There are silent, quick moments that jump out of my childhood. Not just the big ones like moving to Louisiana, getting a new sibling or when my dad’s toupee came in the mail.
Snapshots of ordinary days that, for some reason, cling to the top of my memory bank.
I’m the eldest of seven children. We’re stair-steppers – two years separates most of us, and we grew up sharing a lot of the same likes and dislikes.
Our parents taught us to stand up for each other, and even during our worst arguments, we stuck together.
One afternoon, my brother came home and said a kid down the street was picking on him. The four eldest children in the family – Jimmy, Johnny, Diane and I – immediately jumped up off the couch and walked down the middle of Evans Drive, our shoulders touching, looking for that kid.
We felt invincible alone but, together, we were more powerful than the Fantastic Four.
That afternoon was over 50 years ago, and we’ve all grown older since that summer in Baker Estates. As the eldest, the aches and pains should start with me, but we’ve all shared taking turns at the front of the gray-haired line.
My brother, Jimmy, was born a year and five days after me. We’ve always been close and he has a sixth sense when I need to talk to him.
He’s been an outstanding dentist all his adult life, and, as a result of craning to look into people’s mouths, developed arthritis in his neck a few years ago.
I didn’t realize how much the pain bothered him until I watched him complete a few chores at his house. He held his neck in a stiff manner, and it was obvious he didn’t feel great. But he’s not one to complain, in fact, none of us whine about the way Father Time is marching up and down our bodies.
That march is subtle at times – all of us wear reading glasses, and there’s a lot more gray in beards and hairdos than there used to be.
Almost all of us walk with a slight limp, thanks to a gift from the gene pool of having bad backs and sciatic trouble.
The youngest two in our family – Jeff and Donna – are still spry and healthy, and I wonder if they look at their older siblings like people look at flashing caution lights.
Time, however, keeps moving on, and there’s no way to stop the progression of wear and tear on our bodies.
This week, sister Diane had double knee replacement following years of painful walking. She was a runner in her youth, which didn’t help with the gene pool gift of rubbery knees, and she also spent years on the soccer field sidelines taking pictures.
But Diane’s one of the toughest and most determined women I’ve ever met, and she told me she’s going to do everything the doctors tell her to do to recuperate.
She’s following our mom’s lead. When Mom had knee replacement surgery a few years ago, she was walking down the halls the next day and completed all the rehabilitation exercises the doctor ordered.
All this at the age of 80.
Diane says if Mom can do it, so can she.
It’s in the genes. It’s in that mental snapshot I have of my grandfather walking to and from work every day following a massive heart attack, my Grandma Marguerite losing weight without complaining when she found out she had diabetes and my dad letting his granddaughter decorate his electric scooter when he didn’t have enough oxygen to walk.
Those memory snapshots seem like they happened yesterday. And perhaps that’s how life progresses – a series of memories that when strung together, convince us to be stronger than we believed we could be.
Denise’s email is email@example.com