Many historical events happened on October 27th. For one thing, my wife and I were married on this date in 1990 (happy anniversary honey!), which was also her grandmother’s birthday (1904). Also on this day in 1960, Ben E. King recorded two classic songs in the same session: “Spanish Harlem” and “Stand By Me”.
It’s also the day that my sister, Carol, was born in 1942. My dad had gotten drafted just a couple of months before the birth of my sister, and the army had him in Burma when she entered the world. He appealed to the Red Cross for emergency leave so he could see his new daughter, but they informed him that his family was doing fine and there was no cause for emergency (in subsequent years, my dad would never donate to the Red Cross). So the first time he got to see his newborn daughter was April of the following year.
My mom had major surgery a couple of years after Carol was born, and they advised her against having more children. That’s why there is such a large age gap between her and my older brother (14 years) and eventually, me (17 years). So for a long time, she was an only child, and by the time my brother and I were born, she was a built-in babysitter and, occasionally, a second mom. Fortunately for my brother and I, she adored us and took us everywhere with her friends.
And I mean EVERYWHERE. She took us to movies, carnivals, parades, and amusement parks. She even took us by train to go Christmas shopping in downtown Chicago. And since she was one of the only members of my mom or dad’s families to go to college, she introduced us to a lot of culture.
After she graduated from ISU with her degree in Special Education, she moved to Kankakee and taught special needs children. Most of the kids in her class were severely physically handicapped, but she accepted the challenge and was very successful. My brother and I learned a lot about diversity through her teaching, as she would often have us come along to help her on field trips, etc. While she was in Kankakee, she met her future husband, Paul, and after their marriage, she moved with him to St. Paul, Minnesota. During their 17 years in the twin cities area, they adopted four Korean children.
I used to love visiting Carol and Paul in Minnesota. We usually spent every Thanksgiving with them and my great uncle and aunt, who also lived in the twin cities. They had a beautiful home, and she always served a huge meal (she loved to cook). The remainder of the holiday would be spent Christmas shopping and eating leftovers. At some point, she would find time to take my brother and I to a movie. We often took the train for these visits, but would also take the scenic drive through Wisconsin. It was during one of these drives that my mom found out that I smoked, and during another one, we collided head-on with a deer and just about totaled my aunt’s car.
My brother-in-law’s company eventually transferred him to Lombard, and they lived in Naperville, which was great because we got to see them more often. Unfortunately, that was short-lived, and Paul’s company transferred him again, this time to Philadelphia. It was there that, in 1995, Paul lost his life-long battle with diabetes. After his death, Carol decided to move closer to home, and a lot closer to me…across the street, in fact.
Although we had always been close, seeing each other every day brought us even closer together. She helped with our kids from the moment we brought them home, and we even lived with her for awhile during the construction of our current home. We watched a lot of movies together, and we talked a lot about the family, and the old days.
Early in 2000, after landing her dream job of being a principal at a Catholic grade school, she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer for which there was no treatment, and no cure. The doctors gave her 6 months to a year to live, and during the first few months she fought it pretty well, but toward the end of the year, her health was really declining. She was determined to have the entire family spend Christmas at her house, and after it was over, she started giving in to her disease. She died the second week in January, 2001.
I think what I miss most about Carol is her sense of humor, which was much like mine. She was very spiritual, and when her church was having an evening prayer service to pray for a miracle to heal her, I drove her there. On the way, we passed a place where a person could tell your future by reading tarot cards. She glanced at the sign and said, “Should we stop here on the way back to see if the healing service worked?”
Happy birthday, Sis. Thanks for making my life a lot richer.