My sister, Kathleen, my memory keeper, turned 67 this year. Two years older, she and I were pretty much inseparable into our early teens. She, with the long, wavy red hair and freckles she hated, and I with the short dark hair and crooked teeth, grew up together sharing bedrooms and bathrooms, our cousin, our friends, and our love of horses. I got her hand-me-downs and rode on the back of Clancy. Before me, she experienced the firsts like driving and dating, leaving me behind in more ways than one. Once we reached our late teens, we were like night and day, and we started to grow apart both physically and emotionally.
Kathleen, Kappy, Kathy, Kate – nicknames she loved and hated – was always the responsible one. As a kid, she could get a roll of Neccos and save the preferred chocolate ones until later. We’d both get new Easter shoes and were told not to wear them early or they’d get scuffed. She listened. A good student, she never caused a problem, even when my parents had to move her from a small Catholic high school to public for her senior year. While I’m sure she hated it, I’m not sure I ever heard her argue with them.
She married young and badly. After 19 years and two sons, she divorced and moved north to her family. With supreme struggle and the help of her clan, she was eventually able build a new career in the legal field, buy a house, see her boys off to the Air Force and to college, and finally meet the love of her life, Jim. And with her move north, we became close again sharing girlfriends, celebrations, and lots of laughter.
She has Dad’s disposition; mostly sunny with an edge of moodiness. She usually is, like him, the life of the party. She is loyal and compassionate. She will listen and encourage and offer advice, typically good if not always welcome. And though she now claims she doesn’t have a lot of memories of our growing up years, I do, and so many of them are filled with us. And while she and I may have different personalities, I’m discovering as we age how much we look alike when Facebook always wants to auto-tag me as ‘Kathy’. We may not talk for months on end, but we will eventually check in with each other, catching up and sharing our lives. And because of who she is, she will be that person, the glue that will continue to hold our large family together through the coming years.
She’s now retired from a career as a legal secretary. She is able to spend her winters in sunny Florida where her Jimmy fishes on the Gulf while she reads on the sand. Back home she volunteers, visits our mother often, and enjoys her girlfriends. She’s earned it.