Fourteen months older than am I, my sister was a terror as a toddler. I understand it from an evolutionary standpoint now, although I didn’t then as a little girl.
Often there wasn’t enough food for all for ancient ancestors and the dominant child would get the brunt. It’s like a baby bird in the nest — the stronger and bigger one with the outstretched neck toward the parent would get the worm or a bug.
The fittest always do best much of the time compared to weaklings when there’s not enough to go around for all. It’s as simple as that and made her become a miserable sibling to have in our household as she assured her placement in the pattern of who gets what.
So in the pecking order of everything, she’d chase me down and bite me if she wanted the toy with which I was playing or just, sometimes, to show dominance, control and power. Mostly, though, she avoided me. Perhaps in disdain and nonacceptance. Who knows?
This difficult orientation changed when I was five. We were out sledding a quarter to a half mile from our home. Snow got in my boot and I couldn’t get my boot back on after removing the snow. So this sister, barely larger than I am, told me to sit on my sled and looking grim, she tugged my sled with me on it and with hers own wooden sled in the other hand one slow step at a time over deep, almost insurmountable mounds of crusty snow. Drag, drag drag.
She commanded me to keep my bootless foot up on the sled so that it wouldn’t get frost bitten. She told me to keep it tucked beneath my thigh to protect it.
The dark night came into being because the trek was long with her slow pulling and tugging as we got caught in ruts or entrenched in the the almost insurmountable mounds. My frantic parents, neighbors and police were out in force screaming for us and finally found us in the pitch black evening. What relief we all had when assembled all together!
The strain had just been a little bit much for my sister, the arduous effort. She looked ill — red faced and sweating profusely from her determined tackling of the task that she’d faced that was almost beyond endurance in light of the weight that she dragged behind her small body — with the sleds involved, something comparable to her own weight in involved combination.
It took two days for her to recover physically from the physical stress endured. She looked strange — out of it — during that duration of time and my foot was just fine thanks to her sacrifice to preserve my well-being.
Despite that she started out as a bad biter, boy — could she come through to serve. The best of the best. Impressive. A great role model for a younger sister to admire and exemplify.
This same person, this sister, would follow her under eighteen year old students into adult prison without pay so they’d finish getting their high school diplomas and make sure that they succeeded. She also helped in families with injured children from the Vietnam war as they settled in the USA. She was an exemplary helper as she assisted in any way that they needed to adjust.
She, always on the lookout to be beneficial, didn’t hunt out opportunities to serve, but just accepted them when they came her way. The always manage to do so — come one’s way — when so much need, often dire, exists all around us at any given time.
For example, she learned of a black family with four children and the parents learned that the sister of the wife and her husband died and, therefore, they accepted five more children into their home. We’re talking of nine kids here and the financial and other strains involved.
Now suddenly their washer and dryer for clothes, bedding and so on can’t keep up with these maxed out continuous loads. So my sister, learning of their situation, calls company after company with washers and dryers in her town to try to get a donation.
It took hours, yeah — but this is the same gal that can pull you for hours behind her little trembling body. Relentless and unbelievably determined to achieve her aim. A quitter?
Finally she found an owner of a company to donate a new washer and dryer. He got some sort of humanitarian of the year award from her town.
She was glad of it since she thought that it would reinforce him and others to be humanitarians. Her own role in the matter was immaterial.
Do you think that she cared about a pat on the back or some plaque citing her as being a special human on account of some goodness? Ha – guess what the sled puller’s basic self is and the reasons for her choices … to get some sort of trophy? No, it is fierceness instead — a relentless energy to do whatever seems right.
She’s something else for sure. One day driving down a four laned highway to take her teenage daughter to a soccer game in which the child was involved, she saw two teen boys on the opposite side of the highway kicking, punching and hitting another boy in the grass.
So she turned her car around, brought it to their location, locked its doors and told the boys that her daughter locked in the car had a cell phone to call police if commanded to do so. Then she told them to stop.
Scared of her force and the severe look on her face, they did so. Then she followed one of them home after having checked that the injured boy was okay and not in need of medical help beyond her initial first aid assessment.
She wanted to know whether either of his parents were home. Not finding them so, she talked to the boy about accruing a criminal record and his luck that she, wife of a prison director, had intervened when she did so to prevent him from making a big mistake.
She explained some assault facts that scared him. I bet that he won’t in some sort of rage towards another person do something stupid again.
So her daughter was late to a soccer game. Who cares? The gain was worth the cost in time in my opinion.
In the end, we all need people like my sister in our lives whether relatives or not. They uplift and provide wonderful role models. The benefits that they give are life-long as we try to become the ways that we all should be in the ways that we treat others in our world … and results from their presence go way beyond loss of toes from frostbite, obviously.
Sally Dugman is a writer in MA, USA,