Saturday, September 27, 2008
My Sister, Amy
What can one say about a sister that one has grown up with? There are contentions, certainly, through the childhood and teenage years as both of us sought to define our space within the household. Let any come between us though, and you will see us jump to one another's defense. There are idiosyncrasies and habits that remain throughout our lives that both annoy and endear us to one another. We have shared secrets and difficult times.
As children, we pretty much got on one another's nerves in a game of one upmanship that is common with any family household. What does not kill us makes us stronger, however, and I feel this is the case with Amy and I. I am indebted to Amy for learning understanding, patience and love. I have not always been the easiest person to get along with. I have been at times, selfish, spiteful and isolated.
We used to play a game involving macaroni and cheese. We would cook the macaroni, leaving one elbow out of the boiling water. Then when the macaroni was done, we would mix the milk and butter in with the powdered cheese sauce. After that we would replace the uncooked macaroni into the pot and stir vigorously. After the macaroni was evenly divided (one of us would divide the macaroni and the other one would get first choice, ensuring that no one got preferential treatment) we would sit down and eat, staring at each other with passive-aggressive glee, waiting in trepidation either to get a hard crunch or to erupt in laughter as the other got a surprise.
As we matured into the teenage years, I went through a period in the 8th grade where every other comment flying out of my mouth was sarcastic and rude. Amy had to deal with the receiving end of this usually as she was the closest target, and my parents got a little concerned. Basically, I was angry and upset and mad about my lot in life. Being a teenager is rough because one yearns to break free from the rulership of their parents and establish ones own identity. However, one is still treated in many ways like a kid. Amy had no one really to shift the blame onto vicariously when she went through it, as I was the older brother. Her experience of high school, I understand, was not as rosy as mine in retrospect, just trying to survive on a daily basis. Two experiences stand out, however- both occurred when I was a senior and she was a sophomore.
Amy came to me at one point during the school day crying and told me that a young man in her class named Glen was saying things about her in the hallway. Spreading rumors that she was a slut, saying bad things about her, etc- the thing that young girls fear as it causes ostracizing and social difficulties, and this means the world to them. I decided to find this guy and set him straight. Now, at the time I was known around campus as a Christian. I carried my bible around school, was involved in youth groups, was the chaplain for FCA and basically tried to get along with everyone. I discovered a most violent reaction within me that was not Christian at all, however. When I finally saw this guy in the corridors, I pulled him off to the side. "We need to talk, Glen." I basically told him that I had heard he was saying things around the school about my sister. He denied it. As I spoke my voice got quieter and I basically started growling what I was saying to him as I stared into his eyes and invaded his personal space. He backed up against the wall as I continued stepping forward making my point. "If I hear... that you are continuing to say things about my sister... I am going to PERSONALLY turn your FACE into HAMBURGER. GOT IT?" He did and I moved with my personal hurricane of rage slowly away, to make sure it stuck. NOBODY messes with my sister!
The other incident occurred after school hours. My sister was a party animal and one night when I was out on a date with my then girlfriend, we decided to visit a party at a person's house. When we arrived I discovered Amy was there, soaking wet in her clothes, and had been drinking (the drinking was not uncommon for the time- it had not yet become politically incorrect.) I told Amy I was taking her home and she wanted to stay and have fun. We had a disagreement and I started to drag her out. Well, Amy sat down next to a car tire in the garage (that was still attached to the car) and grabbed hold and would not let go. "Nooo! I want to stayyyy and have funnnn!" At that point my girlfriend and I (whom I had taken to the senior prom earlier in the year) had a miscommunication. She suggested that I just leave her there. To me, that was translated as: "Allow her to stay and get taken advantage of by the repulsive, horny, male, teenage, slimy dregs of humanity that were slouching around the house looking for a target."
I turned on her. "Don't you EVER come between me and my family!" I yelled into her face. Well, that was the end of that relationship. I continued to try to take Amy home, but she would not budge from the tire. I finally took my rapidly deteriorating girlfriend home, not caring how she felt. I was stinging because I had to leave my sister in harm's way.
As Amy has grown and matured, however, that stubborn-ness has served her well. It has changed into an incredible work ethic, which I think she got from Dad. She has rebounded from near bankruptcy shortly after college, finally establishing herself as a mortgage broker of some repute. She is on at least one regional committee that represents the mortgage industry to Congress, having gained the trust, confidence and recognition of her peers in the mortgage industry. She has met and socialized with Newt Gingrich and other Washington elites. She has won Businesswoman of the Year twice from the Business Advisory Council and was recognized with the National Leadership Award from Tom Delay in 2003.
She has been more than successful in her business, and has made it a success with her hard work in a field where large banks are cutting the legs out from under independent brokers. It's similar to the situation I read about with Wal Mart one time. Wal Mart was purposely underpricing the gas pumps at their stores, driving stations out of business because they could make up the profit with other merchandise that they sold inside, in bulk. They stopped this practice (I understand) when it started earning them a lot of bad publicity. The large banks, however, have no such worries about simple things like ethics.
I am in awe of her business achievements. In comparison, I am sort of a goofball, going day-to-day in a rather whimsical manner, not motivating myself very well in any endeavor I direct myself to. But there is more to Amy than that.
Amy has blossomed into a woman who is both beautiful and strong, compassionate with a heart that is tender, especially towards animals. She has survived through the difficulties of a very painful divorce, and come out stronger because of it.
As I examine our relationship as a mature teacher of 19 years, I think I can summarize it this way: Amy and I are like Ren and Stimpy. Yes, those two crazy cartoon characters who stretch the limits of decency. Amy is a bit like Ren the Chihuahua. Passionate about everything! Driven! Explosive! Filled with energy! I, on the other hand, am a bit like Stimpy the cat, who pauses to examine the fuzz that has accumulated in the navel of my belly, a bit introspectively and naively. It's ying and yang, but we understand each other and gain strength, wisdom and perspective from one another's counsel.
I am very proud of my sister, Amy, and am thankful to God for her presence in my life.