My littlest sister's birthday is tomorrow. She will be 10.
She is very sweet, with a kind, caring soul. Our family pets loved her, because she could intuitively understand what they wanted--a belly skritch for the dogs, or a gentle pet for the cats. She could tell when the dogs wanted to go outside to pee. When my other little sister, Betsy, got a golden retriever and named him Shadow, Anna wanted a dog, too, and "I'm going to call him Shadowy!"
I don't know if she ever did get her Shadowy. I don't even know if my old dog, Bailey, is still alive. I know she was having some medical trouble, three years ago, treatable with medicine.
But Anna probably took good care of Bailey, petting her short white hair, with tufts of her extremely shed-prone hair on the floor. She probably gave her love, when I wasn't there for either of them. I hope Bailey helped Anna out, too. Bailey would get between me and my dad whenever he was raging, nervously wagging her stubby white tail and wiggling back and forth, trying to push me out of the way with her butt. Bailey would face dad with her ears pinned back, and if she got too nervous, she'd bark. She was my protector, even if she couldn't actually protect me from his words. I hope she was Anna's protector, too.
Yogi. Yogi, my brother's black dog, with moppy black hair, was a nervous wreck. We suspect he was abused by the puppy breeders. He was never nervous around Anna, because she showed him such tenderness and gentle love that he frequently sought her out so he could be petted.
Such tenderness, the desire to make people and animals happy, meant she would become sad if she perceived that she disappointed anyone. And if dad was angry, she would cry. and dad would become angrier and tell her she had no reason to cry, and he could give her a reason to cry, miming the spanking motion. That only made it worse, and eventually, after dad felt he had yelled enough, he would send her to her room, grounding her.
I would wait a while, so not to arouse dad's suspicion lest he felt the need to punish Anna more for trying to "drag me into it", and then find an excuse to go into her room. She would be sitting on the floor, crying, so I would sit down quietly next to her, and pull her onto my lap, and hug her. "Don't worry, you didn't do anything wrong," I would say. "Dad just gets angry. It's not your fault." We would sit there for a while, in silence, before I started becoming scared that dad would find me comforting Anna. Then, I would quietly leave the room, hoping that I somehow helped her, that maybe, just maybe, I was able to show her that dad's version of reality doesn't match up with what is actually reality.
My counselor asked me, when I told her how I tried to help Anna, if someone else did that for me when I was little. Did I have a big sister to hug me and tell me I'm not the crazy one? No, I didn't. Not as the oldest. Did my mom do that for me? No. Well, she used to say, "at least he doesn't hit us," or "that's just the way he is," and I suppose that was consoling. If she did stand up for us, trying to tell dad that his punishments and reactions were excessive, dad would rant and rage and tear her down emotionally.
Anna's favorite song, one she always requested as a bedtime song, was Immaculate Mary. Quite apropos, considering she was born on the Feast of the Annunciation.
Immaculate Mary, your praises we sing. You reign now in Heaven with Jesus our King. Ave, ave, ave Maria! Ave ave Maria!
Happy birthday, Anna. I love you.