Monday, October 22, 2012

An Apology to Lisa, Steve, Terri, and Greg (and other assorted items)

So, it's been a while, huh?  I could go into why I haven't posted in so long, but there's something way more important to write here tonight.

Yesterday Ginger and I saw the play "Brighton Beach Memoirs" at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.  This play was written by Neil Simon around 30 years ago and was made into a movie starring Jonathan Silverman.  I won't go into what it's all about but at one point in the play, the two middle-aged sisters are arguing and dragging up all of the slights and insults they've given to and received from each other their whole lives.  Repressed anger and thoughts are evil things.  One sister is the pretty one, the one everyone takes care of.  In the play, her husband has died at age 36 and she and her two daughters must live with her sister and family.  It turns out that she resents always needing a handout and, on the other end of the spectrum, people just assuming that she even needs or wants a handout.  The other sister isn't ugly, but she's not pretty either and has always been the beast of burden in the family, continually taking care of everyone, starting with her sister and including her own family of her husband and two sons.  She resents always being the worker bee, the wind beneath everyone else's wings.  Resentment has built up on both sides and it comes out swinging hard and often during the sisters' argument.

As I watched, I had what Oprah calls an "AHA!" moment.  Lisa, Steve, Terri, and Greg are my much younger sisters and brothers.  There are 6 of us siblings total but Judy, the oldest, wasn't with the younger four during their growing up years.  She married and was far away from Kentucky when Lisa was 7 and Greg was only 6 months old.  I am the second oldest in the family (now the oldest since Judy passed away in 2007, how I miss her!) and Lisa is number 3.  She was born when I was 10-1/2 years old.  Greg is the youngest and was born when I was 17-1/2 and away at college.  As of this moment, I am 59, Lisa is 48, Steve is 47, Terri is 44 (soon to be 45 on Halloween), and Greg is 41.

When Judy and I were growing up, our parents didn't have a lot.  But we always had a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs, and clothes on our backs.  There wasn't much money for extras.  We didn't get the high school jackets, or go to movies and restaurants with our friends on the weekends, or the latest fashions.  We wore hand-me-downs.  We got a new outfit, new underwear, and new shoes at the beginning of the school year, and another new outfit for Easter.  In other words, we lived like most everyone our parents knew was living at the time.  Our family was considered poor, but Judy and I didn't truly know it then.  We lived in our own house, we had food, we had clothes, we had parents who loved us.  I got to go to band camp every summer, on band trips, and Mom and Dad made sure that I had the best clarinets for marching and concert bands.  Judy was supported the same in her interests.  I should have wondered back then how my parents could afford it.  Now I'm older and I often recall how Dad worked 2 and 3 jobs until the day he retired and Mom didn't get new clothes and things for the house very often.  Dad never had a new car.  What I didn't realize then, I surely realized after I grew up and was on my own.

When I did grow up and knew grown-up things, I vowed to myself that my younger sisters and brothers would have it better.  I made sure they went to movies and they had their high school jackets and extra spending money for band trips and academic competitions and whatever else they were doing.  I made sure that they got to wherever they needed to be and that Mom and I would be at their football games and band contests and school plays (Dad worked nights, usually 7 nights a week).  Each generation wants more and better for the next.  Mom and Dad wanted me and Judy to have more and better than they had.  I (and Judy, too) wanted Lisa, Steve, Terri, and Greg to have more and better than we had.  But I think I may have taken it a little too far, and this is where the apology comes in.  So here goes.....

Lisa, Steve, Terri, and Greg -- I'm not exactly sure when I started believing that the weight of the world was on my shoulders and it was up to me to take care of everyone and fix everything.  My hunch is that it began when Judy got the rheumatic fever in the 4th grade and was bedfast for over a year.  I was so scared for her and I was going to do anything I could to take care of her, Mom, and Dad.  I've been that way ever since and a lot of times, I know that I've been overbearing with it, not just to you four, but to my friends and other family, too.  But this is just for you all......If, at any time, I ever made you feel like you had to be taken care of, that you couldn't take care of yourselves, I'm sorry.  If I was bossy, arrogant, non-feeling, steering you toward what I thought was best instead of what you really wanted to do, I'm sorry.  I know I come across as judge, jury, and executioner (can I get an "amen", Steve?) and I'm absolutely positive that I've given each one of you the "Debby knows best" attitude at one time or another.  I'm sorry.  If I ever made you feel that you don't know what's best for yourself, I'm sorry.  In my defense, I can only say that I've always been the caretaker.  That's been my role.  When Mom was sick off and on so many years to one degree or another, I had to be "Mom" and take up the slack until she got back in the saddle again.  I had to look out for you all and now I've spent decades just taking care of people.  I realize now that I've done it whether or not the person needed or wanted it, and that's not right.  I'm sorry.  So let me just say that I'm so proud of each one of you.  You grew up smart and strong.  You married people who are true partners.  You've raised and are raising wonderful children whom I'm very proud to call my nieces and nephews.  You're all in good careers.  You have your own homes in great neighborhoods.  Your children have gone or are going to college and have succeeded in so many ways.  And some of your children are still in elementary school, but have already risen to be the cream of the crop.  If I were any prouder of you four and if I loved you any more, I would split into a million pieces because my body just couldn't hold it all.  It has taken me a long time to learn this, but you are all grown adults and you can take good care of yourselves.  You don't need me to worry and hover over you anymore.  It may have been needed when you were younger, but I have learned at last that you are all fine, wonderful adults with good heads on your shoulders.  I can stop the caretaking now.  You don't need it and you haven't for a long, long time.  So.....I quit.  I'm now just your sister who loves you and who will offer advice IF YOU ASK.  You all are doing just fine without me the caretaker.  Now we can enjoy each other as the fabulous adults and siblings that we all are. :-)

Now here is where "the other assorted items" come in......I need to work on my writing.  There are poems to be written that are calling my name and a book that is festering somewhere down in the nether regions of my heart.  I've been in a frame of mind that says I've written the one really magnificent piece in my life and I'll never write anything near as good again.  That's suicide for a writer.  It gives writer's block the fertilizer it needs to grow into mammoth proportions and causes paralysis in the creative mind.  The only way to fix it is to write.  That's hard to do when you're killing yourself unwritten word by unwritten word.  But I'm going to do it anyway.  I will write a blog post every day.  It may only be a paragraph of 3 sentences, but I will write it even if it's only instructions for how to mop a floor.  It may be funny, it may be sad, it may be more boring than my diet, but I will write.

See you all here tomorrow, same time, same place.  Thanks for waiting for me.

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