© 2010 BY David Wainland
When my mother named her laurel it was a statement on her part. She was not having any more children. Laurel means Final Victory. She is my baby sister, born in 1948 and the last to join our family. We were spread out through the long years. Jerry, my brother, was five years my junior and Laurie came three years after him. Our apartment was suddenly very crowded. When my parents transferred her crib from their sleeping quarters in the living room into our bedroom my brother and I cringed. It was difficult enough sharing the one bed, but throw in a crying baby and it became claustrophobic. Somehow we all survived and Laurie as the baby became ours to protect, spoil and lavish affection upon.
When I turned thirteen they promoted me to baby sitter. On those occasions when we were left alone I picked unmercifully on my brother and nurtured my sister. We all babied her, including my parents and grandparents. I am surprised she learned to tie her shoes the attention was so overwhelming. Even after we moved to Long Island and she had her own room, Jerry and I still shared, she was still our baby.
In 1958 I left home for the Air Force and I wrote her every other day. For the next four years every time I came home on leave I carried her gifts from the places I was stationed. One of the gifts was a Sad Sack doll. Sad Sack was a cartoon character with a long nose and drooping lines beneath his eyes. The doll I brought was dressed in an Air Force uniform. She never went to bed without it and sometimes I would walk into her room and catch her sleeping with the dolls nose firmly fixed between her lips. She sucked on Sad Sack’s nose for years and when my kids were born passed it on to them. They continued the ritual for another ten years.
When the Air Force discharged me and sent me home from Alaska I made a point of bringing her a genuine Eskimo parker. The coat cost me one hundred and twenty five dollars. At the time I earned less than that in a month. I also brought a fossil ivory charm with a small gold nugget for her necklace.
One day in 1961 she came home sobbing. My parents were not present so I stepped up to the plate. She and a girl friend were shopping in a local store, a five and dime type. The manager accused them of stealing, took them into the back room and searched them. Not just their pockets, but under their clothes and in the process fondled their private parts. Fifteen minutes later I was in his face, my voice a thundering crashing menace. I lost control and when I returned to a degree of normalcy he was on his back on the other side of a counter and sprawled on the floor. For days I expected the police to come for me. That never happened.
Two years later and a week before his eighteenth birthday, our brother died of a brain aneurism. I sat with Laurie day and night while this thirteen year old girl tried to understand the trauma that was visited upon our family. For a time she lost both her parents and I became a surrogate father and mother. When they returned to some degree of normalcy they smothered her with affection and concern, babied her again would be more the term.
She matured into a beautiful young lady and in 1964 she stood alongside my wife as her bride’s maid.
Years passed and she fell in and out of love. She lived with a guy for several years and in the end returned to spend her life with my parents. She never married and when they moved to Florida she moved with them. She was with them when they died six months apart, left alone in their home, my wife, my children and me her only close family.
We, my wife and I held her close, and so more years passed.
Our children and grandchildren became hers. When my son died it was as if a piece of her heart was torn from her body. She visits us almost every Sunday and has shared in all of our triumphs and our grief.
This past week she was diagnosed with rare and aggressive form of uterine cancer. Tomorrow, Tuesday the 19th they will be operating on her.
I pray that tomorrow she is anointed with yet another laurel wreath and one more Final victory.