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Down the Lane: Sisters make life more interesting

By Sue Staton

I am dedicating this column to my one and only birth sister, Viola Mae Willoughby Ricker. She recently turned 75.

As I sit here and write this column, I am still stunned. Of course, the mere thought of her turning 75 blows me away.

We should still be singing and doing dishes together with her still trying to teach me how to harmonize. She got the talent that I didn’t in that department.

I have to laugh as I think back now, to how she would have me put our elbows together while we were sitting on the toilet seats while she still tried to teach me harmony.

I still think of her often as the person I looked up to the most  growing up. She is five years and three months older than me.

She and I shared secrets, giggled and cried on many occasions in our lifetime.

We always shared the same bed and she always made me sleep next to the wall because of some fear she had that I never knew while growing up.

I became accustomed to her being the boss of me. She was also my protector who took up for me and held my hand.

Somehow, we got through the hard years of our life growing up. Through the hard work we had to endure at home and having to take care of ourselves while my mom lay in a hospital bed from three back surgeries, we somehow grew from it all.

We became tough enough to withstand the world we were going to have to endure for the rest of our lives.

Little did we know how much the faith and love we got from the little Kiddville Baptist Church would be the glue holding us together.

My sister can make anyone laugh, and those of you who know her would have to agree. Such as the time we were in Europe and she told the waitress the beans were not very good and that she and her sister were connoisseurs of beans. I had a hard time holding it together that day as I thought of all the soup beans we had eaten growing up.

Even when she accepted Christ, it was because of an antic she thought she was going to pull off. It was in Ohio and a friend of the family had recently become a Christian and wanted her to go to a revival with her. At 10 years old, my sister and her friend went, thinking they would go and make fun of the “holy rollers” at the church.

However, somewhere during the service my sister realized she was a sinner and went forward to accept the Lord that night, leaving her friend in total shock sitting in the back with her mouth agape.

As I remember finding her praying on an old lard can sitting out behind the smoke house on moonlit nights, I can tell you I believe her profession of faith took that night.

Later in life I watched her at the little Kiddville Baptist Church when she dedicated her life to being a foreign missionary. I can tell you there has never been a day in her life she has not told others about Christ.

When we were in Europe, she left a message of Christ to people on planes, ships and streets. I think she has fulfilled her mission.

She has been a school teacher all her life and has loved her career. The students who have been in her class have let her know over and over she was their favorite teacher. I know they were blessed to have had her teach them.

Growing up, she did pull some other antics. She would tell me to scrape the dishes while she went to play the piano. I also would be drying the dishes. The piano thing went over on other chores we had to do also.

She was always the daredevil, and I never knew what she would pull on me next. She is one of the most unpredictable people I know. I grew from some of the stunts she did and learned not to do them. As I look back, I wonder how she survived death with some of them.

I stood in fear on some days as she decided to climb on top of a bridge and walk across the top rails on the way to school one morning with the creek flowing beneath.

I watched her throw her legs over our old rickety well where we drew water for the house and tell me she was going to jump in as I begged her not to.

I watched her nearly cause my brother to have a heart attack as she pretended to be dead with ketchup all over her and put a gun lying beside her. My brother jumped from a moving tractor when he saw that. I think they had been in an argument.

I watched in Chicago one very early morning as she confronted a huge man getting ready to steal our purses.

I watched petrified as she confronted the Italian police over a suitcase that had been forgotten as we boarded a plane. She has no fear. I am reminded of the Willoughby coat of arms that says “Vérité Sans Peur” — life without fear — and I think all five of us have lived that, but she more than others.

What she did in fun was often stressful to us. However, if anyone ever said anything against my sister, they had better never let me hear it because I would be the first to defend her.

My love for her is still great, and though life has been scary for both of us as we have battled cancer and other illnesses, we still hold a bond that can’t be broken. We still disagree on issues at times, but we will always walk away with the same love we always had for one another.

I have friends whom I have been close to and consider them like a sister, however, only my birth sister knows exactly my life of my growing up years. She helped those years to be much more fun, more exciting and more precious.

Sisters are precious, and if you still have yours and you are not talking to one another, make up for the lost years.

Life, too, is precious and every year of life becomes more precious.

I wish my very unique sister a happy birthday. Thank you for being you.

Sue Staton is a Clark County native who grew up in the Kiddville area. She is a wife, mother and grandmother who is active in her church, First United Methodist Church, and her homemakers group, Towne and Country Homemakers.