born hippie where things are groovy and peace signs are appropriate at every auspicious occasion. She’s smart as a whip; she got a 143 IQ score a few years back “that echoes in eternity….” As a brother, I am required to quip every time she does something foolish (like we all do) saying something like “well you’ve easily dropped to 139 after that” or “hey one-four-three what’s going on here?”
We grew up in a divorced, largely dysfunctional family that has had ripple effects across our lives. She’s been to the edge (from there I stood and looked down…) overcoming the demons of addiction and absorbing the sometimes intense consequences that go with that. This resulted in a marriage too young and raising three kids as a kid herself. She decided the best way out was through.
In the late spring of 1992, she sobered up and set her mind to put her life back together. She had left her husband, then, as a single mom with a suitcase full of problems, got help, fought her way into and out of the welfare system, went back to school, got her GED, then an associates degree, then went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Humanities. In 1993, she got married again to a good guy this time around. Once graduated she got a job at the local community college teaching. She rose to be the Adult Education Director and was a force to be reckoned with at the school. She helps people get back on their feet having been down the rocky road. She endeared herself to the ESL community assisting them to get educated and integrated into the good ol’ U.S. of A. I swear the whole city knows her.
During all of this, she never lost sight of her mission as a mother standing by her kids time and time again; she made mistakes but never faltered in her focus. She continues to repair all of her relationships concentrating on her kids helping them wherever and however she can; not spoiling them mind you but sharing the life scars she has endured in her own walk, supporting them in their own walks, and honorably owning her own mistakes. And she’s stood by me as I fought off my own demons.
Sadly in 2011, she started having health problems. In 2012, this turned into a life-changing event. She was originally told she had leukemia (Standby T – I am inbound with bone marrow). She was suffering fevers, pain, rashes, high white blood cell count, lymph node swelling, night sweats, edema, and weakness; other than that she was good. After months of testing and emotional angst, it turned out to be what is classified as Still’s Disease. It’s not Still’s but that’s the closest they could get. After more months of enduring a myriad of various treatments, she finally got some help through Stanford University Department of Medicine prescribing a chemo cocktail every month. She ebbs and flows but mostly flows. She went through all of that coming out the other side stabilized and once again returned to a full life.
Astoundingly in 2013, she and her husband decided to move in with her daughter and son-in-law and their three kids. I gave it two months – tops. I am happy to report I was grossly wrong and it’s one big happy household. Staying home since her illness she’s the eye in the center of the storm. There’s school, home school, cooking, cleaning, a seemingly endless house remodel, shuttling kids to and from activities and sports, caring for our dad, and trips to the doctors just to name a few. And that was before COVID. She doesn’t stop. Part of me believes it’s what keeps her together. I talk to her and am tired when I hang up.
Then just recently due to some peripheral family problems and big hearts they collectively (the adults of the house) adopted a one- and two-year-old. Like adding gas to a fire. She didn’t flinch. She will go through this too, love those kids as well as she does her current grandkids (and they will love her), and everyone will be better for it.
I know I am.
Happy Birthday, T.Published in