Friday, January 8, 2010

JUST ABOUT TODAY IN MY LIFE-She Was Here For Such A Short Time-But Not Forgotten

My sister Pam 01/08/1956-03/25/2004

I'm eight years older than my sister Pam.  She was the youngest of the four of us.  I remember her as a happy child.  When she found something really funny, she would laugh and we would want to laugh with her.  She had her own unique laughter.

She went to school and graduated, though it was very difficult for her.  In the fifties, there weren't any special schools for slow learners.  Not that we really ever thought about it.  She was just Pam, not very good in school.

Pam 1963-64 age 7-8
Pam 1963-64 age 7-8

When Pam was a toddler, she would sit on the floor against a wall and bang the back of her head against it.  Mom took her to a doctor, but they were never able to find the cause of why she would do this.  As she grew older she would stop doing it, but then there came a time when she would sit and rock.

When she was younger, she was a social person, but as the years went by, she withdrew and found it difficult to be out in public and even be around noise. She did graduate from high school, but was unable to hold down a job.  The older she became the more difficult it became for her to interact with people, to the point that she lived to watch TV, particularly soap operas. She did manage to pass her driving test to acquire a license. She even married for a time, but as she aged the more advanced her illness became, whatever the illness was.  The doctors were never able to give us a diagnosis.  Eventually Mom and my stepdad had to take her car away from her as one day she started to where she lived and ended up in another state, three days later.  The Tennessee police had stopped her because she was driving erratically and dangerously.  She seemed confused, she thought she was in Alabama, but couldn't find her street. She lived with my Mom and stepdad for a time. Then from 1990 to 1993, she lived with me.  In 1993, she moved back in with my Mom, and a short time with my brother.  Eventually, her care became a 24 hour need.  My Mom had to place her in a nursing home as she wasn't able to give her the physical help needed.

Pam died March 25th, 2004.  We had an autopsy performed to see if there could be a determination of what her illness was.  They still weren't able to put a name to it, but the conclusions were that before she was born, something triggered a gene that would age her brain, not her body, just her brain.  It wasn't hereditary, just something triggered a particular gene in her. The illness progressed faster and more advanced the older she became, particularly in her forties.

She was a loving person, I regret that we didn't and couldn't understand her illness.  I wish that it had been easier for her because the last few years of her life were in silent pain.  She was unable to communicate, except with her eyes.

Here is a fond memory from our sister Susan:

 Judy and I were talking a couple of years back on Pam's birthday after she had died, we were taking about missing her. I told Judy I was sad earlier that morning when I began thinking about Pam. I told Judy I remembered how much she loved playing Bingo and I could see her and Daddy playing it together in heaven...her nails all pretty and painted, and we all know how much she loved Elvis. When she would hear him singing in heaven, she would probably get up and walk over to him,  pat him on his arm,  smile and tell him that they have the same birthday.  I can see her happy and laughing.  Just wanted everyone to take a minute and remember her laughter and for all of us to smile remembering her today on her birthday.   

Here is a fond memory from her nephew Larry:

Well I can remember the time she came to the house and was holding me down on the couch, then jumping and sitting on my head suffocating me until I couldn’t Then on the way over to her house (after being traumatized lol) another one of her songs come on “Woo Woo Pussy Cat” and she was just yelling and singing right along with it!!!! Lol

My most favorite memory of her smiling was when she was playing bingo, and going to the nursing home in Collinsville to see her about every other week. She would just light up every time we walked thru that door, always asking about everyone else. You just don’t realize how special those times are, until they're gone and then you look back.

P.S. I will never forget the time we were over at their house and Ronald’s relatives were picking on us. She came walking down the road to where we were, and picked up the front of the go-cart that they were sitting in and flipped it over!!!!!

Larry J

Her niece Tasha had this response:

Oh my gosh Larry, I had forgoten all about the go- cart. She was so mad. LOL That was great though. She loved everyone.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY PAM!!!!! (pink was her favorite color)
1971 10th Grade

1975 Graduation Hazel Green High School


Wish you could be here with us today! You are missed!


Mighty M said...

What a wonderful tribute! I love the memories you compiled here too!

Mommy Attorney said...

This was a very touching tribute, Judy. Thank you for sharing with us on Pam's birthday. I'm sure she's having a slice of birthday cake in heaven!

Jules said...

Keep those memories strong, they are important.

Helen McGinn said...

What a lovely tribute to your sister, Judy.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post. This is why I love blogging, without it I never would have known about your lovely sister. I am glad you told us her story and it sounds like you were a great family for her and did all you could for her at the time. I'm sure she had a number of happy birthdays while she was here and I'm know she is feeling much better as she celebrates this birthday.

Judy Harper said...

M-Thanks! The memories do help with the missing of her.

Mommy-I think she's having cake and also letting Elvis know for the umpteenth time that they have the same birthday.

Jules-Have you had a similar experience? As I stated with M, they help with the missing of her.


Tesa-I have a tendency to only see what we didn't do, but you're right, up until the last five years, she did have happy birthdays! Thanks you so much for that insight!

Maria said...

Thank you for leading me over to this post. I find it more than a coincidence that I wrote about Eric and autism on the birthday of your sister.

We knew so little about mental disabilities back then and well, even today although there is progress, there is a long way to go.

In many ways, it sounds like your sister might have been a person with autism. It has many different symptons and differing degress on its spectrum. Each case seems different.

The most important thing to remember is you loved your sister and if there was more that you could have done to improve her condition, you and your family would have done so.

Judy Harper said...

Maria-I've heard it said there are no "coincidences". I feel people are placed in each other's lives for a reason.

Rummuser said...

Judy, it is always difficult to express what one wishes to in such posts. I just want to say that I relate to your feelings now.

Judy Harper said...

Ramana-Thanks! It is hard to get across sometimes what one sees in hindsight. On a day to day interaction, you accept without thinking, "this may be the last day" she will be able to do this. Then one day it's true.

Denise Burks said...


Thanks for sharing this story. I really appreciate your story. It makes me look at days gone by with a renewed appreciation.

Warmest Wishes!

Denise Burks

PS Glad you visited my blog and got a chuckle. The best humor is born of the most challenging moments, sometimes.

arlee bird said...

I've never had to suffer the sadness of losing a sibling. It must me very difficult. My youngest brother is also in a care facility. He was so smart and talented. I wish he could have just led a normal life like the rest of us.

Judy Harper said...

Denise-You are so right. I did so enjoy your blog!

Lee-Yes, it is difficult, especially when they're younger. I feel for you regarding your brother. I would love to hear his story.