We're a year apart in school. A house apart in Farmington. A few numbers apart in size. But, thank the Lord, we are not any more apart than that! From the time we were little Libby has been my compadre', partner in crime, confidant and best Barbie doll pretender. She straddled the opposite banister on the basement stairs when we were kids and hollered "giddy up" with me. She stirred the lentil beans from the food storage in the back room on Old Clairton Road, pretending to be college room mates making dinner when we were 8 and 9 years old. Ann Marie joined us. We dressed up in Mom's old designer garbs, all made on mom's old singer sewing machine. And even though any other normal third grader would grab the Red Gingham Dress for her own, she let me wear it. Happily. We once acquired a large cardboard box, perfectly sized for our imaginations. Our sister Sue was at the time working as a computer programmer in Pittsburgh. She brought home these long manila cards with chads punched out. This was in the early days of computers, when what fits in our palm now used to take a warehouse full of machine to process. We designed, traced, colored and sawed out slots with mom's best tomato cutting knife. One of us sat inside the box, playing the role of "computer" and the other fed those cards into one of the slots, asking a question. The computer wrote answers on the cards and returned them through another slot. And one time in 7th grade I won a school contest for best invention. Lib helped me display Pappy Parker's Powerful Pound Popping Machine. Someone skinny entered one side. Someone hefty entered the other. Libby was the skinny one. She weighed fifty-one pounds for four years. Lights flashed. Glottal noises were made, followed by whirring sounds. Finally both doors opened and two perfectly sized individuals exited the contraption. That was a good idea. I need to take myself and the rest of America over to Ethiopia and really figure out how to make it work now!
When Lib was 5 years old and I was in first grade she had a friend who lived down the street and was in love with her. I don't remember his name. He used to come to the front door and say "Can Limpy play?" She was just the best player. Still is. The other day I watched her walk around the car after putting Mom's wheelchair in the back. She was hot, and she limped slightly. I think that boy had a premonition. Her ankle hurt. Me...I let everyone know when my feet hurt. Lib...she just gets in the car. The day her foot removed itself from her leg I remember frantically demanding that Dave give her MY blessing. "You have to bless her that she will not lose circulation to her foot! You HAVE to do this!" I stood out in the cold at the edge of her driveway, shivering with fear, praying for faith. Curling my fingers into the rim of the ambulance window I pulled myself up to look inside. Shelley Young and Todd Richardson were the paramedics, both friends. Lib was on the max dose of morphine. Her foot dangled in its skin, hanging backwards from her ankle, stabilized by a pillow. David sat at her head. Todd bent over beside her, one hand on her head, one on a monitor. While Dave blessed her Todd went back and forth between closing his eyes and bowing his head to checking her vitals. There was no room in there for me. I stood in the cold and sobbed. The thought of losing her, of losing any part of her, kept scratching the outer core of my brain and I would not let it enter. There's a scene in Sense and Sensibility where Elinor kneels at the bedside of her gravely ill sister. "Marianne, try!" she whispers. ""You must try! I cannot do this without you!" I weep every time I watch this. I know that feeling. That love that goes deeper than time, where all of life's experience is doubled in its joy and sorrow because it is shared with someone who knows all of you. The good and the bad. Lib knows me inside and out. She knows me in ways that no one else knows me. And I am amazed that in spite of knowing me so well, she loves me so well.
I cannot imagine how, in all the universe of possibilities, someone as unlikely as I was given a Dave and a Libby...and the gospel. And this is just a part of the bounty! I have a mom, and more sisters, and brothers, and kids, and friends, and talents, and means. Pile them up and I have a Neuschvanstein castle of blessings jutting into the heavens! At the foundation, holding steady, are the man I love and married 31 years ago yesterday; and the girl who came to our house to stay 49 years ago today. Thank you Lord, I see my blessings!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LIBBY!