My father died 12 years ago, just a few days before my birthday. Now every year as I celebrate another milestone, I can’t help but think of Dad.
He had his flaws, one of which was passing many of those flaws on to his son. But he was a great dad and a good man. I wouldn’t trade him, my mother or my sister for any other family, that’s for sure.
At my age, birthdays often are a time for reflection. I find myself looking back and pondering all the good things in my life, the mistakes I’ve made and even a few regrets.
There’s a line I really like in a Moody Blues song that goes, “The last whispered wish of age is to do it all again.” I know I can’t, but if I could go back and do it all again, would I change anything?
Not much. Everything — good or bad — that’s come before contributes to our current life. One change here or there along the way and my life might be drastically different. Who knows, I might have married an heiress and spent my life lounging on the Riviera.
That sounds pretty good until I think about all the people I love who would not be in that life. Frankly, I kind of like things the way they actually turned out. Besides, I’ve heard heiresses can be pretty stuck up.
However, there is one thing about my life I definitely would change if only I could. I would not spend three-quarters of it living a thousand miles away from my big sister.
I was 14 when Karen left home for college. I remember how empty our house, and my heart, felt. But at least she was in Muncie, and I could see her fairly often. Then two years later she moved to Florida. For nearly half a century, our times together have been too few and too far between for this little brother.
I like to say since Karen was born first, she inherited all of our parents’ good traits. As the second child, I was stuck with their more undesirable characteristics.
Now that our parents are gone, I miss Karen all the more. While I have a wonderful wife, children and grandchildren, my sister fills a unique place in my heart.
She is the last link to the family I so enjoyed as a kid. We were blessed with great parents and two equally great sets of grandparents. The best part was the whole family lived within a one-mile radius.
She’s also the only person who shares my childhood memories, remembers our grandparents and our parents’ friends, who over the years also became our friends. If I say Joe Feeney or Juicy Glassy, Karen is the only person alive who will get the joke.
And judging by my daughters’ adoration of her, she’s the world’s greatest aunt.
The worst thing about our living so far apart is that I’m lucky if I see Karen once a year, and usually for just a few days. We don’t talk on the telephone as much as we should, and for much of the time our relationship involves little more than the occasional email or text message.
But sometime before I die I want to remedy this situation. I want to live close enough to Karen that I can see her much more often. I’d settle for somewhere in the same ZIP code, and not just because she lives in Florida. That’s just icing on the cake.
In the meantime, I’m going to try harder to keep in touch. I’ve come to realize that the number of opportunities to spend time with my sister is finite.
Even now, I’m sure that one of my last whispered wishes of age will be to go back and spend more time with the best big sister a guy could ever have.