275. My Sister, Joan

Among the treasures God gave me that I don’t deserve is my sister, Joan. If you could only have one sister, this is the one you’d wish for.

I’ve admired her all my life.  Well, almost all my life.  It was a little dicey in school at St. Patricks’ when the nuns seemed to expect me to match my older sister’s consistent straight “A” performance.  Even her handwriting was flawless, fercryingoutloud. Trust me, hers were not easy-fitting shoes to fill.

It wasn’t till I was about 16 years old that I really began to appreciate the character of this generous, competent, and caring female in my family.  If there’s anybody in the world you would compare me to, please, I beg you, let it be her. To add to her talents, she was pretty, always impeccably dressed, and she had a great closet to steal clothes from.

She’s been my best friend all my life, and I expect her to be at my side forever now and hereafter. 

Today is Joan Darlene Gorman Fitzpatrick’s 82nd birthday. She was born in 1929 just before Wall Street crashed and the Great Depression began. 

There’s no doubt in my mind, that she was the best thing that happened to the world that year. She was God’s way of making everybody feel better about the bleak years that followed.

You can’t be around Joan long without finding something to start laughing about.  To celebrate the birthday today, my little niece Denise couldn’t resist “leaking” the following secrets.

Mom has a history of talking in her sleep, and on rare occasions she’ll walk in her sleep too. When you get the double whammy, it’s always a treat. 

All of the Fitzpatrick kids remember sitting around the dining room table playing a game while she slept on the chair in the living room. It was an unspoken amongst us that when you begin to hear the mumbling from her, everybody better be quiet or we’ll miss out on a whopper. I’m guessing this particular night her arm must have fallen asleep. Through gritted teeth (she can’t talk in her sleep without gritting her teeth for some reason) she begged us to, “Get this dog off my arm!” 

The real fun begins when you question her and attempt to engage her in conversation. She’s her own dog and pony show. It’s even more fun when non-family members are present. Dinner AND a show!

I don’t think I’ve visited Mom and Dad that Mom hasn’t woken me at least one night with her sleep talking. Most of the time it’s a bad dream so I’ll just go gently wake her and go back to bed. 

A few years ago though, Tommy and I went to Arizona to stay with Mom while Dad was in the hospital for a few days.

On our last night there, at about 2am, the hall light went on. I was thinking that it was strange as she’s usually more quiet and careful than that so as not to wake anyone, especially with Tommy right there in the living room sleeping. She went into the bathroom and did her business, and I was glad to hear her finishing up, as I wanted the lights out, so I could get back to sleep before my brain realized that it would be MY turn to haul into the bathroom next.  

She came out of the bathroom, and came barreling into the guest room where I was, and declared in a disgusted tone, “Well for heaven’s sakes, she left EVERYTHING.” 

So I rolled over and sleepily said, “Mom?” She was sort of startled at that and laughed and said, “Oh! I thought you were gone already, and I saw your contact case in the bathroom….” “No Mom, we leave tomorrow. G’night.” 

She giggled and went into her bedroom without turning out the hall light. *sigh* So I got out of bed to turn out the light for Tom and went to the bathroom while I was at it. I was still pretty groggy, so I left the bathroom door open about half way with the light off and started *ahem* going. It wasn’t ten seconds later, and The Crazies began again. She came barreling INTO THE BATHROOM, while I’m sitting vulnerably, ummm, where you sit, saying “Hey! Hey! Hey! What’re you doing?!”  

Crazy Sleep-Walker-Talker starts laughing again and says, “Oh! I thought I left the water running in here!” (I guess I’m well hydrated). She cackled down the hall, as I dragged myself back into bed, thrilled that after all these years my making water still makes my mother so joyful.

The next morning, I walked out into the living room, before saying anything, I made eye contact with her, and she immediately started laughing hysterically. She said, ” You can’t tell anybody that….they’ll send me to the nursing home!”


Well, yes, Denise did spill the beans, Joan, but don’t worry about being accepted at the nursing home.  You won’t be the first resident there who’s non compos mentis. If the attendants let me, I’ll keep the Lazyboy warm and waiting for you.

Besides Denise-Who-Reveals-All, Joan and husband Tommy have five other children, three daughters-in-law, three sons-in-law, 17 grandchildren, 1 granddaughter-in-law, 2 grandsons-in-law, and 9 great-grandchildren.  There may be more by now but I can’t count that high. 

Most of the cast of thousands that Joan and Tommy mass-produced are shown below.

It may not surprise you that among the crafts Joan took up during retirement is the creation of three-dimensional greeting cards.  It seems like a fitting activity for a woman whose immediate family observes 43 birthdays every year. 

In her earlier life, besides her main gig as housewife and mother, Joan served Tommy’s business as bookkeeper for many years, and she was the proprietor of a gift shop called “Granny’s Attic” on 16th Avenue in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  

Joan really distinguished herself as a versatile craftsman. I mean like big time.  Doll-making, silk flower arranging, cake decorating, ceramics, embroidery, sewing, tole painting, paper crafts, calligraphy, and an astonishing menu of other crafts. Everything she produces seems miraculous in its perfection. God gave her good eyes, good hands, and an imagination, and she has learned how to make beauty with them.   

Have a very happy birthday, sister-mine. I hope you’ll have a nice piece of cake. 

Then you can put your feet up and turn on the TV.  You need your sleep, dear!


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5 Responses to 275. My Sister, Joan

  1. Joan Fitzpatrick says:

    That was pretty thick, don’t you think ?

  2. Denise says:

    Happy Birthday, Mom!! Have a great day!

    I love you!
    P.S. I just want it to be known that any roasting I did, was with permission from the roastee. 😉

  3. Tim Fitzpatrick says:

    Happy Birthday to the best mom I ever had!

  4. Chris says:

    Happy Birthday! That was a tear jerker of a blog, but well deserved!
    (and for the record, she was my mom first!)

  5. A relative says:

    What a very special lady. Happy Birthday to You. I love you Aunt Joanne!

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