My earliest memory took place a few days after December 26, 1950. My parents introduced me to my brand new sister, Rita Jo. I can see myself looking over the classic crib which had multicolored balls at the end, which were there not for just decoration, but to spin as soon as the enclosed baby learned to pull itself up. I was totally taken in with a sense of amazement. There was a certain smell of the infant that calmed me. Today my sister Rita Jo turns 70. Happy Birthday~sis you are a gift not only to me but to our family and the world.
When I turned 30 it did not bother me, but 18 months later when we had Rita’s 30th birthday, it made me realize that the sands of my hour glass were speeding up. Growing up with me as the “big brother” was not all fun. I could be a jerk, a tease, and I confess that I still regret the day I aimed a BB gun at a 45’ angle and about 100 yards away, and the BB landed right on her rear. Today Rita has her own story about why she is so committed to MOMs Demand Action for responsible gun laws. Rita is a warrior for sane gun laws, environmental justice, racial inclusion, and recovery. She is also a commissioned minister in the Disciples of Christ. Rita Jo is my hero!!!
Let’s back up to 1953. Soon after the birth of my brother Charley, my mom Pat sunk into a severe postpartum psychosis. She was institutionalized on and off for a year. Rita and I were put in the care of friends and relatives. At one point we spent a month or so going to a place Rita affectionately renamed—PUEBLO Day Penitentiary—It was not pretty. I would not leave her sight. As a result I have a very clear memory of a “care giver” in a white uniform taking me into a stair well and kicking and punching me. I would not stop yelling until they let me stay with Rita. I only share this because I know these kinds of things happen to kids.
In 9th grade I tolerated Rita showing up as a 7th grader at Heaton Jr. High with her “cat eye glasses” and ponytail. However, when she showed up as a sophomore at Pueblo East High, I figured out really quickly that she had a covey of very cute friends. We began a much more mature friendship that goes on to this day.
I was privileged 22 years ago to perform the wedding for Rita and Dave. Together they have built a remarkable partnership that is blending a son
apiece, and four grandkids. To be either Rita’s grandkid or nephew or niece is to blessed. Rita cares, Rita listens, Rita is fun. She was a master teacher, and if you were fortunate enough to have her as a kid or the parent of kid, you know what a fantastic educator she is.
One final story— I was in the 6th grade and Rita the 4th. We were both taking piano lessons and we were playing a duet at a Christmas recital at the old Central Christian Church. I don’t know if it was stage fright or what, but Rita froze. I, being the jerk that I could be, elbowed my sister ever so slightly in the ribs. She started crying. We limped through the song.
I could not ask for a more special sister. She has an amazing sense of humor, a pastor’s heart, and was smart enough to survive me.
Onward and Upward, Mark