Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Supporting Cast Part 3: "Levelheaded Lisa"

When I started this blog, my intention was to write humorous anecdotes and stories about my life, to include tales of my family members. I believe (Please correct me if I’m wrong…on 2nd thought, keep it to yourself!) I have been able to inject a little humor in my previous posts, but now, the telling of my sister Lisa challenges me. The challenge is, I can’t think of many truly humorous events to share about my sister. It’s not that she’s not funny, because she’s had her funny moments. The thing is, when I think about Lisa and what she’s meant in my life the words “rock steady”, “dependable”, “supportive” and “encouraging” come to mind rather than any slapstick hijinx. Therefore, I will speak from this angle rather than a humorous one. If you find something in here that makes you laugh, well, that’s just gravy!

Lisa is three years senior to me, thus, the eldest of the four kids. She was first out of the shoot. A trailblazer. She paved the way for the rest of us. Lisa deserves the credit for many of the things that my two brothers and I were able to do for the simple fact that she softened up our parents for us. By the time we came along, Ma and Daddy were well broken in.

Lisa always seemed to be “in on” everything as if she were a member of the family’s management committee. For instance, she knew well in advance when we were going out somewhere whereas the rest of us found out when we got there! She even knew where the Christmas toys were hidden weeks before December 25th! Ma and Daddy made her privy to stuff because she was able to keep a secret. I think if I knew what the other kids were getting for Christmas, I’d be able to sit on it for perhaps a few hours…a day at the most; then it was “See, that’s why I know what you’re getting for Christmas and am not telling YOU!” Even as a kid, Lisa was trustworthy.

Lisa has always been very confident and “sure-footed” in my estimation. She’s a born leader. When she wants to do something, she does it. When she’s got something to say, she says it. She’s ALWAYS had a job. In fact, I believe she was recycling aluminum cans from the cradle! ß Gravy?? No? Well, fine then! It’s no surprise to me that she paid her way through college, helped support the family and started her own very successful accounting consultancy firm (see link at right for DeAnder & Associates, LLC). When I was in middle school, Lisa used some of her meager wages, earned at the People’s Drug Store, to buy us winter coats when money was tight. To be honest, I can’t say she did it without complaint because she did complain, but she did it just the same!

We, as kids in general, didn’t fight each other much. Whatever squabbles we did have were minor ones even for the 70’s. I can’t recall having a single fight with Lisa. The truth of the matter is, I’ve always looked up to and admired her and wouldn’t dream of hurting her.

Back in grade school, as with most kids, we had our little run-ins with other kids. As a family, we were well conditioned to “stick up” for each other away from the house. As the oldest, Lisa was charged with being the family enforcer. There were a few times when she had to step in and “take up” for us. One such time was the conflict with the dastardly Richardson Gang. OK, they weren’t a “gang” per se but there were three of ‘em and they were known to pick on other kids. The youngest, Martin, was my age, but was much bigger than I was then. In fact, they all were rather large for their age. Perhaps this is why they chose to pick on smaller kids. Now, I can’t recall how we got on their radar on this particular day. What I do know is my brother Mike and I were walking home after school and out of nowhere, the Richardsons! They started picking with us for no reason. I wanted no parts of them. I just wanted to get home and watch Ultraman! I remember trying to walk through the gate at the edge of the football field and one of the Richardsons was blocking my path. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was terrified! All of a sudden, Lisa stepped between the offending Richardson and me and basically backed him down. He was much bigger than she was and I don’t believe the Richardsons were above fighting a girl, but on this occasion, he sure backed down. After watching many episodes of “The Dog Whisperer”, I now know that Lisa exhibited what Cesar Milan calls “calm assertive dominance” over this Richardson. I call it the “Jedi Mind Trick” – “You don’t really want to beat my brother to a pulp! Move along!” I guess the old adage is true that says most bullies are cowards and if you stand up to him, the coward will flee. Of course, these days, if you stand up to a bully, there’s a good chance that you won’t be standing much longer. As I type this entry, I’m smiling to myself because I can just hear Lisa saying that she has no recollection of this. Well, that’s because it never happened. I made it all up! ß Just kidding. It did actually happen. She probably won’t remember it because, at the time, she probably didn’t see this event as worth remembering. She simply did, then, what she continues to do today: her duty.

I want to publicly thank my sister for being a girl and woman of character. She was never one of those women who dated a lot of dudes and never had a bad reputation. She went to school, went to work and dated the same guy throughout high school. I never had to deal with the shame of having a sister who was “well known” (in the biblical sense) in the neighborhood. In fact, in the neighborhood in which we lived, Lisa could have been called “The Untouchable”. Most of the guys would have loved to get next to her, but she simple never gave them the chance. It didn’t hurt that Daddy played the role of Old Yeller, rendering the guys too afraid to be a threat.

Lisa recently celebrated her 40th birthday. To commemorate this milestone, her husband, Pat, threw a huge bash and commissioned a video in which family, friends and loved ones recalled past experiences with Lisa, expressed their love and wished her well. I will repeat now what I said then on that video: There is no other woman in the world that I’d rather have as a sister. God knew what He was doing when He gave me her.

Friday, March 17, 2006


I went with my father to Shop-Rite liquor store on New Hampshire Ave in Langley Park, MD. While perusing the aisles and shelves of spirits (hooch), I spied (saw on the ground) an errant wallet on the ground that some unsuspecting patron had absentmindedly left behind. In my youthful glee, I screamed out,


Dad, being the quick-minded thinker that he was, quickly bottled up my excitement as not to alert some other passerby to the treasure laying not 10 feet away. We quickly, but nonchalantly sauntered in that direction, looking this way and that, and dad instructed me to scoop it up. Ingenious maneuver as constables are reluctant to fingerprint a child. In my eagerness to, ah, find out the rightful owner and return the wallet :), I commenced to yanking that joint open, but Dad, knowing the ways of the lawless, quickly tucked it away for viewing at a more opportune time and place. All the way home, I couldn't take my mind off of the massive amount of loot that had to be in the wallet. I mean, why have a wallet if it's not full of cash? When we got home, my eyes were glued on Dad in anticipation of him opening the wallet and uncovering our newfound treasure. To my confusion, Dad sent me off to play. "Aah, playing it cool in case we were followed!", I thought. I went off to play in the back yard. A short while later, Dad called me in the house and handed me a wad of three dollar bills. I assumed it was the money from the wallet, snatched it out of his hand and awaited the arrival of the urban kids' best friend, ICE CREAM MAN! I was going to blow the whole wad on Bomb Pops, Push-Ups, Nowlatas (Now-&-Laters), Rock Creek Fruit punch soda and whatever else I could get. I was a happy kid that day.

One day, long after Dad has passed on and I was a dad myself, my thoughts returned to that wallet and questions started to plague me. Why didn't Dad want to open the wallet right away? Why didn't he say something like, "here's the money from the wallet"?

Though my opportunity to ask Dad about it while he was still with us is long gone, I began to piece together my theory based on my recollections of the events of that day and Dad's character and love for me.

He didn't want to open the wallet in front of me because he knew I'd be disappointed if there was nothing inside. Therefore, he sent me away so he could look in private. There was probably no money in the wallet to begin with, but wanting to spare me that disappointment, Dad reached into his own pocket and pulled out an amount that, by my young standards then, was substantial. $3!!! He didn't say, "here's the money from the wallet" because that would've been a blatant lie <-- a terrible thing to teach your kid! All in all, Dad did what any loving parent, such as he was, would do and I love him and respect him even more for doing it!

Being the Christian that I am, I would take a found wallet to the store manager or something, but when a similar opportunity such as this arises where I can do the same for my kids, I'll surely take it! Rest assured that, when I've been called home to be with the Lord (oh happy day!) and I am reunited with my earthly father, I'll ask him all about it.