With a lot weighing down on my shoulders lately I’ve had time to consider all my blessings, in particular my family. They are in a holding pattern, as they hold their breath waiting dutifully, while we make life changing decisions.
This morning, I rekindle my appreciation for group participation. Its time to play the “Time To Move Closer To Home” Game. They all have an opinion and have waited honorably for a chance to give their advice and help.
“No pressure, Sis.”
I fully understand what their decision looks like in regards to “Decision 2013”. (That’s what I’m calling our current optional life change.) I quite honestly can maneuver my way through their plan with my eyes closed. Both eyes secured with duct tape, my ears plugged with concrete and my nose sown shut. In addition to not having my sense of touch due to the skin of my fingertips being peeled off, so I could no longer feel my way through the course.
Even with the lack of my senses, I can easily get in and back out with zero trouble. Ha. Yeah, that’s how well an older sister can read through the lines of the numerous text messages; phone calls and sketchy Facebook messages, which are all laden with guilted cryptic messages like “How are you, today?”
I’ve got this and then next idea, too. It’s just something a girl knows when she’s been reading the minds; listening to the stories; answering the questions or filling the date books of her siblings for 25+ years.
I’m a quick learner. As I take into account how they feel, I find myself questioning why. Why? I have their full support. Why? I have their full attention. Why? They need and want me around.
Why? I was rough on them and awfully pushy in our younger years. I’m surprised we’re still talking.
Why does Big Brother want me around? I can think of countless arguments we’ve gotten in through the years. In particular, I can remember the day he had to convince me not to run away. I’m sure that’s how all eighteen year old boys see an average summer day going. Decompressing a psycho sister into understanding that we all have bad days and that I was simply overreacting to a problem that must have an easy solution. The long walk up the hill and then back down again was full of emotion. One we won’t revisit here. He had to convince one out of three sisters that he needed her and wanted her to stay.
Poor guy, most brothers would have cheered, “One down, two to go!” as I started up the hill and out-of-town. Instead he allowed me a moment of panic in an otherwise normal day for him.
He put up with torture, day in and day out for years as most brothers do. Growing up he was a great Big Brother. I learned to love old and fast pick-up trucks by riding with him through hilly pastures. He created a desire to go mudding on roads not fit for driving on, all the while loving the laughter it produced. He was responsible when he needed to be, yet a constant promoter of having fun now and paying for it later. He was obviously trying to help me escape from the pains of always feeling like I had to be in control. Wise Big Brother, even through all of that, my need to protect him was always on patrol.
Big Brother would shout down the stairs while I cooked dinner, “Aud, how do you spell ant?”
Aud, short for Audrey, and that’s where my problems started. Aud never sounded like “Aud”rey it always sounded like “Odd”rey. I kinda was odd, I mean who shaves off a 4×4 piece of hair above her ear and lives to talk about it socially. Anyway….
I’d say “Ant, as in bug or Aunt, as in our Aunt?”
Then he’d reply by saying “Our Ant.”
I’d answer, “A. U. N. T.”
So that’s just how it was with us. He was the protector and the fun “getter”. He’d air up the tires in my yellow Mercury, and tend to various other used car problems all high school girls have to deal with. In return, I’d decode his writing homework in the most helpful way possible. By yelling back up the stairs to him, obviously. And mumbling something about how he needed to learn how to do more than iron a pretty crease in his Wranglers. I should have been nicer and possibly offered to tutor him after school. I could have encouraged him to read more, by presenting something interesting from the library.
I should have done that. If only I was then who I am now. Why, wouldn’t be a question now.
Next there’s Middle, the one only nineteen months younger than I. She’s the Middle Sister. She was the perfect one, skinny one, the one with no pimples and the apple of Grandfather’s eye. Yes, let’s all sit back and watch Middle do another cart-wheel and show us her ballot routine, while her straighter hair than mine shines like a new penny. I mean who could blame him, she was pretty cute. I’m sure oh so chatty, if she’s anything like her youngest son. Hard not to love a child like that. So in order for me to remind her of the pecking order we had in the household, I made her work for my love. She’d get the brunt of all the jokes made by me or my friends, all the while figuring she had the backbone to handle it.
Man, was I an idiot.
Middle was amazing back then, even though I embarrassed her immensely during a high school basketball game. She still looked up to my ability to make friends, even while at my worst, publicly. I remember as a college freshman, Middle, a junior in high school, tutored me in Algebra and basically did my take home final, while I watched in amazement. ( I still cannot believe I didn’t even bother to read the test over after she helped me with the hard questions. Wonder what the old college professor thought of her notes in the margin that said, “Aud, check this one over.” or “Not sure this is what he’s looking for here.” which was never erased.) Gold star for me, I still wonder if there was a thank-you, from me, in that story.
She loved and tried hard daily. She had a sensibility that none of us could match and she was beautiful. There was a healthy competition between us that should have worked to our advantage, but sadly it didn’t and it left us with a period of time where we couldn’t relate to one another.
If I could have been this age back then, I would have let her shine in all of her awesomeness. She so rightly deserved every compliment she’d ever gotten. It would have been a blessing to watch those words form her into a wonderful woman. I gotta tell you though, she’s got gumption! And that she learned, in part, through the tests and trials of our relationship.
If not then, then definitely it was the time I threw orange slush in her face when we argued about how I’d been routinely late picking her up after basketball practice. She had every right to be upset with me. Her courage to call me out on it is something I’ll always admire about Middle. Once again, I was out of line by assuming she should wait and could handle wondering if anyone remembered her, or her need for a ride home. Being Middle was made even tougher by me being out of line.
See what I mean, why?
Then we met Baby, the Little Sister. She was “our baby”. I’m pretty sure Mom would say, “Baby was Our Baby the day she was born.”
Who wouldn’t fall in love with a blonde haired, blue-eyed Angel? She turned out to be the one who never needed to talk, walk or ask for anything. Baby is Daddy’s favorite. She loved everything about him, shared his love of animals and all things fun. We all do. Growing up she was the one who could light matches in the bathroom and then quickly dispose of them in the toilet. We’d then cover for her after Dad had got home and smelled something funny.
She was the one who always sat in the middle of everyone’s conversations. Baby always sat in the middle, bugging us to pay attention to her. Usually that meant our full attention and playing everything she wanted while outside. Middle and I would jockey for Baby’s attention always beating one another to her call for help. She loved a good fight over who loved her more. Big Brother would keep his distance always wondering how every problem, somehow, became his fault.
“Baby, climb in,” we’d say when she couldn’t sleep alone. I’d sing to her until she fell asleep and whisper in her ear the idea that she was wonderful. She grew up with a confidence that was probably interpreted as her feeling better than someone else. She continually definded herself in situations when accused of being loved too much by other people. I mean, really? She’d been working her magic with us for years, so naturally she made friends without even trying and persuaded us to do anything she asked. “You all tricked me into helping you!” she’d say. Either way, making friends and being easy to be around came natural to her.
As the Red Headed Sister, the only mistake I feel I made with her, was that she didn’t learn how to try it on her own until after she became an adult. Until then she would have followed me in to a house full of fire.
Baby watched everything we did and she did it well, even to her own detriment. Now, I’d say she is the best at reading what we’re all thinking, before its been said or done. She’s our glue and most definitely, our ground zero.
The rest of us witnessed, in Baby, something no one could ever explain away as normal. The emotional strength she embodies can only be explained as God-given. She has held God’s hand for 16+ years now. She’s found love so strong inside her that it moved a mountain off her heart, which had surfaced during her own personal tragedy. She proved a love and strength the rest of us could have never shown, no matter what our birth order.
The one thing that links us together is a profound need to be together. We can’t imagine taking a family vacation without the other. We’re the first ones to call the sibling who abandoned Christmas by not making the drive, all the while letting them know it wasn’t the same without them. Sometimes we’re at our worst with each other. We argue over politics, who’s house gets the overnight family guests and even how we parent our children ( Oh, no you didn’t.) but every year it seems to get less and less.
We’ve learned that living without each other is impossible, so we continue to try and include each other in every step of our journey. They’re always in my thoughts, and usually the first ones I run to when something amazing has happened. It hasn’t been easy living without them as we raise a family, they never get to see, in Texas and they continue what was started in Nebraska.
Largely, they’ve watched their nephew and niece grow up through Facebook or Skype. I ask for forgiveness when they find out we won’t be coming home for the summer to help Big Brother shuck corn, or to let Middle to take us to the pool ,and then allow Baby to spoil us rotten. They claim to understand the decisions we’ve made for the greater good. They paciently disagree with us moving nineteen hours away to follow a dream, and question how long was long enough.
I am the Oldest Sister. Not the oldest child, that’s Big Brother, but I am the oldest of the sisters. I fix everything. I planned plenty and was the decision maker in our foursome. I decided what direction we headed and when we did it.
No one moved a muscle until I said “Okay, let’s move.”
I’ll never forget the pivotal moment in our childhood when I fell into my role as Oldest. We’d gone to the swimming pool after dinner, even with the thunder clouds rolling in, for a couple more hours of summer fun. Mom had gone to softball practice up at the school (maybe four blocks away) and we’d been given directions to walk home after the pool closed. These all normal, small town responsibilities.
When the pool closed, due to thunder, we began to wonder and panic over what we were told to do and what I felt we should do. Instead of turning right to walk home after we’d departed the pool, I turned us left and started walking the direction mom was in. The branches of the trees whipped around and cracked with weakness as the wind grew stronger. The grass had taken on the green hue of Leprechauns, of which they were surely born. The temperature became cooler almost instantly.
With my eyes pointed towards the sky, I remember just telling the girls to walk faster. We had to try and meet mom on her way home from the softball fields.
“Being in her car was much safer than the mile walk home.” I’d said.
What if we somehow missed her driving down the street? I struggled with knowing if I was making the right choice or whether I was creating a situation where we’d have to back track and risk being out in this weather even longer. Rain drops started falling, which allowed tears to finally start flowing out of Middle and Baby’s eyes.
“We’re almost there,” I’d reminded them. Just as the skies were releasing the storm we’d reached the outskirts of the softball fields and into my mom’s relieved arms.
“Audrey, you made the right choice.” Mom said with pride in her eyes.
I had kept them safe. I had done my job. As an eleven year old, I had loved how that felt. I had passed the test.
Growing up, I had the authority in most of our day-to-day endeavors. Not because I wanted to be Oldest, let me explain that and make it perfectly clear. I didn’t ask for the role, but only given it the day I was born.
It’s what the Oldest Sister does.
The O. S.’s of the world, move everyone forward in a step by step fashion. We’re good at knowing all the angles and how to keep track of countless past mistakes. It’s a role we have without realizing we have it. Everyone excuses Oldest’s mistakes and writes them off as learning along the way or explains the bossiness as experienced when others invade our tight circle.
I took my job seriously.
I had an opinion for everything, a solution for all problems and a protective nature that was unstoppable. No one can match my ability to “de”friend a close friend, because I’ll always choose Big Brother first. Nor can they duplicate my decision to create an escape plan, for Middle, after her high school graduation, as I tried to put distance between her and a bad idea.
They surely can’t relate to forcing Baby to come to grips that she was pregnant. And needing maternity clothes, pronto. I knew she needed to watch a birthing video in an effort to help her prepare for motherhood. All the while, not truly grasping how her baby would steal our hearts. After five short years, he had to choose to take God’s hands and allow God to lead him home. Being Oldest in this moment was life changing for me. What Baby experienced, changed her forever.
Why did I think I had the right to lead? Simple. Not one of them discouraged me. Did I mess it up, yes, probably, but they allowed me to help lead them, and I believe, they had found comfort in my skills.
Today, I believe there is a common goal being set into motion. I’m gathering from the game plan, that my role has been moved to the bottom of the order. What I’m not comfortable with, they’ve proven an easy fix. I’m not sure how I like the role of Baby. I’m not comfortable wearing the shoes of someone who can lovingly allow hands to help guide me. I’m noticing that the others are standing tall at the peak of helpfulness. They see over the trees to the promise land, one they’ve been working towards for a few years now. They see wings that need to open up.
Wings that could fly a girl closer to home.
An option we hadn’t allowed lately to be considered has been made possible. I’m not sure their plan is our plan, but they’ve given me wings and shown me what’s obtainable when I surrender and allow God to take control.
As adults, who still agree to be part of this family, we’ve learned how to compromise with each other. From time to time, we’ve all changed our birth order roles. We’ve done the old switcheroo when the time called for the best plan, for the current situation, and learned how to work within our new roles for the common good.
Yet, I rarely allow anyone else to take my role. I am best at taking on a situation and creating control. Lately, God’s been whispering in my ear, that they wanna show me how they can take the lead and handle a situation by showing a helping hand.
God’s showing what’s possible when I have faith in Him and them, instead of stubbornly trying to do it all alone. We were given family and friends to depend on during all life’s experiences. So why wasn’t I allowing myself the support they all so eagerly wanted to give?
Honestly, let’s face it, there’s no big trophy at the end of this life. No awards that acknowledge the fact that I figured out how to do it all on my own, right?