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Thursday, February 10, 2011  

A TRIBUTE

A TRIBUTE

THERE’S A WORD IN YIDDISH. “MAMELEH”. IT’S AN AFFECTIONAL TERM FOR “LITTLE MOTHER”. THAT WAS MY SISTER. SHE STARTED HER CARETAKING CAREER WITH ME, HER LITTLE SISTER, AND A FEW YEARS LATER ADDED OUR BABY BROTHER TO HER BROOD. HER MATERNAL INSTINCTS WERE SO SHARP AND ON-THE-MONEY, YOU COULD EASILY ASSUME THAT, EVEN AT FIVE YEARS OLD, SHE HAD A SECRET LIFE AS A NANNY.

EVEN AS LITTLE GIRLS, WE NEEDED NO BIG REASON TO MAKE EACH OTHER LAUGH, AND ONCE IT GOT STARTED, THE ADULTS WERE POWERLESS TO GET US TO STOP. IT WAS CONTAGIOUS AND UNBRIDLED. WE WERE HOPELESS. WHAT WAS SO FUNNY? EVERYTHING. WE ALWAYS SHARED A BEDROOM. IN FACT, I NEVER HAD A ROOM OF MY OWN UNTIL MY SISTER GOT MARRIED. WHENEVER THINGS GOT ROUGH AT HOME, AS THEY OFTEN DID, WE WOULD GO TO OUR ROOM, LOCK THE DOOR AND FIND WAYS TO MAKE EACH OTHER LAUGH. WE LAUGHED AT PAIN, WE LAUGHED AT ABUSE, WE LAUGHED AT HUMILIATION, WE LAUGHED AT DIVORCE, WE LAUGHED AT SUICIDE, AND FOR THE LAST SIX WEEKS OF HER LIFE, MY SISTER AND I LAUGHED AT DEATH. IT WAS JUST OUR WAY OF DEALING WITH THINGS.

ANYONE WHO KNEW MY SISTER BARBARA KNEW THAT HER CHILDREN WERE HER MOST PRIZED AND TREASURED GIFTS. THAT MAMALEH, MY SISTER, WAS SIMPLY THE BEST MOTHER! IN MY MIND, AND PROBABLY IN THOSE OF HER CHILDREN, SHE WAS THE MOTHER OF ALL MOTHERS. BROWNIES, CUB SCOUTS, GIRLS SCOUTS, BOY SCOUTS...SHE WAS THE DEN MOTHER PERSONIFIED. HER COMMITMENT TO MARK, MATTHEW AND PAMELA, HER PASSIONATE DEVOTION TO THEM, HER UNYIELDING PRIORITY, PREFERENCE AND ULTIMATE PLEASURES ALWAYS INCLUDED THEM. SHE MADE IT VERY CLEAR TO ME THAT IT WAS HER WISH TO TAKE HER LAST BREATH, LOOKING AT HER CHILDREN.

I CAN REMEMBER TIMES THAT I STAYED AT MY SISTER’S HOME WHEN SHE WOULD TAKE MORNING CALLS FROM BOTH HER SONS. I LISTENED IN AWE, AS SHE WOULD DISCUSS LAST NIGHT’S OR YESTERDAY’S PRO GAMES AND SCORES......WHO PLAYED WELL AND WHO DISAPPOINTED HER. SHE COULD RECITE THE STATS OF ALL HER FAVORITE PLAYERS AND TEAMS AS WELL AS ANY MAN AND PROBABLY BETTER THAN MOST. SHE UNDERSTOOD SPORTS UNLIKE ANY WOMAN I’VE EVER KNOWN. THE KINDS OF THINGS THAT MAKE MOST FEMININE BRAINS HURT LIKE HELL. MORE IMPORTANTLY, SHE HAD FOUND A WAY TO COMMUNICATE WITH HER SONS IN THEIR LANGUAGE. SHE WAS SO SMART!

ANOTHER ONE OF MY SISTER’S TALENTS FOREVER HAD ME AWESTRUCK. SHE WAS A WALKING ENCYCLOPEDIA WHEN IT CAME TO THE FACTS AND DETAILS OF ALL THINGS FAMILY. THERE WASN’T A DETAIL TOO OBSCURE FOR HER MEMORY BANK. WHETHER IT WAS HOW COUSIN WAYNE LEARNED TO WALK IN HIS PLAYPEN AND THE AFTERMATH OF THAT, OR THE CHRONOLOGY OF HOW THE CHICKEN POX TRAVELED THROUGH THE FAMILY COUSINS, SHE COULD COME UP WITH THE MOST ACCURATE ACCOUNT OF ALL FAMILY LORE. THIS IS NOT ONLY SOMEONE WITH A TREMENDOUS CAPACITY FOR RETAINING DETAILS, BUT SOMEONE WHO HAD THE CAPACITY TO LOVE EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US EQUALLY, AND WHO INFUSED HERSELF INTO EACH OF OUR LIVES, LIVING EACH MILESTONE WITH US, AS IF IT WERE HER OWN. SHE MADE HER COMMITMENT TO HER FAMILY A WAY OF LIFE, OR MORE EXACTLY, AN ART FORM.

IF YOU KNEW BARBARA, YOU KNEW THAT HER OTHER PASSION IN LIFE WAS CHRISTMAS. SHE ONLY TOLERATED THE OTHER ELEVEN MONTHS OF THE YEAR. ALL RESTRAINT THROWN TO THE WIND, HER HOME BECAME A CHRISTMAS PARADISE (OR NIGHTMARE, DEPENDING ON YOUR TOLERANCE FOR SUCH THINGS). HER TREE ALWAYS DECORATED WITHIN AN INCH OF ITS FORMER LIFE, WITH SPECIAL ORNAMENTS SHE TREASURED AND SAVED AND PAMPERED YEAR AFTER YEAR. THIS YEAR, WHEN THE COUNTLESS ORNAMENTS, SANTAS, SNOWMEN, REINDEERS AND ELVES HAD ALL BEEN PLACED IN HER LITTLE WONDERLAND, SHE SMILED WITH RELIEF AND COMPLETE AND UTTER ECSTASY. SHE WAS READY TO DIE, SURROUNDED BY THESE MAGICAL REPRESENTATIONS OF HER JOY AND PLEASURE, TOPPED OFF WITH THE LOVING PRESENCE OF HER ADORING CHILDREN, ALL GATHERED IN HER OWN PERSONAL HEAVEN.

BARBARA WILLIAMS WAS A COMPASSIONATE LOVING PERSON WHO BLESSED MY LIFE BY BEING MY SISTER. MAY SHE REST IN PEACE WITH OUR GRANDPARENTS, OUR ADORED UNCLES AND AUNTIES, OUR MOTHER AND FATHER, AND OUR BROTHER BOBBY.






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