Water

I love to travel.  I like to see new places and experience different cultures. I’ve been blessed with a job that allows me to travel.  I’ve been from ‘sea to shining sea’ here in the United States.  Plus our son lived in Germany for five years so we’ve had opportunities to travel to Europe a few times for pleasure, too.  This year I’ve been to China and Mexico and I’m planning to travel to Spain early next spring.  In two weeks I’ll be in Mexico City again and then on to Guadalajara.  The following week I’ll be in New York City.  All this travel feeds my soul.  I encounter culture and diversity with each trip.  And I gain an appreciation for the world outside of ‘my little universe’. 

Some of my favorite memories are those made while traveling.  Three years ago we were in London for Thanksgiving.  Our whole family made the trip – our sons, our daughter, our daughter-in-law, our son-in-law and our granddaughter Charlise (Anna was “in utero”) and Noah wasn’t even a glint in his Daddy’s eye at the time.  Eight people traveling together from Germany to London and back to Germany with one of them being a three year old presents some logistical challenges but we had a fantastic time.  The British Museum, Parliament, The Tower of London, and Buckingham Palace were among the highlights of our trip.  But for me one thing stands out and will remain as one of the most precious memories of my life. 

We toured Westminster Abbey.  For those of you that have been there or read about it, you know that this place is steeped in history.  I could have spent days there.  As it was, we spent several hours and all the while three year old Charlise was in her stroller and very content.  Now as amazing as the history of the place was for the adults you can imagine that from a three year old’s perspective it might have been dull – but she was an angel the entire time.  Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the River Thames are all within walking distance of one another so after we finally left the Abbey we decided to walk across the Thames.  I was pushing Charlise’s stroller and I could hear her speaking very excitedly.  I stopped; walked around the front of her stroller and bent down to ask her what it was that she wanted.  Her response: “Look Pawpaw, water!”  After spending hours in Westminster Abbey where her point of reference was everyone’s kneecaps (or rear-ends); she finally saw something that she could recognize – WATER. 

WATER!  How beautiful.  How simple.  How wonderful.  Charlise and I shared that moment for what seemed like a very long time.  We looked at the water together and for that special moment in time I felt like a three year old again.  It was exciting and I realized then and there that ancient artifacts and significant historical places (no matter how important) could never take the place of my granddaughter’s enthusiasm for that moment.  It was truly a ‘take time to smell the roses’ experience. 

So while I returned home with great souvenirs and great photos and great memories of majestic places, the one thing I will always treasure most is the time when Charlise and I looked at the water in The Thames.  You know, it could have been a creek at home but it doesn’t matter.  Because we were ‘in the moment’ and we saw WATER together! 

Try to find something that a three year old might appreciate.  And then indulge yourself.  You’ll be amazed at how beautiful the world is from that point of view. 

“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14

Peace,

Denis

Clarksville (Revisited)

My sister Kay and I took Dad and Mom to Clarksville, Missouri yesterday.  It’s only about an hour north of where we live but it might as well have been on another planet – it was just not anyplace we ever visited.  My grandmother grew up in Clarksville.  And her parents. And her grandparents.  So for our Dad this place has significance but for me I only remember a sky-lift that operated there years ago that as a kid that I was too scared to ride.  My great-grandfather died long before I was born and my great-grandmother died when I was only seven.  As a child I only traveled to Clarksville once and I don’t know why; it was after Great-Grandmother Jenkins had died.  Maybe we went to visit her grave – I’m not sure, I only remember being scared of the sky-lift.  The sky-lift now sits still and rusted like some ghost from the past.  It hasn’t operated in years.  All that’s left in Clarksville for us are ghosts of the past. 

But for a long time Dad’s been talking about Clarksville and his visits there as a boy – Dad’s 84 years old now.  His memories are clear of his time spent in Clarksville and he loved his grandparents and they must have loved him, too.  All of his memories of Clarksville as a boy are happy and he cherishes the time he spent there.

Dad (and I) favor his granddad (my great-granddad) in appearance.  It’s strange to see photos of someone who you never knew but with whom you share a remarkable resemblance.  Here’s what I know about him:  Clarence Crockett Jenkins was the Post Master for Clarksville around 1910.  He was also the Town Constable or Sheriff for a while. He and his wife Augusta (Gussie) had two children: Kyra Kathleen (our grandmother) and Clarence Jr.  For some time they lived in a home that was at the base of ‘The Pinnacle’ – a mound of earth that enables spectacular views of the Mississippi River from its top.  Later the (now defunct) Clarksville Sky-lift was built on that site and their house was razed. 

Much has happened since the 1930’s when Dad spent time in Clarksville as a boy.  But  yesterday we got a chance to ‘walk back in time’ with him.  Clarksville today has some antique shops and there’s an art glass studio and a great little coffee-house but not much else.  We found the local cemetery but Dad couldn’t find the family plot.  We encountered another family at the cemetery and Dad (who has never met a stranger) explained that he was trying to find his grandparents’ graves.  Frances, the lady at the cemetery (she and Dad became fast friends) suggested we go back into town, hunt down the mayor and ask her to help us.  We did.  Or I should say, Dad did. 

He talked to every person in town he could find and while Mom and Kay and I were looking through some antique shops Dad had managed to locate Mayor Jo Anne Smiley who not only found the Jenkins/Gauding/Fielder Family plot on an old map but copied it for us and gave us directions.  This was on a Saturday.  City Hall was officially closed AND the Mayor’s position is voluntary – NO PAY.  Mayor Smiley you are my new hero! 

Needless to say, after visiting the few blocks of Clarksville that still exist we made our way back to the cemetery, found the gravesites and made Dad’s day.  Watching while Dad honored his grandparents and great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents, I imagined a little boy in the 1930’s holding his granddad’s hand and walking proudly through the small town of Clarksville.  I thought about the visits to the ‘Flower Show’ with his grandmother that earlier in the day Dad had told us about.  He claims he hated being dragged to those ‘Flower Shows’ as a boy but I suspect he traveled back there yesterday, too. 

Things have changed a lot in Clarksville in 80 years but much seems to have remained the same:  the kindness of strangers; the friendliness of folks on the street; the pride of community.  I’d like to think that my great-grandfather would have extended the same kindness to strangers as Mayor Smiley did.  Dad seems to believe he would have.  The stories he tells indicate that Great-Granddad Jenkins was a very honorable man.

I wonder if Mayor Smiley knows that she’s walking in the footsteps of former Post Master Clarence Crockett Jenkins? 

Walk proud Mayor, walk proud!

Peace,

Denis

Love Story

Today marks the one year anniversary of Aunt Sha’s death.  She and Uncle Ted died within weeks of one another last year – he in July; she in September.  They will be remembered forever for their extraordinary love for one another.  Their life together was a true love story.

Forever Love

 Here’s what I know:  Ted was about 20 years old and in the Air Force when they met in the early 1950’s.  Sha (actually Sharon) was working at restaurant in downtown St. Louis.  She was only seventeen.  On a dare she accepted a date with Ted.  Six weeks later they were married – the rest is history.  They remained “in love” with one another for the rest of their lives. 

They raised three children.  Uncle Ted retired from the Air Force and they settled in Western Kentucky where he worked until a second retirement.  Aunt Sha became a nurse.  Uncle Ted became a Sunday school teacher and a Deacon at their beloved First Baptist Church.  They made a nice life for themselves while their children grew and their grandchildren and great-grandchildren came along. 

For nearly 60 years they shared a life together that would serve as an example to all that knew them.  If you’re searching for role models, you can look to Aunt Sha and Uncle Ted.  Loving, devoted, caring, giving, selfless and always willing to reach out to others in need.  As long as I knew them they always had a plaque that hung over a doorway in their home that read: “As for me and my household; we will serve the Lord” – Joshua 24:15.  And they did!

But more importantly (to me anyway) was their love for one another.  They just loved each other – pure and simple as that.  There wasn’t a decision that was made that didn’t reflect their concern for one another.  If it was something as simple as where to have dinner – it wouldn’t do to have chosen someplace that they wouldn’t both enjoy.  When it came to big decisions the same consideration was given as well.  There was plenty of sacrifice (so that one could give the other what was needed or wanted) but always with love and NEVER with resentment or a need to get something in return.  They gave from their hearts.

I believe that the greatest gift that they gave to one another were themselves.  They cherished their time together.  They were their own best companions.  And they created such a home full of love that all that entered were better for having been there.  Whenever I think of hospitality and what it truly means I think of the house on Mayfield Highway.  It will always be my second home.  It will always remain in my heart as a place of laughter, love and refuge.  Whenever we would call to say we would like to visit the answer was always the same – YES.  “How soon will you be here?  We just need a little time to get things ready.” 

Aunt Sha and Uncle Ted treated one another as precious jewels – never forgetting to thank God for the blessing of their life together.  I’ve learned a lot from my own parents but I think that I have learned how to love Deb by the example Uncle Ted gave me.  And that may be the greatest gift that I have ever received.  I miss them both so much but I am comforted to know that they are in heaven together “getting things ready” for when we can join them.

Peace,

Denis

Here’s a link to a song that always makes me think of Uncle Ted and how he could find whatever it was that Aunt Sha “needed”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nw-BzhntIIg

Please Hold Your Applause

All three of our children graduated from Homestead High School in Mequon, Wisconsin. Homestead was consistently ranked near the top of all high schools in Wisconsin for academic excellence. We were blessed to live in a community with such a great public high school. Homestead rivaled most private high schools in our area.

During the years our kids went to Homestead there were roughly 1,300 students; so graduating classes were typically about 300-350 kids. Because of the large number of graduates, each year at the graduation ceremonies they would ask all those in attendance to hold their applause until ALL students received their diplomas.

This worked. People complied. Except for the families of black students. Homestead had a minority student population of about 10% – most of those kids were black. There were Hispanic and Asian kids but they probably made up less than 2% of the total student body. So while most of the graduating class’s families sat politely quiet about 8% of those in attendance would cheer loudly for their graduates. I never found this particularly disturbing but it was always interesting to me – there’s probably a sociological study in there somewhere. The clapping and cheering likely only added an additional 20 – 30 minutes to the graduation ceremonies. So no big deal (or so I thought).

Our youngest child Blake was (and still is) an enigma! He was a National Merit Semifinalist. He was offered a full-ride scholarship to Ball State University in Indiana. He had been accepted (and enrolled) into the University of Wisconsin. And yet, we didn’t know until the day of his graduation whether or not he would actully graduate! It seems that he had not done most of his homework or term papers for the last quarter of his senior year. Furthermore not until we received his progress reports (lack of progress is more like it) did we even know that there was a problem.

Needless to say, graduation day for Blake had us on ‘pins and needles’. What would we tell grandparents that had made the trip from Missouri? What would it mean if he didn’t graduate? Would Wisconsin withdraw their acceptance? Would he have to stay home another year? God help us all!

But Blake turned in all his missing assignments; took make-up tests, finished term papers. And we waited. Because grading wasn’t complete until the Friday before Sunday’s graduation, we wouldn’t know whether his “make-up work” would work.

So on Sunday we sat in the Field House listening as names were announced (and I was silently cursing the fact that our last name begins with a “W” because we had to wait through nearly the entire alphabet). We sat for what seemed like days – and then a miracle: “BLAKE WILHELM”! And then the cheers! Why were people cheering for Blake? And why was it all the black families? And with that, I witnessed another miracle, Blake parading in with Honor Cords; not only had he graduated but he apparently managed to do work good enough to make the honor roll. I was torn between being relieved, proud and wanting to strangle him with those gold cords!

And why were the black families cheering for him anyway? Did they know what he had managed to pull off? Did they admire his ability to overcome his obstacles? Or did they just love Blake because he’s such a great kid? NO – none of the above. Turns out that Blake had gone to every black kid in his graduating class and asked them to ask their families to cheer when (if) his name was announced.

Life with Blake has always been like a roller-coaster – lots of ups and downs. But the ride is a hell of a lot of fun! Thanks for the ride Blake – I love you (and I’m still cheering, too).

Peace,

Dad

The Wads

Our daughter Bess’ first college roommate was a one of her best friends from Homestead High School.  Down the hall from her dorm room was one of her other best friends from grade school and high school.  So leaving her at the University of Wisconsin that freshman year didn’t seem quite so daunting because she had good friends nearby.  That year she would meet two other girls – one from Cedarburg High School just north of where we lived, and another from Minnesota.  Even though Bess and Laurie had been friends the longest (since 6th grade) and she had known Kristy since freshman basketball in high school, all five girls bonded pretty quickly.  They became a pack and carried (or were carried) by one another for the next four years.  Their friendship continues to this day and I suspect it will last their lifetimes.

Their junior year at Wisconsin it was decided that they would leave the dorms and move into a townhouse apartment – the five plus one more.  Six girls in a townhouse with 2 bathrooms – that’s three girls per bathroom – you can do the math yourself.  College-age girls share EVERYTHING.  They shared one another’s clothes; they shared each others cosmetics; they drank and ate after one another (I found this particularly disgusting); they even shared one another’s beds – perhaps if it was a stormy night or if they had nightmares (and probably when a roommate had a boy spend the night – I’m just sayin’…).  It was this habit of being so TOGETHER (literally and figuratively) that garnered them the nickname ‘The Gay-wads’.  Now for the record that nickname came from one of the other dads – not yours truly!  I’m not certain what he meant exactly (probably just that they were too close and that outsiders might think they were gay, I suppose) but the girls thought it was hysterical and after that they referred to themselves as the ‘The Gay-wads’; later shortened to ‘The Wads’. 

The following year the ‘plus one’ moved on and ‘The Wads’ moved to yet another place (sans Laurie who was studying abroad in Spain).  This time they lived in a converted bungalow with an additional couple of new girls.  But ‘The Wads’ remained solid.  I’ve only been allowed a glimpse or two into their world – the shared stories have been altered (and sanitized).  There’s a reason that the University of Wisconsin was voted the #1 party school.  I’m sure ‘The Wads’ helped maintain that reputation.  In spite of all the partying, I know that these girls were there for one another time and time again.  I’m certain that some actual studying took place, too.  After all, they did all five graduate!

Graduation from Wisconsin was bittersweet – they would all be moving on.  Some of them would work after graduation; some would continue on to graduate school.  But one thing was certain:  LIFE WAS CHANGING. 

Our daughter graduated with a double major in Political Science and Spanish and went to work in Human Resources at a large hospital in Milwaukee.  Kristy went on to a doctoral program in Boston via Purdue and Austin.  Laurie went to law school at Marquette in Milwaukee.  Katie went to work as a nurse in a hospital in Boston.  And Amanda joined the Peace Corp, eventually ending up in grad school in Michigan.  The ‘Wads’ were officially grown-ups (sort of).

Today all five are married (to people that I approve of – as if that matters).  Our daughter, Bess was the first to marry – seven years ago.  Katie was the last – two weeks ago.  Their lives have taken each of them in different directions and they all have a world of opportunities and experiences still awaiting them.  But when they get together once or twice a year they are still the ‘Wads’.  They laugh at the same silly jokes and reminisce about the same crazy adventures (or misadventures) that they shared.  The spouses have been allowed to come along on this journey and it’s a testament to their love that each husband or wife seems to enjoy/tolerate ‘Wad Weekend’.  I believe the spouses may have formed a support group of their own.

Sometimes I miss those girls that were – before jobs and spouses and children.  There was once an innocence about them and it seemed like collectively they would one day rock our world!  But you know, the reality is they are rocking our world.  They are all contributing members of our society.  They think before they act.  They work for positive change. They care for those in need. They are stewards of our planet.  They are the teachers, nurturers, builders of a future that embraces diversity and opportunity of all.  They are the best our world has to offer. 

When they get together they might still be “Gay-wads”.  They might giggle and act like 18 year-olds again but something happens when they go home.  They become the women of integrity and substance and beauty that they were meant to be.  And I am honored to know them. 

Our daughter Bess is raising her own beautiful daughter now and will give birth to baby #2 in just a few weeks.  My prayer is that someday my grandchildren have their own group of ‘Wads’ and that they will know that kind of true and lasting friendship.

Peace,

Denis

The Daughter I Never Wanted

One of our daughter’s best friends is named Kristy.  I call her Wooder (as do many of her friends).  She calls me Big D (but no one else does).   When Wooder’s parents moved out of the country due to her dad’s job transfer, Wooder moved in with us.  The girls had just graduated from high school and were both headed to The University of Wisconsin that fall.  Wooder spent part of the summer in Italy with her folks but the rest of the time she lived with us.  Weekends home during the school year were spent at our house and she also stayed with us the following summer, too.  Holidays she would fly to Italy and on at least one of those trips she took Bess with her. 

That first summer I joked that Wooder was the “Daughter I Never Wanted”.  Now I realize that nothing could be further from the truth.  But that first summer Wooder was a ‘third thumb’, a ‘fifth wheel, a ‘fish out of water’.  You get my drift: she didn’t fit in.  Our family, my wife, our daughter, our son, and myself all worked – ALL SUMMER.  Bess worked as an intern at my office.  Blake worked on a seed farm.  Deb was a parish secretary.  I was a project manager.  And Wooder slept in.  Some days we would all come home from work in time for Wooder to announce that she would be “taking a shower now”.  Her only responsibility was to let our little dog Sadie out to “go potty”.  Poor Sadie – good thing she had a strong bladder!

It wasn’t that Wooder was lazy – she just didn’t need to do anything on weekdays.  Saturdays were different.  We all cleaned the house and did chores.  At first I believe that Wooder thought I was dictatorial – GET UP!  VACUUM!  NOW!  My kids were used to this but Wooder probably thought she had been sold into bondage.  But we all adapted.  I realized that Wooder was very helpful when asked to help (my wife recommended this tactic) and she began to understand that my bombastic approach to household chores was just so much bluster and posturing – no one really took me seriously.

Pretty soon Wooder was part of our family and joined in with dinner table debates.  Often she would be my ally when some of our ‘discussions’ got heated in that kitchen on Westfield Road.  She agreed with me that the guy that my daughter was dating was all wrong for her – of course we were both wrong about that!  (Sorry Travis, I love you!  I just didn’t know you then.)  She shared family birthdays and cookouts and running errands with us.  Once, when it was just Wooder and me, a deer leapt over the hood of the car as we were driving down Cedarburg Road – no one would believe that story today if Wooder hadn’t been there!

Cindy and Wooder

Today she is Doctor Wood.  She’s a bio-medical something or other.  I know she wears a lab coat and works on really important stuff that I’m too dim-witted to understand.  I’m proud of Wooder.  I’m proud of the person that she’s become.  Life hasn’t always been easy.  Wooder is gay and not everyone can handle that.  Truth be known, it kind of  “threw me for a loop” at first but I love Wooder and I’m proud of her.  So maybe it’s gay pride that I feel and that’s okay with me.  She and her wife Cindy (yes wife – it’s legal in Massachusetts – get with it, rest of the country) are blessings to all who know and love them.  And even though Wooder’s the “Daughter I Never Wanted”, I’m glad that she’s a part of our family.  And I hope she’ll always know that she has a place in our hearts and our home.

Peace,

Big D

Catholic Inter-Scholastic Speech League

Recently a friend from high school, who is now a Facebook friend, asked if anyone remembered a nun that taught English and did dramatic readings.  There were some responses and some of my former classmates think her name was Sister Judith Ann.  But I remember a Sister Jeanine that was also an English teacher and was the Theater Department sponsor.  My memories of Sister Jeanine aren’t necessarily pleasant but reminiscing about high school and teachers made me remember C.I.S.L. (Catholic Inter-Scholastic Speech League) – another memory that wasn’t particularly pleasant!

C.I.S.L. was an inter-Catholic school speech competition.  There were several categories:  Debate, Public Speaking, Extemporaneous Speaking, Dramatic Reading, and Duet Acting.  Somehow I managed to find myself on the ‘Duet Acting’ team.  My acting partner was Margaret, a girl that I had gone to school with since 1st grade, and she and I were really bad actors – REALLY BAD! 

Duet acting competition involved taking acts from plays that had two main characters.  Performances were usually just one-act.  Most of the other schools had teams that were doing scenes from contemporary popular plays in the 1970’s – “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” was a perennial favorite.  Maggie and I wanted to do a scene from “Butterflies Are Free” – remember the movie with Goldie Hawn and that guy with the dimpled chin?  Anyway, Sister Jeanine insisted that Maggie and I do a scene from “Victoria Regina” – seriously.  So there we were all pimply faced and gawky trying to “be” Queen Victoria and Prince Albert – what in hell was Jeanine thinking?  Needless to say, we were awful.  No.  Awful would have been an improvement – we were wretched!  But we toured all the local high schools – Dominic, St. Mary’s, Rosary, JFK, Aquinas, Mercy, etc.

I guess because I have a German sounding last name, Sister Jeanine thought I could play the German Prince Consort – who knows?  And Maggie?  Well she was better than me but that’s like saying rotten eggs smell better than dead flesh – it really doesn’t help much.  We used these phony accents: She the English monarch.  Me the German Prince.  Usually somewhere in the middle of our ‘act’ we would somehow switch accents.  All of a sudden Albert would have a ‘veddy‘ English sounding voice and Victoria would begin to sound like a German peasant.  And being the consummate professionals that we were, of course we would laugh.  We would laugh so hard at times that we completely forgot all our lines.  That’s when we became truly entertaining – “Victoria, what on earth is making you giggle, so?”  or some such nonsense would come out of my mouth!  I can still see Sister Jeanine fuming on the sidelines while we slowly ‘self-destructed’. 

Once at Bishop Du Bourg High School some kid offered Maggie a hit off his joint (remember this was the ’70’s and we were in Catholic Schools).  Ironically, that was her best performance.  Needless to say, our poor performances never earned a ribbon nor even an honorable mention.  And those pompous Debaters and snotty Extemporaneous Speakers HATED us because we always brought the cumulative team score down.

But Maggie was cool and we had fun.  We never expected to win OSCARS one day.  We were just high school kids having a good time.  And if Sister Jeanine had let us do “Butterflies Are Free”, like we wanted to, we could have kicked some serious butt. 

I wonder where Maggie is today?  Heck, she might be a great actress with a new name, but I doubt it.  I just hope her memories of C.I.S.L. and our high school high-jinx make her smile.  I wonder if Sister Jeanine ever thought we were funny?  She could have used a hit off that joint! 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHHbSsdc0gk

Peace,

Denis

Baby Sister

Our 2 year old granddaughter Anna is about to become a BIG SISTER.  Our daughter’s second baby is due next month.  It’s amazing how the baby becomes the big brother/sister literally overnight.  When our daughter was born our son Tyson was only 19 months old – instantly he became THE BIG BOY.  Of course he was still sleeping in a crib and he was still in diapers but in comparison to his newborn sister, he was a big boy.  The same will be true for Anna – she’ll always be our special baby girl but next month she’ll be the BIG GIRL when compared to her infant brother or sister.  And so it goes…

When I was ten years old I was still the baby of our family.  I had two older brothers and it seemed that I was destined to always be the little one.  But then the most amazing thing happened:  My baby sister was born!  Being 10 years old and having a baby sister might have been traumatic to some kids (I think my parents were secretly worried that I might strangle her in her crib) but I was the happiest kid on the block.  The baby was OUR BABY.  We (my brothers and I) all got to share her.  Mom allowed (or needed) us to help out with diapers and bottles and babysitting.  I felt so big!  I wasn’t the baby anymore.  And I loved it.  Even more – I loved her.  And I still do!

Kay and me - Christmas 1968

My sister Kay will always be my baby sister.  She’s a grandmother now but she’s still my baby sister.  I often think about how God has blessed me with Kay.  The obvious blessing was that it got me out of being the ‘baby of the family’.  But more importantly I got “hands on” training with an infant, and then a toddler, and then a  preschooler, and so on.  When I became a parent myself, I wasn’t afraid of my own baby like some young parents – I’d already done a lot of this stuff!  Plus I learned some important LIFE STUFF, too – like how to share and how to love someone more than myself. 

I can still remember so vividly that tiny pink bundle in Mom’s arms the day she came home from the hospital.  I knew then that was I the luckiest brother in the world (and I still am).  I became a dorky teenager and while kids my own age were interested in things that I lacked the maturity to handle (they likely did as well) I could retreat into play-time with my little sister.  As we grow older we grow even closer emotionally.  We are joined in a way that brothers and sisters are meant to be – emotionally, spiritually, eternally.  I talk to her most every day and she understands things about me that only she can – we were raised by the same two parents (it’s called sibling empathy).  Even though we are ten years apart we have many of the same emotional triggers and we share a lot of the same quirks.  We laugh at the same lame jokes and we sometimes “get it” when no one else does.  We have shared good times and bad.  And we will always be there for one another, even for the shitty stuff. 

I hope that Anna has the same joys and blessings with her baby brother or sister that I have had with mine.  I thank God each day for her.  At ten years old I didn’t know what was coming my way – God’s plan is still being revealed to me even today.  But I do know that my baby sister is one of His many blessings and I will always be a grateful BIG BROTHER.

I love you, Sissy!

Peace,

Denis