I started life pretty much as a loner. There was close to three years between my older brother and I, and more than four between my older sister and I. As a result I got a lot of attention. I took to that like a fish to water. Life couldn't have been better until that fateful day in the early autumn of 1955 when my world shattered.
Well, I thought so at the time...
My little utopia was invaded by a little sister. Soon my world seemed to take a back seat to a lot of girl things. Dolls and cut-outs began to invade the space where cars and trucks and tractors once roamed free. Obstacles shaped like dollhouses and baby carriages became part of the landscape where construction and agricultural operations reined supreme.
Sissy stuff. And it was all because of that blond-haired sibling who was always laughing and happy. Her glass was perpetually half full and if it rained today, that was OK because the sun would be shining tomorrow. When would she realize that if it was raining today and the sun was shining tomorrow that the ground would still be muddy?
Glass half full...
Unfortunately I had to face the fact that this new bundle of joy wasn't going anywhere soon and I would have to find some way to pass the time away while she invaded my space.
Back in the fifties we had only one TV channel. CJLH TV, Channel Seven, started broadcasting in 1955. Sometime after that we got our first TV set and after a lot of frustration, Dad got the antenna positioned well enough for a signal strong enough to bring in the likes of Liberace, Ed Sullivan, Gunsmoke and Highway Patrol. In the morning it was Maggie Muggins and Friendly Giant. Unfortunately broadcasting didn't start until sometime in the morning, leaving the only choice to watch, the test pattern (often referred to as the boring Indian movie), which often offered some music. Before the test pattern came on, it was a scene akin to driving through a blizzard, accompanied by the uninterrupted sound of--noise.
Anticipating the oncoming morning programs, Diane would turn on the TV and then sit and wait, watching first the snow, then the test pattern, then The Nation's Business, and finally Friendly Giant. I found out that while the snow was on, I could sneak around the back of the TV, stealthily reach my hand around and with a quick flip of the wrist, crank the volume up to full, making the soft hissing a full fledged roar.
Diane would shriek and run to Mom, who would roust out the wayward troublemaker--me--and dispense severe (to me) justice, usually in the form of the wooden spoon across my butt many times, and followed by being sat on a wooden stool sometimes being forced to remain there until Friendly Giant was over.
Cruel and unusual punishment for sure.
But somehow, through the years, the rivalry seemed to dissipate, especially when Diane's friends began to grow and mature, and actually become woman-like. Sometimes we would stay up and talk about dates until the wee hours in the morning. I guess it sometimes takes a long time for something good to come out of something not so good.
You could say that we eventually became best friends.
One thing I learned from this seemingly placid, even-tempered sibling was that she wasn't always that way. There were times when she wasn't so easy going. Some advice given to newly weds to determine how well the marriage is going to go is to put up wallpaper together; if you can accomplish that without killing each other, then the marriage has a better than average chance of succeeding. Well, we weren't putting up wallpaper together but Diane and Mom were. I came in at lunchtime and looked at their progress. Having a good eye for detail I noticed that two sheets didn't quite line up in a very remote corner of the dining room. I thought I'd mention it, just in passing. Not to be critical or anything.
That turned out to be a bad idea. Diane took offence to that little bit of criticism and unloaded a barrage of retorts, combined with a number of nasty words that would've made a sailor blush. I quickly took my leave and headed back outside before that long wooden pole she used to push that pasty paper high up on the wall got used as a weapon. To this day, I find myself thinking that if wallpaper does that to a woman's demeanor, the walls would best be left as they were.
Hmmm, bare plywood, or how about cardboard? Yeah, take the cartons that the new appliances came in and staple that to the studs? No paint, no wallpaper, just give all those who come to visit a felt marker and let them write some graffiti...
Fast forward a few years to when Mikenzie decided to put up wallpaper in our house. Let's just say that I would rather put up new shelves in the pantry, in the hall and kitchen closets, wash the vehicles, mow the lawn, get rid of the weeds, spread gravel, and drive uptown to purchase personal feminine products for her than help with the wallpaper.
And we got along just great!
Diane and I worked reasonably well together. If sick animals had to be looked after, we did what needed to be done. She was a lot of help. But she was also a little vulnerable to some of my pranks. Diane had been up in the alley in the north part of the feedlot working with a couple of colts we had in a small pen up there when I called her over to help me sort some yearling bulls. After we finished that task Diane headed back up the alley to continue her work with the colts and I headed up to do some repairs to the mangers at the north end of the lot. The east wall of the alley consisted of an eight foot high solid board fence. It had been there for a while and the elements were starting to take their toll, the ever present west wind breaking the odd slab, leaving a window or two that allowed one to see into the northeast pen. Diane was meandering up the alley next to the board fence and I was on the outside. I guess she didn't really know my exact whereabouts and had other things on her mind anyways. I simply stopped right there and turned, my face in the opening. Diane walked by and saw something out of the corner of her eye. She stopped and turned, not recognizing me at first but seeing more of a strange person framed in the broken board.
You'd have thought she'd seen a ghost. At least the expression on her face showed that. I don't recall that she shrieked or not but she was caught off guard. Luckily her reaction wasn't as severe as the aforementioned wallpaper.
Diane's ultimate goal was to be a housewife and mother. To achieve that, she had to find that perfect man. She started with a couple of my friends, and I honestly thought she'd do alright with one of them. I might add that I was a little miffed when she dropped them like a hot potato when Grant entered the picture. Of course I didn't know Grant like I knew my friends. Sometimes new friendships need some time to grow and develop and as Diane and Grant embarked on a life together, I began to get to know Grant and soon I realized what Diane saw and appreciated in him.
And that dream of becoming a mother was multiplied, not only by six but by a continuing further generation that is truly a gift.
Diane and I kept in touch, even when she and Grant moved halfway across the country. That telephone shortened the distance and it seemed that something was missing when we didn't have our monthly conversation. Any time something new came into my life she was often the first to know. And, I might add, when things in my life derailed, she was also the first to know. Needless to say, there was no doubt that when Mikenzie came into my life, Diane was the first family member (after Dad) I introduced her to.
So now as I pay tribute to a wonderful sister and friend, I have to say thanks. Thanks for being there for me, even when I didn't deserve it. I am indebted to you. Happy birthday, Three-score, minus two. May you have many more.