Reflections on my Trip to Texas and Indiana

A friend once asked me if I had learned how to exhaust myself for other people. I thought it a strange question at the time. A decade and a half later I find that I am only beginning to understand the scope of that question and the implications in my response to it. On Christmas Day I flew to Texas to begin a journey with my sister Carol. I went to help her drive her car from Tyler, Texas to Fort Wayne, Indiana and then to help her take care of her son Matt’s twin baby girls (4 weeks old). Here are a few random (very random) thoughts and reflections about this trip.

  • On Monday (the day after Christmas) in Texas we went to a 5:30 aerobics class and then hit the road to start the drive at 6:45. This was late by Carol’s standards. After driving for three hours we stopped to change drivers. I almost fell out of the car as my joints had locked after exercising and then driving for three hours. Carol bolted out of the care without a problem. She’s 64 years old and can out-pace almost everyone I have ever known.
  • Sometimes in life you know you are doing the right thing at the right time and that it is blessed. That was this trip. I got to see all four of my sister’s kids (from three different states) and their families. I do believe that Woody Allen is correct: “90% of life is just showing up.” My “just showing up” did make a difference.
  • I had zero problems on this trip. If the trip had been 4 days earlier or 6 days later the roads would have been a snow-covered mess in the mid west this year. (Thanks Lord!)
  • Carol and I are your worst nightmare in a motel. We bounded out of bed @ 4:30 AM. Both of us are (unfortunately) also members of the Loud Family.
  • My oldest sister is definitely a free spirit and will self confess many inadequacies – but does she ever know babies and speak baby and have the magic touch! She is also an amazing person who will turn herself inside out for her family.
    Corrie Ten Boom once said that she thought that her sister was from another planet because she was such a better person than Corrie. I think that my sister is also from that same planet.
  • I got to know my sister (who is 10 years older than I am) better while on the road (driving from Tyler, TX to Fort Wayne, IN) and while attending to the twins.
  • Music is definitely a tie that binds and during this trip I was reminded how much music has been a strong force in our family. My voice and my sister’s voice are quite well matched. I remembered how we used to sing (with my other sister) – “Pretty Snowflakes” from the Peggy Lee Christmas album along with other songs.
  • In Texas we had also had a sing along with Carol’s daughter Debbie Sue and her daughter Christine. On the road Carol had a CD of Rogers and Hammerstein musicals. We sang the whole CD and Carol knew the words to almost every song.
  • We showed up in Indiana 4 hours early. Matt was soooooo grateful as Tina was totally exhausted and was in tears when we got there. We were each assigned a baby as soon as we arrived. I got “Princess Grace” as Carol like to refer to her. Tina went straight to bed.
  • It is such a rejuvenating experience to have new life snuggle and coo and maneuver so that they can fall asleep in the best place in the whole world – right over your heart.
  • I do believe that my family is made up of a group of peculiar individuals. We are at home with the road less traveled, possibly never traveled, could be it’s a road that nobody even knows exists or maybe it’s not a road at all. However, this trip caused me to ponder some of the really wonderful things that my family has done for each other and for the family over the years:
  • My sister Linda hired two of Carol’s kids for a summer each to babysit her daughter while in Phoenix.
  • I lent my nephew Andy money to buy his first car, which he totaled. He paid me every penny, as calculated by my brother Fred. I loved the note that Andy enclosed with his last payment: “Thanks for the loan Aunt Gail. I’ll be in touch when I want to buy a house.”

    • My niece Nicki’s husband Chris spent a semester with my brother in LA while working on his thesis.

    • My brother brought me on many vacations with his family.

    • My sister Carol spent a week sitting in the hospital with me when I had surgery.

    • We have all sent money to one another as needed without being asked or without expectations.

    • Linda wrote a biography of our dad in 2004.

    • My niece Debbie Sue lived with me for five months when she was 15.

    • My brother sent my sister Linda his piano for her son.

    • My sister Linda researches everything for everyone.

    • We have all prioritized getting together over the last three decades.

    • When Linda hurt her back I went to Arizona to help her pack and move the family, as her husband had already left to start a new job. I took the kids to the doctor one day. Her daughter threw up all over me.

    • For one of our family reunions we all paid so that Carol’s kids could fly to California.

    • When my nephew Matt was selling knives we all bought a set. Have you ever seen me cook?

    • When I got out of college, my sister Linda let me live at her apartment and helped me to find a job and got me to deposit into deferred compensation and …. and…

    • Linda and I drove all over California and New England gathering videos of our relatives for a video of my dad’s relatives. We distributed it to the whole family. It was a great thing – especially for my father’s siblings.

    • The whole family hosted two reunions for our cousins, who we hadn’t seen in decades.
  • Two days after I arrived home I was in a store and heard a baby start to cry. I went into high alert and had to remind myself that I was not on “baby duty” anymore.
  • This trip was an amazing journey into a new world for me – a world where going to bed means “taking a nap”.

    Epilogue:
    It’s now 2008. I had thought that this road trip was a meaningful bonding experience between sisters. At our family reunion this summer I found out that my sister didn’t remember that I had spent Christmas with her family and had driven from Texas with her. Oh well – for me it was still time very well spent.

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