I love Ellen
I don’t know if it’s even possible to remember something that happened when you were only 15 months old. So call me a liar, but I think I remember the day my newborn sister Ellen came home from the hospital. I remember being in a back bedroom of the house taking a nap when my grandmother opened the door and poked her head into the room to tell me I had a baby sister. I remember being so excited I jumped up from my sleep and began trampolining up and down on the old, springy, twin bed. I even remember what the wallpaper looked like in that room.
Could a 15-month-old kid really remember such a thing…or even be capable of jumping up and down like that not long after learning how to walk? Why wasn’t my grandmother at the hospital with her daughter (even though it was the fifth child at that point)? Could this be some kind of manufactured memory that has morphed in my mind with another similar memory — like the time Ellen came home from the hospital when she broke her leg on the swingset as a little girl? Or the time I pushed her down the basement steps by accident and she came home from getting patched up after that?
Maybe so. I will embrace all reasonable doubts about this story. But in the end, I’ll stick with my original version. I’ll just say I remember when Ellen was born.
Anyway, you wouldn’t think a guy with a big sister as wonderful as Kathleen and big brothers as great as Tim and Brian could ever hope to have a little sister as cool as Ellen. But that’s how lucky I am. Ellen is the coolest. She’s always been smart and beautiful and tough as hell. That time I (accidentally) pushed her down the steps, she came up smiling with two black eyes. When we were kids, she was a better athlete than most of the neighborhood boys and she could beat many of them up. Ellen and I were best pals when we were little — whether it was riding our tricycles around on the back patio or sneaking down to the basement to listen to our older siblings’ rock-music singles at 45 revolutions per minute. As we grew older, I also enjoyed the benefits of having a little sister with loads of babelicious friends in high school and college who were always game for hanging out with me, Brian and our buddies. Ellen has a great sense of style. Any piece of clothing she’s ever bought for me is something I hang onto for years — because it’s always something someone of my limited fashion tastes would never have conceived of buying, yet somehow fits my personality anyway. (Most recently, for example, she bought my Bad Ass bandanas. She has not yet thought of anything to buy for Crazy Ass.)
Speaking of babes, that one in the picture at the top is Ellen’s partner Stacy — who is (almost) even cooler than Ellen if such a thing were possible. They live in L.A. and are both huge baseball fans. When Stacy was a teenager, she once struck a perfect 7-iron from around home plate in Dodger Stadium to a small target somewhere out in center field to win a golf-shooting contest that was held at a Dodger game. The crowd went wild. Today Stacy helps manage lots of things — including a beautiful garden — at the Siddha Yoga Meditation Center in Los Angeles. When I got sick, she went to the center and did some chants for me to help me get well. I think they worked, especially when combined with the prayers of the Baptist Bible-study ladies in Mount Vernon, Ky., my Mom’s Catholic “Holy Roller” group in Independence, Mo., and my friend Judy Doyle’s singing of the Jewish prayer for healing (Mi Shebeirach) at her synagogue here in Orlando at the beginning of Yom Kippur.
Speaking of when I got sick, my sister Ellen jumped right on a plane and flew across the country to be at my bedside on July 25 — the day after I was admitted to the hospital. She sat with me for hours in my room and in ICU after my brain surgery to help me remember what the nurses all were telling me. Last night she jumped on another plane; a red-eye flight from Los Angeles that is scheduled to land in Orlando around 6 a.m. today — right about the time this blog post goes up.
That means she will be sitting right outside the radiation room later in the morning when I get my final treatment. Unfortunately, my head will be bolted to the table at the time. Otherwise, I’d jump up and down like a 15-month-old boy who just found out he had a baby sister.
(Photo of Stacy and Ellen by Sean Holton, aka me. I’m not sure who took the older photo, since it’s cropped from a wider shot that included every living member of my immediate family in the early 1960s. Some weirdo may have been stalking us.)