Thursday, July 28, 2016

How a Childhood Gem Let Me Off the Hook

After going through a house move and an office move last year you would think the last thing I would want to do is unpack more boxes. For some crazy reason, though (probably because I am actually crazy), that’s exactly what I did last weekend.

Richard went to the Bay Area with his mom and brother to see his other brother’s new grandson (exciting!) while Robert and I stayed home and hung out with the dogs. Robert slept quite a bit which gave me an opportunity to get things done around the house.

I started by creating the to-do list of all to-do lists.

I have no idea why I had so much energy – especially since I had given up caffeine the week before. You’d think I would be comatose on the couch, unable to move without my Venti  Non-Fat, No-Whip Mocha (or two) coursing through my veins.

Mmmmm, mochas.  . .

Anyway, I digress.

I started by looking for copies of my book, Forever a Caregiver. I was sure I had extra copies at home and thought they might be packed away in a box in the garage.  I was determined to find them!

Well, one thing led to another and I searched through several boxes in the garage, which then led to (don’t ask) cleaning out and reorganizing not only my bedroom closet but my office closet and Robert’s closet.

Then I cleaned the house.

I started wondering if I accidentally drank actual coffee instead of the stuff in the cabinet labeled decaf.

I never did find my books but I did empty a lot of boxes. A delightful surprise when emptying those boxes was that I found a lot of old photos and even ran across letters I wrote home from my Girl Scouts summer camp.

Oh boy!

These letters were not only fun to read, giving me a glimpse into my 10 year old mind but they also gave me a gift. As a young adult, I had reread some of my diaries which caused me much distress.  (Note to millennials: these were small journals with tiny little locks that people used to write their innermost thoughts and then scream and yell when a pesky little brother tried to break the lock and read all the secrets contained inside. You know them now as “Facebook” and “Snapchat.”).

In one of my diaries I asked “Diary” why little Robbie bothered me so much. In fact, I told Diary that I didn’t think I even liked him.

Oh, ouch!

That was tough to read. Was I a terrible older sister? My goodness, my little brother went through all kinds of crap at school and with having seizures and here I was saying I didn’t like him? Where was my compassion and empathy and patience?!

These letters that I wrote during summer camp (and Mom was kind enough to save for me) showed me a different kind of big sister than Diary had led me to believe.  I only found three of the letters but they were enough to reassure me that I did have compassion and empathy and patience and didn’t just accidentally come by it as an adult.

Let me share these letters with you. Keep in mind I have horrible memories of summer camp. My homesickness knew no bounds and I have no idea why I agreed to go year after year.

I suspect these were written in 1971 or 1972 but I don’t really have a way of knowing for sure.  I changed my nickname from “Patti” to “Tricia” when I was 12 so these were written before the big name change.  (I am including the typos and misspellings even though it kills me to do so!)

July 13

Dear Robbie,

How are you? I’m Fine.

Thanks For the Letters. The’re cute. Only two more days and I’ll see you!

Did you get mom a birthday present? Have you had a wedding rehursul yet? Did you get your tux? IF you did I bet you anything you’ll be the best ringbery in History. I love you. Have you been swimming? I Hope so! If you were Here when there was mice in cindy’s Footlocker you’d Kill them, I know.

Well bye!

Luv ya,


P.s Please write

Was I actually advocating for killing mice? Yikes! Definitely was my pre-Animal Rights/Vegetarian days.

Then there’s this (and I don’t think we were required to write home daily – it was the homesickness, I’m sure!):

July 14

Dear Mom & Dad,

How are you? I’m Fine. We just got back From the overnight. I didn’t write last night cause we could not. We had to go to Bed. I only have four pieces of Paper so I’m writing you together, the boys together, grandma and grandpa together & the other grandma & grandpa togeter.

Please send me Eddie’s, Rogie’s, Great grandma’s address (nevermind) cause it’ll be the Last day when I write. Tell Eddie Hi Rogie Hi Julie Hi Lynda  Hi & steve & tod Hi, ok? Are you still working good, dad? I’m sure you are. Well sorry it was such a short Letter but I don’t have enough paper.

Luv ya,


P.S write Soon

Apparently, my paper multiplied . . .

July 14

Dear great swimmer & handsome

How are you? I’m Fine. I’m writing you together cause I only have 4 pieces of paper. We are about to Have Lunch. What are you haveing For Lunch? I don’t know what we’re Having. are you going swimming at cryer ave? I’m going at 2:30 I have to eat lunch  Bye

Luv ya,


P.s Write soon

Posing with Dad, his parents and two of his brothers
("Robbie" is on the left, Other Brother is next to him)
Finding these letters not only gave me a slightly better looking garage but gave me some peace of mind about how I treated “Robbie” when we were kids. I never really thought about being a sibling of someone who needed extra care and attention. It never felt like it affected me as a child but I now realize it affected me as an adult. Not because I felt left out as a child and carried that with me (that was obviously impossible with our close, extended family) but because as an adult I wondered if I treated Robert with care or if I was impatient and terrible toward him and felt guilty about it.

I definitely had my moments of impatience with him that I distinctly remember and that most likely ended up in my diary but I realize I did care about “Robbie” more than I realized.

Thank goodness “letting go of guilt” can be crossed off my to-do list.

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