My baby sister Donna and I have been close ever since she was a baby. Now that we’re both baby boomers we’re still together. (She finally forgave me for burying myself in my books when I was supposed to be babysitting for her. And I finally forgave her for chopping off most of my Barbie doll’s hair. She was a toddler at the time; guess I’m finally over it.)
We’re as different as Coke Zero and The Republic of Tea. I like to hop on planes; she likes to hop in her BMW. I take the world view; she likes her backyard. I’m a worrywart; she never, ever sweats the small stuff.
She’s a banker who, if there were more time in the day, would also be teaching school, running a restaurant and a resort for Labrador retrievers. Yeah, I’m biased; but ask anyone who knows her. Does everything well, and has a gigantic heart and funny bone. She’s as comforting as a comforter. Everyone on two and four legs loves her.
She suddenly became a single mom when her Baloo Bear of a husband had a massive stroke at the young age of 38. He hung on for 12 more years, giving as much love and support as he could. He lived long enough to know his daughter from his first marriage was going to make him a grandfather, and to see the son he had with my sister become a teenager.
He succumbed to another stroke at the same time she lost her job. She was really on her own then.
Like so many others she struggled to provide for her son and two Labs, one of whom had such a bad leg, he would have been put down if it hadn’t been love at first sight for both of them. He’s in constant pain, but is as good-natured as she is.
She’s grateful to have landed another job, and, after all she’s been through, takes nothing for granted.
She looks like our late dad, and as time goes on, like our dad’s mom. I look like our late mom, and as time goes on, our mom’s mom. But we’re both proud Lifschitzes.
Legend has it when our Grandma Anna Lifschitz had our dad in a Catholic hospital, a nun inquired about the last name. Grandma was too embarrassed to say Lifschitz to a nun so she made up Lippstone on the spot.
Having come from the same mold and place — the Joisey Shore — we share the same values and are both nuts about dogs and the beach.
So when she invited me to share a long weekend with her at a beachfront cottage in Florida, I was there. We’d never vacationed together as adults.
We programmed the GPS on the BMW from her driveway in Charlotte, North Carolina. Two middle-agers on a joy ride.
The biggest excitement was trying to hook up the Motown oldies on her iPhone to the car’s sound system.
Our love affair with junk food stems from childhood. Growing up, we had to fight our parents for all the bad carbs. I always marveled at other kids’ homes where cookies and cake actually sat for a few days instead of mere minutes. So civilized.
The best part was having the luxury of reverting back to childhood.
When my sister started singing, I started yawning — loudly. We used to do this when my mom sang. It was our way of ribbing her about her lack of vocal attributes.
Whea’s ya sista? asked my sister, a reference to a guy I dated when Nixon was president, who had a heavy New York accent. We always got a good laugh over that one.
Not to mention ages ago, when she was visiting me and I was spending the better part of an hour trying to remove a contact lens from my eye. It wouldn’t budge. She got the bright idea to cut an onion and put it in my face. My eyes watered, but it still wouldn’t move. She took me to an emergency room where the slogan at the time was “The Wellness People.”
The Wellness Persons took a good look and asked me if I’d actually inserted the lens that morning. It was so long ago, I’d forgotten I never had. Did enough damage poking around for nothing that I had to wear a Moshe Dayan eye patch for a day.
Donna passed the Coppertone lotion to me. Said the odor evoked the old days. Took a whiff, and it was as if I were back on the beach in Asbury Park, NJ, with a plane banner flying across the sky with the words Tan Don’t Burn — Coppertone.
Quality time was had by all.
Footnote: Amelia Island is near Cumberland Island in Georgia, a rugged wilderness park where John F. Kennedy Jr. married Carolyn Bessette. It’s accessible only by boat.
For more information on Amelia Island, click here.
For more information on Cumberland Island, click here.