This evening, eight family members joined my sister, Linda, to celebrate her birthday, which actually is today. We are always a lively and talkative bunch where birthdays are concerned, and even more so when the object of our celebration is my sister. Seated around a long table at Cracker Barrel, in Joplin, we laughed and chatted and enjoyed home-style meals. The birthday girl finished our time together with a piece of double chocolate Coca-cola cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Linda passed the cake around so that others could share in the chocolaty goodness.
And that is very typical of my sister, to share what she has, without expectation of getting anything in return. This fun loving, good natured, big hearted woman is one of the most generous people I know. What she has, you can borrow or share it with her. She enjoys a good laugh, and loves to play board games, go on outings, watch movies, and learn about interesting things.
Her two great passions are her children and grandchildren, and animals, especially dogs. She has long been an advocate for pet health and wellbeing and was the director of an animal shelter in Oklahoma for years. She has not only cared for dogs and cats without homes, tending to them, fostering them, making sure they were adopted by loving, caring families, she has gone on many rescue missions to bring abused or neglected animals to a safe place. One of her dreams is to form a “no-kill” sanctuary in the Joplin area for homeless dogs and cats.
She is Gigi to her grandchildren, three granddaughters and one grandson, and one could not ask for a more fun and loving grandmother. She is playful with her grandkids and loves seeing the world through their bright eyes. My grandchildren and my younger sister’s grandsons call her Gigi as well. We are a big, active, nurturing family, and Linda loves being in the middle of that happy group of souls.
Being the eldest child in my family, I have journeyed with my sister since her birth. I’m told I really wanted a puppy when she was born, and supposedly slapped her when I met her. I’ve done my best to protect her since, both literally when we were kids growing up in a neighborhood full of children, and emotionally and spiritually as well, as adults. You don’t mess with my sister….or any of my family members.
I had the privilege of selling Linda a house in Joplin a couple of years ago, and I have so enjoyed having my sister nearby. This past year, as I moved beyond by experiencing something new each day, she was often my companion, happily trying new things with me. And so we watched a college basketball game together and sipped wine while we painted a picture downtown. We attended a weather spotting class and also watched a hypnotist at work. We did chalk outlines on the side of a downtown building as part of a living art project that honored a Joplin tornado victim, and tried chemical peels for the first time. If I needed someone to go with me on a first, she never hesitated to volunteer. I also had the joy of being at the finish line as Linda participated in a first of her own, a 5K run.
I look forward to our continued journey together. Life isn’t always smooth or perfect, but one thing is true, my sisters and I always have each others’ backs. Cali Rae Turner said, “The best thing about having a sister was that I always had a friend.” I am so glad to call Linda my sister….and my friend. Long may we journey together, even into the twilight years of our lives. A sister is the first friend we make, really, and perhaps the last friend that we have at the end of our journeys. Happy Birthday, Linda…I love you!