So, for those of you don’t know the story, it’s time you did.  And for those of you who knew the story, but have since forgotten it – shame on you!  But you’re forgiven, and here’s a second chance.  🙂

4 years ago, on February 4, 2006, Mark J. died in a snowmobile accident, leaving his wife Cheryl; his 14 year old son, Tony; his 12 year old daughter, Margie; and his 2 year old son, Stephen, behind – reeling.  At the time, my mom was Cheryl’s best friend, so the family hung out with us almost constantly.  Well, Margie and my little sister Danielle hit it off like two peas from a pod that got broken in the beginning.  (did that make any sense?  :P)  Anyway, and of course Stephen hit it off with everyone…he was only 2!!  But Tony and I…….that was a different story.  As two children from different families – both the oldest – we ran into some rather…interesting…obstacles.  Like, pride.  And selfishness.  And competitiveness.  And…well – just about everything else that could come between us did.  We fought like cats and dogs – no, we fought like two rabid raccoons that just wanted the other dead so we could have the contents of the garbage can.  That’s how bad it was.

My parents tried to convince me to stop fighting with him…that it wasn’t helping him change and grow, and it wasn’t helping me change and grow – it was just making both of our lives miserable.  But, like any good teenager who’s pretty sure they know everything there is to know about life, I didn’t listen to them.  (What do they know anyway?)  And we kept fighting.  And fighting.  And fighting.  And I was getting tired of it.  I started thinking to myself – OK, he gets along pretty well with my sister, he gets along pretty well with his sister and little brother, he’s getting along with his mom a whole lot better – it’s just him and me that can’t get along.  But, being a typical human being (btw…I hate that word ‘typical’ now…) I figured that the problem lay with Tony, not with me.  The only problem with that came when Tony started moving on with his life – he was doing phenomenally well in school, he was making friends, he was helping his mom – he was doing really well…….and I was stuck in this place of “He hates me, he doesn’t like talking to me, he probably wishes I wasn’t even alive.  I don’t know why, but I’m pretty sure he hates me.”  And my parents kept telling me “No, he doesn’t hate you – you need to let go of this bitterness and resentment, and unforgiveness, so that you can just let him be who he’s supposed to be, and you can be who you’re supposed to be.  Let go of the past, and move forward into the future.”

So I did.  I forgave him.  Simple as that, right?  *cough*  Um…no.  I thought I was done.  Not even close!  It was shortly after that, my dad and I were going up to the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) air show to meet up with some friends of ours who were already up there.  Well, as we were throwing our bags in the truck and getting ready to drive down the driveway, Dad said it.  He asked “Hey, what do you think about taking Tony along?  I bet he’d love to go!”  Well, my eyes about fell out of the front of my face at that point.  My mind was racing, looking for a good excuse…but all I could come up with was “No, I don’t want him along…he’s going to make me feel like a little piece of the dirt that got in his shoe.  If he goes, I might as well stay home.”  But, any of you who know me at all also know that I’ve gotten pretty good at hiding my true internal feelings and making up what I think is what I should be feeling.  So I choked back my horror and said “Um…yeah, I’m sure he would love to come.  Uh…I guess, yeah, we…well, we could see if he wants to come.”  Well, of course he wanted to come (the guy loves airplanes, and he loves camping, and he loves hanging out with my dad, so…no-brainer.  :)).  So, we headed out and picked him up at our pastor’s house on the way up.

It was at our pastor’s house that I got my first wake-up call that maybe – just maybe – I might have been wrong about everything.  That maybe I hadn’t completely forgiven Tony…and maybe he didn’t really hate me.  (shocker, huh?)  Anyway, we grabbed his stuff and threw it in the back of the truck and we were hopping in, when dad goes “OK, who’s sitting up front and who’s sitting in the back?”  Well, in the past, Tony always jumped in the front, thinking that that was his ‘proper’ place, as the older of the two of us.  So I kinda looked at him, and he looked at me, and then he said “Here, you sit up front and I’ll hop in back.”  Well, after he picked me up off the ground, we hopped in and headed north.

While we were driving up, Dad and Tony were kinda talking, and I was doing some thinking.  When we got there, we started setting up tents and just getting our campsite set up.  As the weekend progressed, we started having more and more fun – just getting to hang out, ride around on our bikes, sitting by the campfire late at night just talking.  There were two incidents that made me realize that I had way more work to do on myself – the first being when we went out to lunch one day, we went to a buffet, and as I was getting ready to go get some food, Tony came walking back to the table with two full plates (not an abnormal occurrence with that boy.  :))  But when he sat down, I saw that one plate was full of all different kinds of food…and the other plate was loaded with chocolate covered strawberries.  Of course, being the non-reformed girl I was (and still am to some extent) I thought “Well that selfish little imp, he took all the strawberries, I bet!”  How little did I know!?  He set the plate down and said “Hey, I saw these up there and figured I’d load up on ‘em so when you wanted some, you could have some.”  Yes, I just about crawled under the table.  The second thing was when we got back to camp that day, Dad asked one of us to get out and undo the string that was around our site – well, I was getting out to do it, figured no way would Tony get out and do it (is anyone else seeing the pattern!?) – but he was out of his door before I even got my seatbelt unfastened!

So, I had a lot of stuff to mull over after we got home.  And I did…but the unforgiveness was rooted pretty deeply, so when my mom said that Cheryl and her kids were coming down for Christmas, I had a fit.  My cousin and his girlfriend were coming out, and I didn’t want Tony messing stuff up.  (just say it…I’m a dense sort of person, and I really don’t catch on…….at all.)  But I said ‘fine’ because what else are you going to say!?  So, they came down – and shortly before Christmas morning, I realized “Hey, he’s not so bad…he’s kinda fun to have around!”  And we had a great Christmas vacation.

Then this spring, Cheryl asked me to design Tony’s graduation invitations for his high school graduation.  (OK, get ready…here comes Miss Dense again!)  I was kinda shocked – I didn’t really want to do them…but part of the reason was that I figured Tony wouldn’t want me doing his invitations.  But I did them.  And I got to talk to Tony about them a little – what pictures he wanted on there, and what he wanted them to look like.  I had a great time!!!  So, I got them done, and gave them to his mom, and thought “OK, awesome…I can get along with my brother now!  We’re good.”  Yeah, right.  Life is never that simple!  Tony’s graduation in MI was the same weekend as one of my friends’ here in WI – and I was committed to being in MI.  So I worked through my bad attitude about that – which actually didn’t take nearly as long as it used to – and we went up there.  I planned a surprise for him – taking two of his friends from down here up with my dad and I for his graduation.   And, on the way up there, I was totally and completely OK with the fact that Tony was probably going to just want to hang out with the guys and not really see me all weekend…and I was really and truly OK with that.  (I’m such an idiot sometimes!)  Not.  He took Kerry, Jason, his sister Margie and I all out to the beach – a 3 mile hike out, and a 3 mile hike back – and we spent hours out there!  Sure enough – we had a great time…….together.

And, to top it all off, while his mom was down recently, Tony called to talk to her – only she was still outside and the campfire.  So, I talked to him for a few minutes, figured we would make small talk, and then he’d hang up and his mom would call him back later.  This time (thank God) it wasn’t because I thought he didn’t like me…I just know he doesn’t really like talking on the phone.  An hour later, however, after we’d talked about politics, girlfriends, oil spills, and video games – it appeared that he was pretty well over that phobia.  😀

Now, I found out on Wednesday that Tony – my ‘brother,’ my ex-worst-enemy-new-friend wants to join the Coast Guard.  Frankly, I don’t want him to!  Why?  Because I don’t think he’d be good at it?  HARDLY.  I think he’s do great at it – and I know he’d love it.  But I would hardly ever see him…and now that we’re getting along, I’m really doing to miss him!!!

But, he’s coming down tomorrow to hang out for a week, then go back up to the EAA air show with my dad and I again.  And this year – I can’t wait!!

I hope you all enjoyed this – and that it’s helped you out in some way.

Until next time,
~ Jacki