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CHAPTER ONE

Andrea & Kevin

I have never known a world without my sister Andrea, as she’s older than me by about 2.5 years.  As is the case with a lot of siblings, we really couldn’t be more different.  I was always the one looking for the spotlight, while she was quiet.  When I was restless and uncertain about the future, she was focused and always hard working.  As the oldest of 4 growing up (later 5), Andrea is the epitome of the eldest child.  She was always watched us younger kids when adults weren’t around, and worked as a babysitter for other families.  We used to play with our baby dolls together, her practicing for the real thing while I enjoyed that we were just pretending.  I still remember her list of 10 girl & 10 boy names that she hoped to name her own children after some day.  For the record, she has 3 kids and not 1 name came from that list.


Our relationship became strained as we entered into adolescence.  Our differences and inability to communicate started creating a wedge, and further unfortunate life events pushed us even farther apart.  We just didn’t have the skills or the language to understand what was going on.  There are several years of our relationship that involved very minimal communication and affection.  Regret for that loss of time isn’t necessarily the right word, but it’s close.  Everything happens for a reason, and maybe that space allowed for us to come together later.


We reconnected after the arrival of my first niece, Renee.  I’ll never forget the phone call because I was shocked to see her name pop up.  She was simply calling to see if I’d like to come spend some time with her since she was on maternity leave.  I assumed she must have been getting extremely bored for her to reach out to me of all people.  But the day I went over to her house to spend time with her altered the course of our relationship.  I don’t know if it was the big life change of having a child, or simply just time and growth, but Andrea opened up to me in a way she never had before.  She shared things with me regarding situations I had been completely in the dark about.  I felt ashamed for some of the ways I had treated her as a pubescent teenager, not knowing what she had been going through.  Even after everything she dealt with, and the way she was treated by her family, she held no resentment towards anyone.  This isn’t to say her life wasn’t deeply impacted by the things that happened in her life, but she overcame it.  She was one of my first role models for not only letting things go, but also generosity.  From that day on, we became sisters again.  We started talking more often, and I volunteered to watch her children once a week when she went back to work, and did so for 7 years.


At that point when we reconnected, my life was in a rut.  I was still living at my mother’s house and that relationship was becoming very toxic.  We were clashing in that way when the child is no longer a child and starts seeing the parent more as another adult rather than a parent.  I was still working as a manager in retail, and my boss had become abusive to the point that I walked out in the middle of a shift a week before Thanksgiving.  I was empowered, but scared, and didn’t know what to do.  Andrea & my brother-in-law Kevin are incredibly generous people.  They offered to take me in and let me live in the finished basement of their first home together.  She also helped me get a job immediately while I looked for something full-time.  


I stayed with them for almost 3 years.  I was still trying to figure my life out.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but knew I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing.  I was also in a terrible place financially, another big difference between the two of us.  She was always very good with her money, even as a kid.  By the time I was 21, I had TWELVE credit cards.  From working at a mall, I had a store credit card to every store that offered one.  If I remember correctly, the worst I got to was paying 25 separate monthly bills.  I was drowning.  Minimum monthly payments obviously weren’t cutting it, but I couldn’t afford to pay more.  Andrea & Kevin saw this taking its toll on me while I was there.  


One day, Andrea asked if she could talk to me.  She explained that she had spoken with Kevin, and together they decided to pay off my credit card debt.  Not for free of course, there was a contract in which I agreed to cancel all my cards except one and pay them a specified amount each month until it was paid off.  This act of generosity and kindness helped me start to turn my life around.  I knew it was the greatest gift I could have been given at that point in my life.  I didn’t want to let them down, or turn their gift into an act of enabling by repeating old patterns.  So I changed.  Their generosity gave me the ability to change.  They didn’t need to do that for me.  I never asked them.  It was a gesture of pure love that I will never forget.


This wouldn’t be the last time they would come to my rescue.  They let me move in with them on two more occasions when they were in their second home, both times following hard breakups.  Even with three children, they cleared a shelf in the refrigerator just for me.  I got a front row seat to their parenting over the years I spent with them, and could see what wonderful little humans they are raising.  The last time I lived with them, my little nephew moved into his big sister’s room so I could use his and he would tell me he was happy to share.  I’ll forever be grateful for the time I got to spend with them, even if I had Mickey Mouse stickers all over my walls.


Andrea & Kevin directly impacted my life for the better.  Their sense of family and helpfulness is unmatched.  I will be forever grateful for their love and generosity. 

Chapter Two