My sister has been my chief cheerleader and support system for 54 years.
When I cried incessantly as a baby, my parents threatened to put me up for sale in a wheelbarrow by the road.
I think in today’s world, someone would have called child protective services, but back then it was their way of saying, “If this child doesn’t stop screaming, we’re going to lose it!”
Of course, they never INTENDED to sell me, but my five-year-old sister couldn’t grasp the nuance of dark humor yet, so SHE began to scream and beg for my life.
She wanted me, tears and all.
She still does.
Always more comfortable with a drawing pad or lost in a good book, she never failed to encourage my more “outward” pursuits. She schlepped me to Philadelphia from Buena, NJ to get my head shots taken. When I competed in the Miss Magic 103 radio contest, and belted out my Cher impressions for the world to hear, no one laughed louder. Before and after big events,she sends me handwritten cards or flowers. And when I’m blue? She reminds me that better days are coming. Usually in about two weeks, if you mark it on the calendar. In man respects, my sister Shirlee has been my guardian angel.
Shirlee DiBacco has always avoided the spotlight, yet has always helped my face find the sun.
And this past Friday night she made her acting debut!
Forever she has loved the play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. An “Our Town” groupie, she’s seen the play from New York to Hammonton numerous times. She quotes from the play, because to her, there’s a line from “Our Town” to fit any situation.
She tried to talk herself out of it, but couldn’t shake it. When she showed up, she practically recited an encyclopedic knowledge of the play. She would have paid the producers to give her a part.
No need. So captivated by her enthusiasm, she handily won the part of “Woman in the Balcony.” The woman with a movie star face who always took a back seat and applauded for everyone else is finally having her moment.
And I am so proud of her I could just burst.
I’m flying up to see her final matinee next Sunday, the 12th. And I am equally delighted that she (and my mom) picked our new Word of the Week!
I wonder what new things are right around the corner for us this week?
I met a stranger this week who turned out to be a sister.
It had been a particularly difficult day, with a myriad of work and personal matters mounting as they sometimes do.
My method of blowing off steam is to head to my evening Zumba class and jump around like a maniac to pounding music. Shaking up a storm and sweating always helps to re-set my frame of mind.
This particular class started late – at 7 PM – so it was close to 8:30 PM by the time I pulled into my parking garage at the apartment complex.
Frustrating! A space was (oddly) not available on my floor, so I had to go up another level. This had never happened before.
As I got out of the car, I saw a young woman heading to the car parked next to me.
It is always my practice to say hi to strangers, and as I did she said, “I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but I just found out my boyfriend is cheating on me.”
Then she fell into a puddle of tears, and I gathered her into my arms.
It didn’t matter that we were strangers. In an instant, we were sisters.
When her sobs subsided a bit, I asked where she was going. Fortunately, her mom lived close by – but I wasn’t confident that she was in a frame of mind to drive safely. So she handed over her keys and I got her to her mom’s (knowing Uber could easily get me home.)
During the drive she shared her heartbreaking story. Her intuition had told her something was off; he protested…then she discovered a series of salacious texts that confirmed her fears.
He held the financial power, so her only choice was to leave. I held her hand. I told her to feel her feelings (which is the lesson I have been learning.) “There’s no better place to be than with your mom, where you can have a good cry.”
The wound was too fresh to offer more than that…but I did sneak in my sister’s favorite line of comfort: “In a few weeks you’ll look back on today and feel completely differently.” Time has a way of healing wounds, or at least making them less pronounced.
We can sometimes even see that we dodged a bullet by not getting the thing that we wanted.
I held her hand, got her safely home – and marveled at the privilege of being there for her. It was a Divine hand that had provoked me to go to that late Zumba class and that had filled up all of the normal parking spaces, causing me to be at exactly the right place at the right time to meet a need.
I told her, “God really loves you. And just the way he took care of you tonight is how He will always provide.”
And in meeting her need, He met mine. How quickly the pesky matters of the day faded away when I saw a gentle soul hurting.
Really, isn’t this what life is all about? To love our fellow man…and woman. To act as a sister or a brother, even to a stranger?
More on Sister/Brotherhood and the new WOW:
TRUSTING that this week brings you peace, and smiles, and confirmations that “it’s all going to be okay.”
Today the best gift God ever gave me was born. She arrived five years before me to show me the way…
…the way to apply makeup and walk in platform heels; to introduce me to Cat Stevens and Tony Bennett (not literally, but musically); to endlessly carpool me (never once complaining) and to let me borrow her clothes.
Most of all my sissy, Shirlee DiBacco, taught me – over and over again, by example – what it means to love.
And not just when she intervened, vehemently opposing my parents threats to put me in a wheelbarrow and sell me to another family if I didn’t stop crying. (Listen, this was the 60’s and moms and dads weren’t as mindful of the fragile psyche of a toddler. And they weren’t REALLY going to sell me. At least I hope not.)
Beautiful inside and out, Shirlee is a wildly gifted artist, a David Letterman groupie, an unbeatable Scrabble player, and in recent years, a runner (!) and ukulele player (!). If she hadn’t been so nice to me, I’m sure I would have suffered a lifelong inferiority complex.
Today’s tribute, though, is not mine to give. It comes from her firstborn, Deena DiBacco.
Take it away, Deena…
As Mother Earth has sprung new life into being since the beginning of time, our own mothers do the same. They give birth to us, creating and recreating the gift of existence across time and space.
My mother is one of these women. In mid-June of 1985, I left the warm comfort of her womb and took my first breath, screaming and thrashing under harsh hospital lights.
The moment a child is born, a mother begins a deep journey of the heart.
Life becomes no longer about self, but about a precious child.
This was the journey my mother had yearned for. The journey of motherhood, she knew it, was her life’s purpose.
But she could never have realized, as she rocked and crooned to me in my first hours of life, how dense and tangled our path together would become.
The difference between my mother and other mothers is this: my mother gave me life, and then she had to save my life.
I could fully go into my story. A living hell on Earth. The multitudes of dark demons which I conjured into her life for many years.
But there is really no point.
The end result says it all.
Here I am, shining. Better than I could’ve dreamed I’d be.
All because my mother is who she is.
A woman whose beauty and radiant white light, whose ferocious raw-edged sheer will, whose unshakeable faith, sliced through all the despair until we healed it.
Amid all the darkness and blackness and hopeless emotions pulling her by the roots, this woman stood strong in her faith that God would find a way for me.
If the path to healing involved her being beaten and brutalized in the process, she would accept without question.
She refused to abandon hope, she gave years of her life to help her first born climb out of darkness.
Her love, I see so clearly, was selfless.
My mother sacrificed so much of herself to see that I could heal.
Thanks to her, if I never experience the miracle of having my own child, I can at least glimpse its brilliance. She showed me how sacred a mother’s love truly is.
My mother never gave up on me. Her faith, character, pure heart, selflessness, and her unwavering, unconditional love rose above all boundaries of ego. She refused to let the dark in, so long as her light was shining.
It is not easy to keep the light burning in a dark place.
But I have never known another being so committed to serving good, to upholding the light, as my mother. I am humbled to know my blood courses from the same source as hers.
When it was too dark for me to see my own way, she shone for me. Now that I can see again, I will make up for time spent blind by spending the rest of our journey together in full appreciation of her. I see her now. She is the ultimate mother, the ultimate nurturer, and the embodiment of unconditional love.
As she cared for me, my mother cares for all she knows and loves. She refuses to judge, she seeks out the good in each human being she meets. She serves, seeking nothing in return. Creating happiness in others is her source of joy. She is loving, she is kind, and her soul shines brightly.
My mother has a servant heart, a sword of truth, and the will to uphold all that is good.
She is an angel to many.
To my greatest teacher of all, on the day of her own birth.
God was smiling the day he created you.
Thank you for being my mother.
And from me, a million thanks for being the best sister ever…
…and the wife of any man’s dreams (particularly, Tony’s dream come true.)
And of course, Daddy’s little “Nee-nee…”
Every role you play is infused with love and grace; kindness and beauty.
This week’s FLUFFI word of the week is TRANSFORMATION, and it is lovely to consider how one person’s life can be a catalyst in this holy process. Your life, my wonderful sister, is a perfect example.
Feel free to send some love Shirlee’s way today and leave a comment!