No one to pick on. No one to torment. No one to beat up on, physically and emotionally. No one to cheat in Monopoly, or any other game we played. No one to remind that I was the favored child.
Elsa, who is four years and four days younger, turns 61 today. Guess I didn't ruin her life after all.
She has gone from darling daughter and spoiled little sister -- spoiled by all but me -- to would-be baton twirler, Woodlawn pep squad member, LSU graduate, social worker, bride to Jim Wellen, transplanted Southern girl to Yankee, mother of three, Hospice sales person and now -- most significantly -- grandmother.
|Oma Elsa and her first grandchild, Mr. Max Wellen.|
In late February, she became Oma Elsa. Max Wellen, I'm guessing, will be the first of several grandchildren for Jim and Elsa. Mazel tov.They got the edge on us in children -- three to two -- and in a few years, we expect they'll have the edge in grandchildren (we have three). And that will be fine. We're very proud of Elsa's kids; obviously, she and Jim have done a lot of things right.
So she wasn't as mentally deranged as I thought. It's tough when your older brother has more brains, more talent, more personality, more good looks.
I'm kidding. I'm kidding. OK, Elsa?
No, actually Elsa looks a lot like me, except her hair is much darker now (insert laugh here). She is -- if you can believe this -- an even zanier, even louder version of me.
She and Jim met in New Orleans and lived there a while, then moved to Newport News, Va., then Scotch Plains, N.J. -- closer to Jim's roots -- and they have been in Voorhees, N.J. -- near Philadelphia -- for two decades. They have built a solid base of friends there, but I expect one day they'll return to New Orleans, a place they love.
The kids are spread out -- Adam, with Tania and the baby, in Portland, Ore.; Josh and his new bride, Emily, in Houston; Abby, with her boyfriend, in her new job with AT&T in Hartford, Conn.
I know Elsa would like to have them all right close by because family -- as with us -- is so important to her.
She has been much more involved in the Jewish faith than I have, and she speaks -- and understands -- Dutch much better, even though I went to school in Holland, and she didn't.
Only Elsa knows what it was like for us as kids, making the long trip from Holland, eventually winding up in a neighborhood (Sunset Acres) that we each cherished, and living with our parents, who loved us dearly but sometimes didn't know what to do with two lively, squabbling kids. And while I really was treated royally, Elsa did have to play second fiddle a lot -- especially with my dad's interest in all things sports-related.
She found her own way, making a name for herself in school, even though lots of teachers already knew the name "Van Thyn" from the brilliant star who had passed through four years earlier.
Elsa did what I couldn't ... she went to the big university a good way from home. I was very proud when she chose LSU and, admittedly, a bit jealous (although I loved Louisiana Tech).
I did see one of my kids -- Jason -- go to LSU before one of Elsa's -- Josh -- went there. And because of her sons' interest, Elsa has become a bigger LSU football fan than she ever was, although she certainly knew what a winning program was like from the golden days at Woodlawn.
She was in the senior class -- the Joe Ferguson/Melvin Russell/Larry Davis class -- that gave Woodlawn two state championships in one school year (football, basketball) and almost two more in baseball and track and field. When we won the basketball title in Alexandria, Elsa was among those in the pep squad who started the chant, "We've got two!"
She worked in the Alumni House at LSU for the same man, Jack Fiser, who I worked for at La. Tech when he was the sports information director there for one year. That was a fortuitous connection; Mr. Fiser was among the very best writers -- and people -- I've ever been around. Elsa earned her degree in Social Work, and has stayed true to her field.
She was the cute little dark-haired girl who somehow turned up in so many of the same pictures I was in when we were kids. We went to the beach together in Holland and in Galveston, rode thousands of miles in the backseat of the car on vacation trips and trips to Minden, Arkadelphia and many points in the Ark-La-Tex. We played Monopoly and other games -- she never won -- and "underground car" under the blankets at home. I made her compete in track on the streets in Sunset Acres and convinced her of all sorts of stuff she didn't really believe. We did hula-hoops together, and she loved the Beatles as much as I did.
She liked Casey and Ken and Ben and most of my friends who came around a lot. She was bright and talkative, and cute, and a brat, and a pest -- and I gave her unmitigated grief.
I'm proud of the woman she's become, and of her family, and I hope she'll someday forgive me for the trouble I gave her.
It wasn't so bad having a little sister after all.