The day I met my sister


Randy Riley - Contributing columnist



When we were growing up, Mom used to tell us that when she and Dad first got married and started their family, she first wanted a baby girl. Then, about two years later, she knew she was going to want a little boy.

After the little boy, she wanted to wait about five years before having their second son and a few years after that they would finish up by having another girl. She wanted the whole process to take 10 years.

Mom could be a little spooky at times. She swore that was exactly what she wanted, what she planned — and that is exactly what happened.

My baby sister, Terri, was born in 1959, almost exactly ten years after my older sister, Belinda.

Belinda was 18 months older than me. My brother Jeff was born midway between the two girls.

From 1949 to 1959, we were spaced out exactly the way Mom had wanted. Successful family planning – just the way Mom intended.

The problem I had was that I grew up not really knowing my little sister. I was 17 years old when I graduated from high school and moved off to college. Terri was only nine years old.

We had never really formed a relationship. In fact, I remember very little about my kid sister as we grew up. Belinda and Terri grew up sharing a bedroom. I grew up with Terri sharing an entire house. We were never close.

About 20 years after I graduated from high school, Debbie and I were married and living in Wilmington. One evening we were planning on going to the Dayton Mall to do some shopping.

By then, Terri and Kirk were living in Springboro. Although I wasn’t really wild about the idea (since I barely knew Terri), I promised that we would stop by and see their new house.

Surprisingly, Terri was really excited that we were going to stop by. She insisted that she wanted to make some fancy hors d’oeuvres for us and Kirk would pick up a good bottle of wine.

I was always up for a good meat and cheese tray and a nice glass of wine.

At some point in time, my kid sister had learned how to cook gourmet-style. It was great.

When we arrived, Terri’s husband, Kirk, wasn’t home yet. The ladies chased me out of the kitchen, so I hung out in the living room. I became obsessed with Terri’s bookshelves. All her books looked familiar. Then I realized that all her books were also sitting in my bookcases at home.

As we sat around their dining nook talking and enjoying some very tasty treats, it dawned on both of us just how much alike we were. Our like, dislikes, hopes and dreams were closer than our other siblings.

As we finally left their home to continue our outing to the Dayton Mall, I felt blessed. Whatever we might acquire at the mall was nothing compared to what I just received in Springboro.

I now had a kid-sister who filled my heart.

Mom’s ability to perfectly plan her family was miraculous. Whenever she mentioned this to her friends, they would tell her she was nuts. Mom knew otherwise. She had a gift – a sense about things.

Our parents used to gather with other friends to play games. Mom’s favorite partner was a lady named Catherine. If they played “Password,” they would usually guess the word on their first or second try. Once, Mom blurted out the answer without a clue.

Now, that’s spooky. That was our Mom.

What was of vital importance to Mom was keeping the kids happy, healthy, and together. I recall that we were all together when Dad had open-heart surgery about 25 years ago. We could only visit two-at-a-time.

As my brother and I were headed back to the waiting room, he put his arm around my shoulder and said, “I don’t know how people get through times like this without having family to lean on.” Right on, brother. Right on.

It is great to know that we all live within an hour of each other – except for Jeff. He lives in Phoenix. We have frequent telephone calls. I find that I can’t call one sibling without feeling the need to call the other three. It always feels like the right thing to do.

It’s sad that Terri and I took so much time to get to really know each other, but now that we have, we realize how blessed we are to be part of a large, loving family. We treasure that closeness.

Nothing is more comforting than for the four of us to get together and share those things that make us family. We are family and we cherish the closeness we share.

It’s never too late to get closer to your family.

Randy Riley is a former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist