In Debt

One of my favorite pictures of Gwyn with her granddaughter Mary Hannah taken by my photographer granddaughter Lauren DamiskinosI’ve always told my sister Gwyn that she owed me. Luckily for her, I was there on the day she was born. Third of the McGee girls, she has a birthday tomorrow. She was born at home just like the first two of us. Along in the afternoon, a five-year-old neighbor came from down the street to see the new baby. We’ll call her Mary Ann since I don’t remember her name but know she was Southern and needs a double one. She was on a mission.

After finding the new baby satisfactory, Mary Ann said to my mother, “Mrs. McGee, since you already have two girls, and I have two brothers, why don’t I trade you one of them for this new girl?”

Before Mama could think of an answer that spared the child’s feelings, she said I pulled myself up to my full three-and-a-half-year-old height and said, “No, sirree, that’s my little sister.” Clearly without me, Gwyn might have wound up in some other family.

That’s not all she owes me, although I admit to being a little slow on the uptake on this next one. In our teenage years, I liked to sew, and Gwyn liked to wear pretty clothes. She would come in with two patterns and her best manner as though she was doing me a favor and ask, “Virginia Ann, which one of these would you rather use to make me a new dress?” Tom Sawyer could have taken lessons from her. By the time I figured out that I was the one doing the favor, she looked so good in the new dress that I didn’t care.

In adulthood, the one in debt has switched. Mama aged and moved close to Gwyn, making her the primary caretaker. Gwyn’s consistent loving attention as Alzheimer’s Disease robbed Mama of herself has left me in a debt that could only be resolved by my declaring bankruptcy.

So when she asked me to make 200 of my homemade sandwich rolls, a favorite of her daughter Sallie, for Sallie’s wedding reception, my answer was, “Of course.” [Like her mother, Sallie looked wonderful in the wedding dress and made it worth my while.]

Tomorrow, I hope Gwyn has a happy birthday and knows that I consider keeping her in the family as one of the major accomplishments of my life.