It is my birthday. I am 37 and on this day it’s raining. A misty, drizzly, cool wet that goes straight to my bones as I walk Stella. Over my shoulder, I see the industrious, quiet exhaust of my sister’s trusty truck “Mighty Max” as it warms up for a long journey. It was on SarahKay’s birthday, a little over a month ago, that I first saw it. It made me smile then as it does now, but I marvel at the difference in why.

When Sarah Kay first showed up, there was an air of panic on our part; our carefully orchestrated world had fallen apart with the sudden departure of our child care. Maggey’s work was ramping up, mine was carrying me out of the state every other week and the two most precious tyrants in our life were not about to demand less.  And in swooped SarahKay, the perfect solution. So why was I anxious to see her truck for the first time?

Life on the Tumbling’O Ranch was only dry in its weather. We grew up chasing lizards, throwing dirt clods and watching the horizon for any hint of rain. I am the second in the lineup of five. When I left home, there were 3 (really 4 because Rebecca is more sister than cousin) little kids or budding teenagers in my wake. It grew increasingly difficult to keep track of how my family was doing as I tried to find my own way. Sure, there were the occasional family reunions, but those five stolen minutes of individual connection were never enough to truly dig out from under the years of ever thickening dust that tends to coats the relationships of our youth. Simply put, there was never enough time to chip away at who we were to get to who we are.

And then she was here.

When my brother Sam moved to the Midwest, we had exactly one altercation to define our working relationship. After one instance of trying to keep him from doing something I deemed idiotic, he turned to me and said these words:

Dude. You are my older brother. Not my bigger brother. Let’s keep it that way.

I will always remember that, and I had prepared to apply that life lesson to my sister who had swooped in on a warm southwestern wind. Even with that mental preparation, I could not help but be anxious. What would happen when we had time to learn who we had both become? So much had changed and neither one of us had ever gotten to truly explain where we were coming from. The thought of losing the mold of who we once were meant that we would never be able to put the dusty, youthful images that we held of each other back together. Once you clean the patina of time, what you have left is all there is, for better or worse.

And then the time flew by. Bam!

Just like that, the wake of her travels is washing over me as she says her goodbyes to my children. They adore her beyond their handful of words. Maggey and I sat silently last night dreading the bittersweet moment when the house would be bereft of her bizarre sounds. As I stand watching the cold rain cool the exhaust, I find that I am already missing the brave and shining woman who I have come to know. SarahKay is every bit the courageous, talented and loving gypsy that I had hoped she had become, and we were all blessed to have had a moment of her time. I smile because it is a fitting departure, and one that I hope will bring her back our way again.

The desert’s greatest gift is that of healing rain; and for my birthday, that is what I receive.

5 thoughts on “Rain

  1. What a beautiful gift to have had your sister with you all this time. She sounds just as amazing as every Oplinger I have met so far, and I long to meet the entire clan even more now! Sounds like she and I would totally hit it off too! Here’s to the amazing gift that family is. I know you will toast to that on your birthday too! May this year bring your loved ones even closer together, both emotionally and geographically! Xoxo

  2. Love every single Oplinger!! You are all, each one, incredible, independent and amazing people!!! Our gift has been knowing you!! …especially you SaraKay!!
    Travel safely with huge white family hugs around you shoulders..doesn’t sound PC…but truly is!!! You are a gift of a friend, beyond compare!!! Love Sassy and papa or whatever his name is now!!!

  3. As you children create your lives, SarahKay always stands out in her courage and desire to grow and experience everything. I am so glad you and she had this opportunity to renew those bonds from childhood. Can’t wait to see Sarah again.

  4. I weened myself (cold turkey) from nursing at 13 months because I wanted to be like David.
    I taught myself to pee standing up as a young child because I wanted to be like David.
    I got married a year after David.
    I’m starting to have my children two years after David.
    David, I am so glad you are an amazing older brother . . . because apparently I am subconsciously still trying to be like you! Love you so much!

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