Today is All Saints’ Day, a major feast in the Christian tradition. It’s also Dia de los Muertos. And it’s also the birthday of two of my favorite people in the world: Steve and my sister. It’s a fitting festival for fall, colorful and reeking with death and ghosts. I think that Steve and DKK also have a marvelous blend of color and passion and darkness in them. And to tell the truth, this scared me about them. I am a sunny Leo, all bright smiles and pleasing, if a bit manipulative and ego-driven. Their seething power is something that I can not control or influence, and that used to bug me.
As a kid, I shared a room with my older sister for 9 years. I used to be frightened of her insistent non-compliance under our very strict father, and so I would nag her and repeat his instructions and try to get her to do what would keep her out of trouble. I don’t know why I thought my two cents would make an impact when my father’s words were disobeyed. What do you do with a pestering younger sister? You beat her up occasionally. That kept me afraid and convinced that she really hated me. I did not understand her at all. She was power and mystery and goddamn smart to boot. Then we moved and finally got separate rooms. And we went to the same High School and had some friends in common. Still, there was a kind of power struggle and competition going on. She dated older guys I was crushing on. She was better than me at Italian and spent a summer in Italy — and that was supposed to be MY language. She was supposed to stick to Latin! She did me the favor of passing my first love note to a boy in her Senior English class…who became my husband for 24 years until his death. And I tattled on her and brought the wrath of my father down upon her. I didn’t see her much for a long time, but I wrote to her, and I prayed for her.
I remember one All Saint’s Day sitting in a church in southern California, thinking about her birthday. I decided that she was a saint, too, and that I would write to her again. It was a holy moment, one that I knew might change me, and I was willing. I think the thing that made me see how much we have in common, how much we really care about each other, was motherhood. When we both had babies, I had three to her one, and we had lots to talk about. I began to see her hopes and values and fierce love writ large on her parenting style, and her dynamic became more understandable to me. She had the same parenting model to work with as I, and we were both fashioning our response to it in our individual styles. I began to recognize her and appreciate her in a way I never had. I wish we could spend more time together as we grow older. We keep growing closer, even though we live half a continent apart.
So that’s today’s version of Favorite Memories of (My Sister), my family’s traditional birthday game.
And now, favorite memories of the birthday boy, still dozing beside me.
I’ve known Steve for 3 years. Three very important, reformative years. When we met, I had been a widow for only 7.5 months. Although sane, I was rather raw and fragile. So was my family of 4 children. He’s never been married and has no children. In the pool of dating possibilities, he was advised against choosing the widow. But he loves a dark, complex, engaging challenge. And apparently, he loves me. So when my youngest daughter, grieving the loss of her father, contemplated the presence of this new man in my life, she became passionately angry. It terrified me, and I ran away. My new friend wasn’t scared of her at all. In fact, he stood up for her saying that her emotions were completely justified. He cared about her and understood her in a way I hadn’t. He sat down with both of us and listened as we struggled to repair our relationship. He offered his observations calmly and honestly and maintained a safe place for both of us. He made a huge difference in a very critical time, and for that, I will always be grateful…and a bit awed.
Passion is a marvelous hallmark of life. It is scary in many ways, but adds so much. I am learning to be open to it more and more. And I thank DKK and Steve for helping me learn how. Happy Birthdays, youse guys!