The Evening After the Tornado Skipped Town

The first thing you should know about Frankfort, Kentucky, is that it’s the state capital.

Not Lexington or Louisville or any of the more obvious choices, but Frankfort. Like the other, unfamiliar state capitals of Carson City, Nevada, Augusta, Maine, or Salem, Oregon, Frankfort could always come in handy if you’re in a trivia contest; you never know when one of those events is going to pop up in your life. Better be prepared, I always say.

Frankfort is also a pretty little town of rolling foothills, a looming state capitol building and Daniel Boone’s monumental gravesite. More important to me, though, is the second thing you should know: It’s where my sister got married this week.

She and her now-husband Mike got married 24 hours after the tornado sirens wailed, a funnel cloud hopscotched around the town, and the rain was so torrential it slanted horizontally. (My sister has always liked drama.)

By the time they said their vows in a nearby nature preserve, though, the clouds were white and harmlessly puffy and the breeze was mild. My sister looked radiant in a deep purple dress Mike referred to as “eggplant” and a neutral-colored hat. Mike, whom I’d just met the day before, looked pretty good himself.

The officiating judge wore his black robe and spoke in a deep, appropriately respectful baritone. The guests — 30 or so who were mostly Mike’s friends and family, since Frankfort is his home town — gathered around in a semi-circle.

Both my sister and Mike were widowed after long marriages. They had worked together decades ago at an El Paso radio station and became friends again over the Internet. When I heard Mike had traveled with my sister to some of her favorite haunts in Eastern Europe like Sarajevo and Bucharest, I realized it must be love.

My sister has lived abroad for most of her adult life, first in Israel and now in Poland. Her life and mine have been almost entirely different — hers adventurous, childless, and — again — full of drama. I’m forever fascinated by the vastly different wants and needs people have in their lives, in what is most important to them.

So, in many obvious ways, my sister and I are very different. But that overlooks the profound ways she and I are so similar. We have virtually identical senses of humor, writing styles, minds and curiosity about the world. She is the person who came and stayed with us when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, who sat and watched movies with me in the afternoon till I fell asleep, who came along when I got my hair shorn off before it fell out.

“You have nice ears,” she said, staring at the floor. She didn’t know what else to say, she said later; what a stupid remark. I felt differently. It made me smile at a time when I didn’t have much to smile about.

In so many ways, she and I understand each other better than anyone else ever will — husbands, children, or good friends. We were the only two who shared a childhood in a series of small ranch houses in desolate towns where the wind spat red dust. We were the only witnesses to a family life with a treacherous undercurrent of bitterness and rage. (I’ve never quite understood people like my husband who had happy childhoods.)

But that was the long-buried past. In the present, I saw my sister happy and in love with a great guy who is crazy about her. I can think of few things in the world that could make me happier. May they have a wonderful life together.

(Copyright 2012 by Ruth Pennebaker)

My sister is an excellent writer. Please check out earlier posts she’s written for this site on: teaching English in PolandPolish traditions, Fat Thursdays, and recovering after a great loss

25 comments… add one
  • Anton Link

    Sometimes I wish I had that kind of relationship with my biological sibling. It would be nice to know that someone else in the world remembered what I did of our weird childhood.

    I love this entry. Your writing always tugs at my brain, but this feels especially eloquent and beautiful.

  • Bonehead Link

    Really nice. A clear look at life and appreciation for the best parts. Thanks.

  • It is wonderful you have a great relationship with your sister. Someone once told me the only ones who travel/stay with you your entire life are your siblings. If you are lucky enough to have one or more, keep them close and cherish them.

  • What a wonderful tribute to your sister. It makes me wish I could be closer with mine. I love the ears remark. One really never knows what to say in times such as those, no matter how close we are to that person. I’m glad you have a sister that makes you smile. 🙂

  • Ruth,

    Ruth, I love this. What a joyous occasion! What a beautiful celebration! What a lovely tribute to your sister. As we discussed in NYC, you and I share many of the same sibling feelings. And when it comes right down to it, it’s all about love, isn’t it?
    So I’d love–if I only knew how–to link your blog to mine. And my LOVE ‘N STUFF blog to yours. And next time you are in NY, I’d love a look at your “nice ears.” Congrats to your sister.
    Love ‘n Stuff, Nancy

  • Congratulations to your sister. The thought of the bond you share with your sister makes me feel warm inside. As an only child, it’s something I’ve missed in my life.

  • Cheryl Link

    Ruth, you and Ellen are lucky to have each other. I can just hear Ellen telling you that you had nice ears! I wish that I could have gone to the wedding. I’m sure it was beautiful. I can’t wait to see the pictures.
    Love, Cheryl

  • As a Texas writer, I know that when the tornado skips town, life seems worth twice as much the next day.

  • Chris Link

    I have been reading and really enjoying your beautifully written posts for a couple of months, and this one was so lovely that I wanted to write a comment. The story may have resonated with me because I also am fortunate to have a wonderful sister, but it was a joy to read.
    Thanks for your humorous and serious tales.

  • Marie Link

    Okay, I’m teary! Thank you for such a lovely post.

  • Sheryl Link

    What a nice story. You two are fortunateto be so in sync with one another despite so many vast differences. There’s definitely an unbreakable bond there.

  • Cindy A Link

    Man, nothing’s better when someone else’s happiness makes YOU happy, too. That’s real love!

  • Just lovely, Ruth. I can really feel your joy for your sister. So glad she has you — and now new husband Mike too.

  • Loved this. Always wished I had had a sister. Hope to meet yours someday.

  • Sisters are special. I am so glad you have each other. And, that the other Geezersister is happy.

  • That OTHER Geezersister has left you hugging a dry rain barrel, trying to make high drama out of NYC and dining room chandeliers, throughout your blogging Life! So be it! You’ve made good with your share of High drama! And where is she through all of this? Spawning tornadoes in little-known Frankfort with an aubergine dress! And how can you claim your husband had a happy childhood — He hates cupcakes and drives a prism! I’ll bet Mike had a happy childhood! Ask your sister, the drama queen!

  • Ellen Link

    Hey, Winston, Mike’s childhood sucked big time. His mother is a monster and his dad disconnected, and worse yet, both are still alive! This old drama queen never expected to be anybody’s daughter-in-law. Shit happens, right?

  • Ward Link

    Ellen, may you have the most wonderful marriage! Congratulations!

  • Ellen, Mike did not have a childhood– He just rode his bike onto Elm St. and ran into a Nightmare!!! Ask your sister about them. she had a few rounds of drinks with nightmares over the course of her blogging Life.

  • What a delightful story about your sister and how much you truly enjoy one another.

  • Huge congratulations to your sister. There is something that makes me so sad-happy happy-sad about this later-in-life love story of hers.

  • She has a wry smile. It’s miraculous how you can be so different from your sister and still so connected. There’s something about bonds between sisters. I’m hoping my kids stay close as they get older. They have this pledge they do to figure out if one of them is telling the truth–they’ll ask, “Sister’s promise?” They’ve never fibbed about something when the sister’s promise is invoked. I tried to get in on it once, but was told pretty much to butt out, it was a sister thing.

  • It sounds like she and her husband have a beautiful friendship and romance. Many blessings and happy years ahead for them.

  • merr Link

    Best wishes and congratulations to the bride and groom…and the families!

  • They are so lucky to have found each other again~
    A beautiful story beautifully told.

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