Today I'm sharing a virtual birthday card for my sister Maureen. Earlier this month, I shared a card for another sister, Kathleen. Since they both have birthdays in June, I thought it fitting to do the same for both. It's also my nephew Danny's birthday today, so Happy Birthday Dan as well. He's currently serving in the Navy and I'm not sure what part of the world he's in right now. Last I knew, he was shipping off to Afghanistan (the Navy manages much of the supply duty for the Army and his outfit was sent there for that shipping/supply duty).
So, here's to Maureen, the eldest of 4 girls and the 2nd of 8 kids. Sometimes it's difficult to be the older siblings in a large family. You end up with a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. And it sometimes seems as if they don't get much of a childhood because they become responsible for the younger ones. Maureen is no exception. She still thinks like a parent, today, especially when dealing with her siblings. She took on a role too young as our de facto mother when our mother wasn't well and I think she lost out on some of her own childhood as a result.
That doesn't mean she didn't have some fun along the way. I remember her in The Student Prince, a musical she performed in at Cardinal Spellman High School. And I remember many a day when she'd tie up the bathroom and gag us all with hair spray as she readied for a date. Teased hair and lots of spray to hold it in place were the style back then.
But I also remember her Mr. Donut uniform and how she grew to hate even the smell of donuts. Working hard every day after school to add some money to the family budget was necessary. You just did it. And later she worked full time for Ma Bell (if you have to ask, you're too young).
Like my sister Kathleen, Maureen tried to help keep our parents in their own home when their health failed. She uprooted herself from California to Boston and moved in with them. Working all day, setting up procedures in the home to manage my parents health care, and going back to school to complete the degree she had begun to work on in CA...she interrupted her life to make theirs' more comfortable.
Maureen is good at setting up systems and procedures to make things work more smoothly and efficiently. Whether it's work or home, there's always a system of record-keeping and documentation in place. Medications are organized and labeled so someone else can come in and do the tasks easily. Paperwork is in neatly labeled file folders. The bills are organized.
A bit more than a year ago, Maureen started a special project. She spent countless hours putting together a gift for my uncle Bill (our mother's brother) and my aunt Ruth (our father's sister). They are the remaining relatives from our parents' generation. She asked each of us to write a short letter of our memories of each one and send them to her. What had been intended as a Christmas present took a bit longer, partly because she waited for each of us to do our part. She prepared a beautiful portfolio for each with all our memory-letters enclosed. She then copied each one and sent a copy to all of us. Each one was carefully rolled and tied with a ribbon. It was a wonderful way to let our uncle and aunt know how much they meant to each of us. And we each learned a little something about our siblings' experience with our aunt and uncle and even some things about ourselves that we'd forgotten.
It is evident that a lot of love went into that project and I'm glad she did it and encouraged us to be part of it. What a nice way to say thank you to people who have been an important part of our lives for so many years.
I'm so happy she retired. She spent many years trying to recover from an industry downturn that meant her long-time employer went bankrupt and she had to start over -- not just in a new job, but had to learn new skills and start over at the bottom of the corporate ladder. She'd sacrificed much to help my parents stay together in their home, and that decreased her employment options.
All her life, she was the responsible one. And I think that took something away from her. In retirement, she can relax more, not worry about improving her job skills or employability. She can take an interesting job/project for a time and work at a reasonable pace. She can choose and that is probably the most important thing.
So, Happy Birthday Maureen. I hope your day is sweet and relaxing. Do something fun. Do something just for you!