My younger sister and I grew up with two friends, both the daughters of one of our Mom's friends from childhood. One sister was JUST older than me. One sister JUST older than my sister, Jena. These two made natural playmates and we're all still friendly to this day, though none of see each other as much as we'd like.
The younger sister had some reading difficulty when she was in school, and at age 16 was recounting her experience of taking the driving test with assistance to my sister, Jena.
The friend said that she'd had the written portion of the test read aloud and because of that she wasn't worried at all about how she'd done as that one went on. She felt confident in every answer. My sister was flabbergasted. "They'll read the test out loud to you?" she said. The friend answered, "Sure, if you need it."
Jena, my genius of sister, and I say that without humor at all, she really is brilliant, answers back settling it in her own mind.
"Of course they'd have to read the driver's test out loud. At least for the blind people, you know?"
This has been a joke retold and short-handed for laughter amongst the family ever since. It's Sharpton mythology now (although she really did say it. It took her a few moments to realize her mistake even). It's one of the first stories I think about when I think of her, and I've told all my children and made them promise they'll tell it at her funeral one day a million years from now.
What do you say about your first best friend? Your oldest confidant? The one that covered for you with mom and commiserated with you about dad and helped you soak up all the spoils that nana and papaw laid out?
Jena is the bomb, to the use the parlance of my time. The bomb dot com even. She's got decent taste in music and great taste in men (Hey, Sam!) and two of the cutest nephews I could ever wish for.
She and I were roommates for 3 years in college and she's by far the neatest roommate I ever had (if not the friendliest all the time). She put up with bad girlfriends and bad breakups and bad odors from my end of the house, all with only the minimal necessary "tsk, tsk'ing" and "You should know better"ing.
I've learned a million lessons from and through Jena, but the one I wish I had a better grasp of is the magic trick that she started when we were both children.
We'd get birthday money, or Christmas money or maybe money for mowing the yard or house chores, and mine would immediately feed the 80's or 90's north Louisiana economy through purchase and commerce. Jena's meanwhile, was sunken. Buried at the bottom of one of her chest of drawers. Then, suddenly, she'd want to go shopping, or there would be a big sale at the mall or some event she got invited to and boom, she'd bring out this fat stack of cash from the magic money multiplying drawer. She's still pretty good about that, honestly. And she never taught that trick to big bro. Hint, hint!
She did teach me that patience is often better than pressure. "Bless you" can be as mean as "F you". Jenga is a game that is about more than just rebuilding the tower over and over. That when you lose someone you love, as long as you remember them, they're never gone.
She taught me that Jena has one N, a soft E and one of the biggest hearts I've ever known.
Thanks for being my sister, my sidekick and occasionally my shoulder to cry on. I hope I was at least occasionally good at paying that back, even if I never paid back the cash. Happy happy birthday, seester. I hope it's a great one.
For now, I’m Joel, this is my story or one of them anyway, thanks for listening.