Sunday, April 10, 2016

Saluting My Siblings: A Lifelong Gift

April 10 is Siblings Day, a day to celebrate God's wonderful gift of siblings. It's totally fitting that most of the family photos of me as a baby include one or more of my siblings. I was my parents' fifth child and over the next 10 plus years, I gained three younger siblings.

 They say I was a whiny baby, but that didn't seem to bother my older sisters and brother.

When we were kids, most of the photos Dad took were on Easter, Christmas or other special days.

In big families, kids are often paired up or grouped together. I always knew my older siblings had my back, even when I was just a little girl.

My big brother Butch knew I was his responsibility. He looked out for me as we got older too. Once he told a guy who wanted to date me, "Hurt my sister and I'll kill you." I think he was serious too!

My sister Debbie was my first roommate and remained my roommate until we got married and left home. Debbie is the closest sister to me in age and our kids grew up together. Although we lived 1,000 miles apart, our kids spent time with each other whenever I went back home to visit.

What a cute sisters picture of the four of us. Kathy and Sue were so much older than me that I didn't spend too much time with them as a kid. 

I once asked my Mom how she handled having so many kids, when just three was sometimes overwhelming to me. She said that each time a new baby was born, she told the next older child that this was their baby to help take care of. So, my younger brother Mike became 'my' baby, just as I had become my older brother Butch's baby.

I have so many fond memories of time spent with Mike. I thought of him as my partner in crime and, as I got older I led him into trouble more than once. Hopefully he forgives me now for not being the best influence in my teen years!

I still think of my brother Pat as my baby brother, even though he's way taller than me now and has five kids of his own. Pat was such a cute baby, but I picked on him a lot when he got a little older. My favorite taunt was, "Pat's got white hair." Sorry for that, Pat, but now it's true!

What a cute group of seven siblings we were back in the day, all dressed in our Easter best. Who knows how we managed to take this photograph with everyone's hair in place and no stains on anybody's clothing! Kudos to Mom and Dad for this picture.

One of the biggest days in my life as a little girl was my First Communion day. Dad took photos of me with each of my siblings and even a couple with Mom, who hated having her picture taken. This is one of the few photos I have of just me with my oldest sister Sue.

This is also one of the few photos I have of just me with my older sister Kathy when I was a kid, although I have more of us together as adults. I always looked up to Kathy, who was a wonderful role model for all of us younger kids.

Just as me, Butch and Debbie were grouped together when I was little, me, Mike and Pat were grouped together when Pat was little. We look like we're cooking up some sort of mischief!

This is one of my favorite photos of what a carefree childhood looked like back in the day. Butch, me, Mike and Pat were just hanging out together on a summer day. Life was so much easier then!

Scouting was a 'thing' in our family. Mom was a Girl Scout leader for many years and Dad was a Boy Scout leader. This back in the day photo of me and Debbie in our Girl Scout uniforms is a great reminder of the values we learned in our family and in scouting. 

And then there were eight. Baby Nancy was born when we lived in Alabama. Like me, Nancy was a whiny baby who was raised in part by her seven siblings. She'll always be the baby to me!

After Nancy was born, Daddy started taking me, Mike and Pat lots of places to get us "out of your Mother's hair." This photo was from one of our many outings with Dad.

Having a little sister so many years younger than me was like having my own live baby doll. This photo was taken when Nancy was just learning to walk. She was a hot mess, getting into everything. I wrote an essay about "Tornado Nancy" for school about this time.

Sunflowers are the state flower of Kansas. That year me, Mike and Pat planted sunflowers in the back yard, Daddy accidentally mowed Pat's sunflower down. Poor Pat was doing the best he could to smile in this photo while holding his mowed-down sunflower to the ground.

Because of the age span in our family, there aren't many photos of the eight of us together. This one was taken for Christmas card photos in 1974, the year before Debbie and I got married.

The five sisters on my wedding day in June 1975.

What a crazy posed photo of me with my brothers on my wedding day!

A back in the day shot of my three brothers in 1994. As always, Butch is cutting up for the camera.

We all made it home for Nancy's wedding in 1994 and what a fine-looking group we were!

Photos of the eight of us with Mom and Dad are even more rare than photos of all eight of us kids. This one was taken at a very happy gathering for Dad's 80th birthday and Mom's 79th birthday. What a blessing that we were all able to be there!

One of many family gatherings at my brother Pat's house. 

One of my favorite pictures of me with my sister, Kathy, who spent a lot of time during recent years caring for our parents as they aged. 

One of my favorite pictures of me with my sister, Debbie, who also helped care for Mom and Dad through the years. Debbie's also one of the siblings who remained close to home. Debbie's kids spent a lot of time at Mom and Dad's when they were growing up.

Maybe the only photo of me and my baby sister, Nancy as adults. She's all grown up now, but we live so far away, we don't get to see each other very often.

The five sisters all together at once. Aren't we cuties!!!

Whenever I'm in Kansas, there's always chocolate on the menu. Baking brownies with my sisters is one of my happy memories of sibling love.

We match and dressed in red, just like back in the day. Me with three of my greatest blessings: Kathy, Debbie and Pat, who are all still living in Kansas and all helped so much with Mom and Dad.

A Siblings Day celebration in 2014 at Pizza Hut. What a joy to spend the day with three of my siblings that year!

Scattered from Virginia to Hawaii and everywhere in between, we all came home for Mom and Dad's final days. I'm so glad we had this photo taken. Mom cherished it until her death and it sat on Daddy's dresser as his life ended too. God blessed Mom and Dad with the eight of us to carry on their legacy. I hope we can live up to the examples they set. Happy Siblings Day to the seven people who've known me the longest. I love you all and am so grateful that God put us all together in one big family!