NOTE: Very soon my sisters and I will be traveling from four different states for a reunion, something we’ve done almost annually since our mom’s death in 2004. This one, at our sister Carol’s home in Illinois, will be lower key than some of our destination trips (such as last year’s week in New Orleans). This is the thing–even if all we do is visit, eat, nap, play cards, laugh, and eat some more, it’s going to be important. You see, it’s OUR time as sisters just to be together–not to DO, but just to BE.
These gatherings have become even more precious since losing our youngest sister Lisa very suddenly at age 54 four years ago today. “Baby Luv” was taken from us way too soon as far as we will always be concerned. We were blessed to have had seven reunions in a span of eight years with perfect “sister” attendance before Lisa left us, the final one in blistery Chicago (see above pic). Immeasurable memories were created among us that we do not take for granted.
Below is a reprint of an article that Lisa, a gifted writer and poetic soul, wrote in 2009. It describes our experiences after the first five of these special sister gatherings, and sums up what we had learned thus far in the process. I’ve only added illustrations, as she expressed our sentiments far better than any of us. So on this anniversary of her home going, it’s only fitting that we hear Lisa’s “voice” once again. Enjoy her humorous take on “Dortha’s Daughters!” –TK
It happened after our mother died.
I am the baby of six daughters born to Harold and Dortha Worthington, of Cairo, Illinois, a small town nestled between the convergence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. By 1972, the four eldest girls had rooted their lives in various cities across the country, and our Daddy- Deacon, School Board Member, and City Utilities Director- went on to be with the Lord. Mama moved Tara and me to Dallas, Texas, where she completed two years at Christ For the Nations Bible Institute, and received her License to Minister. In the ensuing years, Tara- who will always be one year older!- and I have established our lives here in Texas. Of our other four sisters- in order of birth- Donna lives in Florida, Carol in Illinois, Phyllis in New York, and Jan in Kentucky. We rarely saw each other- and almost never all at one time. Big families are a blessing; but you have trouble getting them all together when they’re grown.
Of course, miles are not all that separate us. A decade or so after the first four were born, the last two of us arrived, causing much excitement and, well, deserved adoration. But ten years is a long time when you’re young, so Tara and I missed out on knowing and sharing childhood with our older sisters. On occasion, one of us might say it was a blessing in itself; but usually that sister gets over her frustration pretty quickly.
Naturally, we all came together to mourn the death of our incredible mother, in 2004. After our other sisters had gone home, Tara and I were once again together. We will probably never agree on who had the brilliant notion to get all the sisters together to really visit and enjoy one another. (It was me.) Since we are now older and less tied-down, we decided we should never again wait for a death to dictate when we could gather as a family.
Emails shot across the country and back again. We began to reminisce about our childhood, sharing memories of Mama and Daddy, then of one another. Long forgotten feelings and impressions brought out much laughter and many tears. Our children began requesting to be included in the mailing list, because the stories were so revealing, funny, and touching. They learned things about us we can never live down- like a certain Floridian allowing Tara and me to “smoke” at a very tender age! Cigarettes were involved, and so was smoke, but we only thought we were big.
In the fall of 2005, we took New York City by storm. Well, the Big Apple is big enough that probably no one has missed the pieces we now carry in our hearts. And from that awesome gathering began our Annual Sister Reunion. Sounds like a good idea, right?
We have had a blast! We come together laughing, with one unnamed sister (from Kentucky) usually sporting some gag designed to embarrass us all at the airport. Old ladies don’t blush easily, though, and we all join in.
We’ve not only walked the streets of New York City- as Ladies, mind you!- but we’ve gone home to our roots in southern Illinois to visit family, become real Cowgirls by eating calf fries at the Fort Worth Stockyards (yes you did, Jan!)…
We went to Chicago to tie ourselves into yoga positions Mama would of never have approved, and even hit the Grand Canyon.
The echoes of laughter can still be heard, as we remember a shrimp dish that smelled so bad, a husband dubbed it “Dirty Panty Pasta,” the elderly lady with an unfortunate physical extremity hanging out during BINGO, “Freddy,” a fond nickname, the Ugliest Feet Contest, and the Great Artichoke Dance. Items like Bubba Teeth, gingerbread men, and toy tiaras now have a beloved history among us.
It sounds cruel to laugh while a “prince-ass” from New York is experiencing a broken wrist and heat exhaustion at the same time, but you should have been there! Our laughter and love got us through the crisis, and her good humor made it a joke the remainder of the trip…well, we’re still laughing, actually!
After five of these annual pilgrimages- no husbands allowed, please- I have made these three observations:
#1 – We didn’t really know each other.
Whether we lived hundreds of miles away, or in the same state, we hadn’t been around one another enough to really know each other. It takes more than blood kinship to accomplish a close relationship. We started out being very cautious, polite, and sensitive. Proper, you could say…But the first time one of my older sisters dropped a humorous personal reference, I literally choked myself, laughing so hard. It was very bonding, really- this kind of intimacy.
#2 – We’re growing to know each other.
My biggest surprise is that I have been so surprised by my sisters. In case you should happen upon them, they are: The Loving Protector, the Funniest Woman in the World, a Sassy Classy Diplomat, a creative Wonder Woman, and The Fountain of Youth. And this only scrapes the surface of who my sisters are today. They create, cook, teach, and care for others in ways I can only admire. I am speechless when I witness the depth of love and fondness they lavish among our band, sometimes when I least expect it. I have delighted in finding we share faith and politics, warding off countless differences of opinion. And, I have found Mama’s hands. The very hands that held me as a child, hung laundry, cooked my meals, and caressed my own kids, live in northern Illinois.
#3 – We’re an example for others.
Perhaps the fact that we’re constantly laughing and enjoying each other makes people assume we’re old friends. The universal response to our admission that we’re all sisters traveling together is, “Really?” Many confess that they could never get their sister/s to go on such a trip because they don’t get along well enough. We encourage them to try.
Not all childhood recollections can be good. Some wounded memories kick in automatically, because a child’s anguish has the capability to produce hurt for a lifetime. Our being together gives us the opportunity to see these flaws, ask forgiveness, and be healed. We are becoming Old Friends.
Now, each trip provides us with new experiences, enmeshes us more deeply with the lives of one another, and reminds us that We Six all share in the rich heritage of being “Dortha’s Daughters.”
–Lisa Worthington Dutton (first published in “Vibrant” Magazine, Fall 2009 issue)