January 21, 2014

Sister Owed

Sister Owed
By John R. Greenwood (Her Brother) 

"It's nice to have someone to look up to"
This post is dedicated my sister but if you owe a debt of gratitude to your sister you are welcome to jump aboard the thank you train and share this sentiment with her. 

Dear Joanne, 
I missed your birthday again. You seldom missed mine. Rarely was there a birthday card in your mailbox the first week of November. Mom would always cover my tail. She would push a card in front of me and say, "Sign this, its for your sister." or "Here, sign this it's for your father." My wife covered me for a few years but when you  creep into your thirties it's time to grow up and buy your own cards. I've gotten better over the years but this letter is long overdue. You were always my hero. There were a few years between us so once I showed up I was the baby, and because I was a boy, the tide immediately shifted in my favor. I played it too. By the time I hit my teens you'd worn mom and dad out. I could do no wrong because by then nobody cared. You were my infantry. You broke through the enemy lines and took all the gunfire. I walked through like it was a yellow brick road. I know the storm you weathered for me. I knew it then and remained silent. That's what spoiled little brothers do. It's time to come clean. I've told you before that the greatest gift you ever gave me was my love of music. You were the 60's girl singing into your hair brush. You blessed my soul with Motown and Downtown, The Beatles and Aretha. Your record collection nurtured us both. Every album and single you brought home opened my mind to another world. I am forever grateful to you for that gift. You gave me emotion. Our lives were full of it. Much of it painful, much of it lingered too long. You balanced the scale with a sense of humor that to this day brings with it laughter and a love of life that is capable of carrying us both through tough times. You always understand. You always smile and say, "It's okay." I love you for the things you never say. I love you for the things you do. I owe you for many things. I can only begin to repay you by saying how lucky I am to have you as my sister. You are my hero. 

Below is a poem my sister wrote and sent to me this year in a Christmas Card. I asked for her permission to post it. Of course she said,"It's Okay." 

“Push Through the Rabbit Hole” 

I hear the hollow echoes.
Vibrations travel
through the tunnel 
Easter 1957
My grandparent's farm in Greenfield Ctr. NY
My sister Joanne and I front and center.
My mother Helen is behind me.
Her mother Johanna behind her.
Her sister Ann by her side.
My cousin Debbie decorates the edge.

from my existence
painfully well remembered

Those echoes are not from 
one source only.
I feel pressure
as the passage 
seems to close me in.

Slowly forward
it draws me from my past
like “Alice through the Looking Glass”.
Glimmers of light
signal my 
apprehensive heart
telling it to boldly 
push forward.

I squeeze through
the “Rabbit Hole”
where tears meet peace
and suffering meets calm.

Weep no more gentle lady.
You have arrived at the shores
of the “River of Good Reflections”
where the bright and friendly sun
waits for you

Warm yourself now.
Don’t look back
but allow our gracious God
to hold and heal you.
Cling hard only to Him
on the way to your new resting place. 

By Joanne Byron


  1. Old family pictures are wonderful. Your sister sounds like a fine one. Good post -- barbara

  2. Oh wow, what a WONDERFUL letter of thanks to your sister, and a wonderful poem that she wrote - to your mother, perhaps? Family memories, so fraught with tears and laughter. In my case, I was the older sister singing (wailing!) into my hairbrush, sure I would be discovered, somehow , in my tiny bedroom in my small town. To my astonishment, it didnt happen. I loved this, John. So much.

  3. I have enjoyed your writing for quite a while now, and this homage to your sister is icing on the cake. :) Loved it and the photo. You both look happy enough in this photo…

  4. This poem reminds me of growing up with 2 sisters. Thanks.

  5. John, I just read this tonight, and your loving and sincere words of encouragement were truly a surprise and welcome gift to me from one of the most precious people in my life. You and I share a common and strong bond that will only grow with time, as it has all these years.Thank you for opening your heart and sharing it with me and others. You will never know how much it touched me. Some of the things you shared were a surprise, and some things I had thought about through the years were confirmed. Yes, I admit I did sing into my hairbrush, perfume bottle, (or whatever was closest..ha ha) to Judy Collins, B. Streisand, Nancy Wilson, and so many more. I spent most of the money I earned at my first jobs on records each week! I was so excited years later, when I was able to sing in church with a "real" microphone! I never knew until you told me a few years ago that I passed on that same love for music to you! Yes, being the oldest, with 6 years between us, I DID "break through the enemy lines", as you said, and went through many storms that, to be honest, almost destroyed me, but I came through them stronger and wiser, and I know God was watching over me. I'm glad you didn't have to go through them. I feel that these past few years have brought us much closer, as you have been there for me when I needed you most. When I had to have serious emergency surgery, you came to the hospital faithfully to encourage me. You always seem to know what I need. Sometimes I feel like we're twins, even though our age difference says otherwise. We both seem to percieve what the other may be feeling and needing at the exact time it is needed. Yes, I must admit, there were times I wished I could've done and shared more things with Dad and Mom when I was younger, but as time went on, we all shared many joys and lots of love, which made up for the past. They sure loved their grandkids. You could see their faces light up each time we came to visit. Well, John, I will say it again, that I am so blessed to have you as my "Little Brother", and guess what? You are MY hero too! Remember what I always say, "I am your biggest fan!" You share so much of yourself through your creativity and talent, that I know it will take you as far as you want to go. I just want you to know that I'll be with you every step of the way! I Love You....From your "Big Sis"