On the Benefits of Shared Genes

There was one person I knew I really needed to talk with on Mother’s Day, someone who I knew was going through the same range of emotions that I was…someone who could make me laugh when no one else could while I was missing Mom so much on this first Mother’s Day without her. As I sat on the deck, working up the strength to call, my phone rang out with what used to be the ring I had assigned to my mom’s number, but had given it to a new owner….

“AhhOOOOOgah….AhhOOOOOgah!”

My sister Linda….just the person I hoped it would be. 

We started gently with “How are you? Are you hanging in there” and got to the “I am really missing her today- why does it hurt so badly again?”

After we got past the obvious, we went to what we do best together…we told stories and laughed. A lot. And loudly. It felt so good to let go and let humor soothe my achy heart. My sister and I both have whacky senses of humor, and we see the world and its craziness through very upbeat and  similar lenses. After telling funny Mom stories, we went into the crazy things that have happened to us…there is always a story to share the we don’t know about each other. 

I started with the story of the millipede on the band room floor at the middle school in Chicago during my performance last week that made the little girls scream. That morphed into the time Mom had me perform for her friends at the nursing home where she used to volunteer and the woman sitting in front began to scream, rock, and hold her ears as I played. We were both laughing so hard we were crying at this point. My sister could have been a comedienne, as her timing with side comments is always perfect…and that makes us laugh more. 

Linda’s story was the best by far.  Her career has been as a caregiver for seniors, and many years ago she was working with a new patient, a small black woman from ‘the Islands’. Linda always laughed and joked with her patients, doing her best to cheer them, and this time was no different. When Linda approached her, the woman said that Linda was a voodoo princess and needed to stay away from her. Linda thought the woman was kidding, as no one had mentioned that there might be an issue with dementia. She decided to play along, wiggling her fingers beside her face and saying, “Booga Booga!”  Unfortunately, the woman really did think Linda was a voodoo princess, and it didn’t go over well. My sister has the kindest heart and would never hurt anyone intentionally- she just hadn’t been made aware of the mental issues. She felt terribly about what had happened….but after all these years, it made for yet another crazy story of the things that always seem to happen to us…just like they did our mother. Our stories leave no doubt that we are from the same gene pool, and that we are Dorothy Williams’ daughters. Too much shared goofiness to be coincidence. 

I am so grateful for my sister, her kind heart, and her wonderful sense of humor. She has become my touchstone, a connection with my history and that of our family. We know that we each carry a part of Mom in us, and we can always feel her close when we come together in laughter. Linda helps me not to take things too seriously, to see the lighter side of most any situation. She is also fiercely loyal and protective of those she loves. She was fourteen when I was born, and took good care of me while Mom was reeling from the divorce, having to grow up way too soon with all of the responsibility that was thrust upon her young shoulders. 

Talking to Linda was the very best part of my day. She reminded me that I am not alone, that laughter is only a phone call away. We don’t choose to live in the past; we know that life goes on, and we flow with it gladly…but we will always honor Mom’s memory with our stories, our laughter, our strength, and our love. It’s in our genes. 


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