I had a phone conversation with my older sister Denise a few months back. We were discussing a recent death in the family and she was offering comfort because she knew just how close I was to our recently departed cousin John (“Pot”/Pasquale).
Towards the end of the conversation, I told her how much I loved and valued her. That she was always there, since the beginning, giving me comfort and support during the toughest of times. I thanked her for always being my guide, my protector, my teacher and my first beloved friend.
…that’s when she dropped the bomb on me.
“Kenny”, she replied, “You’re too funny. You’ve always been MY protector. I’ve always felt completely safe and at peace when you were with me.”
Wait. WHAT??? ME? The pain-in-the-ass little brother that my father forced my sister to take along when she went out with friends? How was/is this possible?
We talked a bit longer and she completely blew my mind with her words. I never once thought that she ever needed me for ANYTHING because her life was so together. She was perfect. Loved by many and envied by all. Still, I listened closely as she shared how much she loved and valued ME. As she explained, I started having flashbacks of crazy incidents during our childhood.
- Like back when Denise and I walked to school together every day until the day she got the flu and missed three days. I had to walk to school by myself. I wasn’t ready. The first day without her, I walked all the way the school screaming, “Nieeeeecyyyyyyyyyy”, crying like I had a Christmas stocking full of coal and cookie crumbs. Day #2 I only cried half of the way. Day #3, no more crying, but it was still a lonely and frustrating journey.
- Or that time in 1st grade when I learned that my “Niecy” (in 3rd grade) had just been in a fight with someone at school [Names have been omitted to protect the innocent – or at least, keep them from losing “cool points”].
Well, I went looking for him to whoop his ass the next day only to discover that she had beaten the bricks off of him! Dude was still red in places that advertised his defeat. I walked up and hit him in his nose anyway. I don’t think he was ready for two nosebleeds in as many days.
- Or that time I came home late (correction, VERY late) in 10th grade and tapped on her bedroom window from outside. When she came to the window, I whispered, “Come to the front door and let me in.” She smiled, then screamed at the top of her lungs, “WHY DO YOU NEED ME TO LET YOU IN? WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO SNEAK IN THE HOUSE AFTER MIDNIGHT, KENNY?!?!?”
Dad opened the door…
- Or that time a year prior, when I was walking to my class at Washington High and came upon her and her friends in the hallway. Denise was always surrounded by friends and one the the coolest people in school. As I approached them I excitedly said, “Hey Denise!”
She replied, “Iron that shirt, boy!”
Her friends laughed and I looked down at my noticeably wrinkled shirt. She didn’t mean any harm because that’s how we talked. But hearing those girls laugh changed my life. From that point on, EVERY Sunday, after doing my own laundry, I ironed every article of clothing and hung them all up in the basement. Even my socks and underwear! Then I carefully inspected every item before I went to bed and when I woke each morning. Victory in humiliation. Thanks, Denise!
- Oh man, I also remember the time we got in that argument (we never hit each other – no one among us 5 siblings did) and I got so angry that I threw my toy robot at her Barbie (deluxe “homemade”) dreamhouse and knocked the 3-level home down in the basement; breaking several items. The look on her face alone, gave me a good week of sleepness nights. I actually kept a kitchen knife under my pillow. Not that I’d ever use it, but I made sure she knew. Of course, I had to maintain the lie that I had no idea where it went when momma asked me where her favorite knife was (it was my week to do dishes).
- And I will never forget that time in 6th grade when we were walking home after a school event (can’t remember what, but she was in Jr. High at this point) and a certain someone in the group behind us yelled/sang, “Hey Denise! You can rinnnnnng my ballllllllllls. Ring My Balls!” to the tune of Anita Ward’s “Ring My Bell”. I started back towards him and she snatched my arm, firmly ordering, “Kenny, NO. Let it go.”
Days later, I saw him on the basketball court. I walked up to him and before he could put two and two together, I put one INTO two by kicking him in his nuts. As he went down I shouted, “Do you still want my sister to ring your balls or is THAT enough for you?”
I should have quit while I was ahead and ran off because “I” caught the beatdown that time. Still… I got my message across.
You don’t disrespect my Niecy.
Look. Plain and simple, I love my sister. BOTH of my sisters (I’ll write about the other someday), just like my mother. Momma is my Queen and they are the Princesses. I would gladly and quickly kill any man who would seek to do either of them any level of harm, without hesitation – physically, mentally, emotionally…
Hey, I offer no apologies. I am my father’s son!
But as I was saying, to know that through it all, she depended on me for something. ANYTHING. I never once stopped to think that she noticed these things (if she even KNEW about the things that I did). I definitely couldn’t tell that she cared when my mother demanded she share her potato chips with me. Of course, being Denise, the moment Momma walked away, she lovingly put a chip in the palm of my hand and then smashed it with her thumb. (“Mommaaaaaaaaa!!”)
All I know is that she is my everything. She helped teach me to bake desserts, evaluated my school projects, taught me how to mend my own clothes when necessary, even helped improve my God-awful dancing (watching Soul Train on Saturdays together). I’ve spent my entire life enjoying the perks of having a big sister when all the while, she’s been looking up to me in so many different ways.
Is there a moral to this story? Take from it what you will. I just wanted to share that there is beauty and joy in family unity and you never know WHO has your back and what they think about you.
Whether or not they tell you.
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