“Just a Box of Chocolates,” Sept. 21, 2021

My sister will celebrate her birthday this week, but it won’t be much of a celebration. Never mind how old she is. I’d tell you, but if she found out, I might not live to see my next birthday.

Trust me, you don’t want to mess with my sister. I learned that lesson the hard way when we were growing up.

Bobbie is a force to be reckoned with. She was, as a little girl, standing her ground against boys who were older and bigger. And she still is even now, lying in a hospital bed, weak and frail and unable to walk.

After a long, scary spell of strokes, bad falls, ambulance rides and hospitalizations, Bobbie seems to be growing weary of fighting to stay alive. I don’t blame her for that. Given the same battle, I doubt I could last half as long. But I don’t want her to give up.

That’s what I tell her when we connect on the phone. Not every day, but a few times a week. I call more often than that, but she doesn’t always answer.

Sometimes she’s sleeping or eating and doesn’t want to quit. Or she’s busy giving dirty looks to a nurse who wants to check her vitals, or a rehab specialist who dares to ask her—politely, I am sure—to flex her knee one more time, even if Bobbie says it hurts like you know what.

As a retired ICU nurse with a life of experience, my sister has little patience for anybody she thinks isn’t old enough or smart enough to tell her what to do.

I pray for those people. Bless their hearts. And I pray for Bobbie as I have since the day I learned how to bow my head.

She has always been my big sister, someone to laugh with, confide in and count on to have my back and set me straight.

When our parents divorced, she told me not to worry, we would be sisters forever.

When our brother Joe was born blind, she said it wouldn’t matter to anybody except to people who didn’t matter.

When I left for college, and she stayed home with three babies and a bad marriage, she told me to have fun and make her proud.

When my first husband died of cancer, she flew to California, put me to bed and let me sleep. Then she took me to Mexico and made me pose for a photo with her and a live chimpanzee.

I wrote a column once about how we’d argue over the “right way” to make iced tea. That column won a national award and Bobbie took full credit.

I could tell you so many stories about her. Instead, I’ll just say this: One of the hardest lessons to learn in life is simple. Sooner or later, if we live long enough, we’ll probably need to reverse roles with someone we love. It happens with couples and parents and grown children and siblings. I’ve learned it firsthand. Maybe you have, too.

I never dreamed I’d need to reverse roles with my sister. I liked being the “little sister.” I didn’t want it to change.

Long ago, after our mother died, Bobbie stepped up to take Mama’s place for our brother. For years, they have visited often and phoned each other every day. Bobbie would call me, worrying about Joe. Now Joe calls me, worrying about her.

But lately, Bobbie has spent more time in hospitals than at home. And like countless other patients under Covid-19 restrictions, she hasn’t been allowed to have visitors.

Not even on her birthday.

She doesn’t want gifts. All she wants is to get well and go home. And I can’t give her that. So I sent her a big box of chocolates. I hope it reminds her of “Forrest Gump” and how we laughed watching it together.

Meanwhile, I keep praying for my “big sister.” I don’t know what it does for her, but for me, it gives me hope. Maybe next year Bobbie and Joe and I and our whole family can celebrate her birthday together. And she can tell me, once again, the “right way” to make iced tea.

Comments

  1. Lauretta Schrock says:

    This was such a great column! Brought tears to my eyes as it reminded me of the passing of my first grandchild, Candice Schrock Targgart on March 30, 2017. She died from a rare form of cancer, usually only found in children. She went through hell but always had a smile and such a faith in God. She left behind her loving husband, and two sons, Layne 7 and Brock 5. I pray that your sister recovers but I know that she will be in great hands when she meets her Lord and Savior. My thoughts and prayers are with Bobbie and your whole family.

  2. Janice OMara says:

    I’m praying for your sister. I’m praying for you too because I know how hard it is to see those we love suffer. I love your columns, you are so real, we can all relate. Thank you.

  3. Myra Schull says:

    Oh Sharon, this aging process is one we don’t seem to prepare for adequately. As each day blends with the next, it’s amazing how quickly life changes and we all grow older. It is heart wrenching but truly a beautiful part of life too. We are just that much closer to God and those who have passed before us. I pray that your words of inspiration will sooth and bring comfort to your family as it has to your readers. May God be with you all.

  4. Doris Hudson says:

    Sharon-Your columns always speak to me, but this one really hit home. My ‘big sister’ is currently undergoing some serious health problems and is hard to see her have to go through such a tough time. She’s always been the strong one. Prayers for you and your family and much love!

  5. Garnett Zamboni says:

    Blessings to you and your family. Aging is such a heart opening experience. Your story brought tears, and I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful I’m able to cry for others, so others have someone who cares. I care deeply and with God’s love that as Bobbie progresses to the gates of God’s grace, you will feel the strength from those who have been following you for years, and come to think of you as “friend and family”. Along with caring for you, your family has become as real the cat on my lap. Blessing of love to you, Bobbie and the entire clan.
    Much love,
    Garnett Zamboni
    Salina, Kansas

  6. CHope Hall says:

    Prayers for you and yours. Your wonderful columns have helped me through many difficult times. God be with you all.

  7. Kate Sciacca says:

    Prayers for Bobbie…. And you.

  8. Sydney Love says:

    What a sweet tribute to your sister. She is blessed to have someone like you to love her. I didn’t have a big sister but I had a big brother that I lost at the end of June this year. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. He was always there for me. I am blessed though, I still have one big brother and he is amazing.
    I will pray that she gets better soon and is able to return home and that you will have the chance to visit her and love on her in person. It will be the best medicine for both of you.
    This column was so sweet as all of your columns are. I love reading your stories. What a sweet life!

  9. Darlene Brown says:

    I will pray that Bobbie, Joe, and you continue to have strength during this difficult time.🙏🏻💞

  10. Creola Seivers says:

    Prayers for you and your sister.🙏🙏🙏

  11. Wanda Denton Wilson says:

    Bobbie is a special person. She worked with my sister, Carolyn Denton Shehan for years at St Luke’s. She came to Hilton ahead once when Carolyn, mama (Ruth Denton) and me were vacationing. She stayed a few days with us and kept all of us in tears of laughter. I pray she gets well and can go home. Mama and Carolyn are both in heaven now. Carolyn died from pancreatic cancer in 2015. I miss her every minute of every day!

  12. Beth Heeren says:

    I’ll pray for her!

  13. Patsy Styers says:

    I hope your sister is able to go home soon and show you how to make that tea🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼. I’m pulling for her just like a lot of fans. I hope you and Joe get to have that visit which I’m sure will be full of love and laughter❤️❤️

  14. Katie says:

    Hope your sister has full recovery. My big sister is a kidney dialysis patient which has aged her a lot love and prayers are the best we can do at this time. Calls and notes help. My recent visit with her and my brother was the best medicine for all of us. I hope you can see your sister soon & remind her in person how much you love her. ❤

  15. Sheri Titcombe says:

    Great column. I needed this today as I am recuperating from a total,knee replacement (of course right knee, which means no driving!!)…and I am having to rely totally on my husband to take me to therapy, help me upstairs, etc etc. He’s been doing grocery shopping, fixing meals, laundry, (sometimes he complains) though mostly he’s been very attentive. We celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary, with me having a self pity party….I’m use to doing things on my own….so this column was written for me!!!! Role reversal..

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