You may have seen this before, but I tried to write something new about my sister Judy. And, well, this piece really just sums up who she was better than anything I’ve come up with since.
She’s been gone now for 16 years. Not a day has gone by since that I haven’t wanted to talk with her, laugh with her, or, alternatively because she was my sister, smack her. There really isn’t a relationship like you have with a sister. Even long after they are gone.
Today, April 22, is Earth Day! It’s the Anniversary of the very first Earth Day. Here is Walter Cronkite’s report on the first Earth Day, 1970:
It would also be my late sister Judy’s 64th birthday.
Whoever made the decision to turn Judy’s birthday into Earth Day chose wisely. Judy was a born environmentalist and recycler.
On the first Earth Day, Judy was a new, very young mother who believed in saving the planet. She was the first “environmentalist” I ever knew personally, and well, I thought she was nuts. There was a recycling bin in her kitchen for as long as I can remember. And this was back when recycling took effort. She believed in gardens, not garbage, and she made life bloom wherever she was.
“I’ve got kids,” she’d say. “It’s their planet too!”
But years later, Judy took recycling to a whole different level when she helped people recycle themselves. In the 1990s, Jude, who was then living in Florida, began working with the Homeless, assisting at shelters. Then she actively began trying to help homeless vets food, shelter and work — to enable them to jumpstart their lives.
When she died in early 2000, the American Legion awarded her honorary membership for her services to homeless vets. A homeless shelter was named in her honor. So she’s still doing good works, my sister is. That would make her wildly happy.
Jude also gave me the Beatles. So it is very appropriate that they wrote a song for her.
You see, the night the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan, it was MY turn to choose what we were going to watch. And we were going to watch the second part of The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh starring Patrick McGoohan on the Wonderful Wide World of Disney. My four (all older and MUCH cooler) siblings were furious with me. But I was quite insistent. You might even say that I threw a Class I temper tantrum over it, but I wouldn’t admit to that. But hey, I was seven. And it was my turn to choose. Fair is fair, especially in a big family with only one TV.
Somehow, Judy talked me out of my turn. She was always very persuasive. Thanks Jude.
The father-daughter relationship is fraught with all the possibilities a therapist could wish for. Even in my family.
Well, except for my relationship with my father.
“You go ask Dad …” was one of the enduring sounds of my childhood.I only asked “why me” once:
It was a hot summer day when I was about four. I was happily cooling off in the puddles on the sidewalk. I didn’t even really want to go to the beach. My brothers and sister did, though.
“Go ask Dad if he’ll take us to the beach,” Judy commanded.
That summer, Dad, already working two jobs to support his wife and five kids was studying to take his insurance licensing test.
“Why me?” I whined. “I always have to ask Dad.”
“‘Cause when you ask him, he always says yes” Bob responded. Judy and Fred agreed.
So I went in and asked him.
Sure enough, he packed up his books, loaded the four of us up into the car, and headed off to Beardsley Park, where there was a delightful stream that formed the most wonderful pools of different depths, where we would each be happy and cool. I can still see Dad sitting on a rock ledge in the shade, his pants legs rolled up, his feet in the water and a large black binder on his lap.
I never again asked “Why me” when it came to getting Dad to do anything. Because I realized that my brothers and sisters were right. Dad always said yes to me.
Somehow, the fact that I was the clear favorite in Dad’s eyes was rarely held against me by my brothers and sisters who all had far more complicated relationships with Dad. It was pretty much accepted by everybody. That’s just how it was.
Dad and Me in Geneva, June 1998. You have to guess which is me.
I don’t have any recordings of his voice, which was deep and scary (to everybody but me) when we were kids, and became deep and comforting when we were grown. But this song, while he never heard it, always makes me feel close to Dad, who died in 2000. Today would have been his 98th birthday.