I have a little sister named Jessica.
Technically, she’s not my little sister. She’s my wife’s little sister, soâ€”to cite Forrest Gumpâ€”we are not (fraternally) related. However, Jessica has been calling me her brother ever since I married Catherine back in 2002. Which, by my estimation, makes her my sister. Not my sister-in-law or my little sister-in-law. Just my sister.
Today, Jessica turns 21. Which blows my mind. When Catherine and I first started dating, Jessica was 10. I still remember meeting her. We were at a restaurant. She rubbed my shaved head and called me “Fuzz.” I told her I was going to give her a rap nickname, and came up with “Dr. Dre.” Though the “Fuzz” tag vanished long ago, I still refer to her as “the Doctor” or “Doctor.” For some reason, this gives me great satisfaction.
I have experienced many things through my life, but few as educational (and rewarding) as having a little sister. Through the years, I’ve watched (often between my fingers, with my eyes squinted real tight) the Doctor grow from a little girl to a full-fledged adult. I’ve screamed for her at football games (she was a cheerleader before hurting her knee) and lectured her on the evils of cigarettes (Catherine: “Do you think lecturing a teenager does any good?”). I’ve cringed as she dated some tool with a purple octopus tattoo (she now has a very cool boyfriend) and celebrated as she graduated high school and moved on to college. When I think of the Doctor, I think of lighting a candle at her Bat Mitzvah; of hearing her cry (quite often) on my wife’s shoulder; of watching her hold my baby daughter for the first time; of seeing her scoot down 15th Street on her Razor; of her praising the genius that is Jesse McCartney (“He’s absolutely amazing!”) and calling Saw III “the best movie ever!” Last April we went skydiving together, an experience that, I believe, has served as an extremely tight bond. You fall 13,000 feet together and live to tell, well, you’re blood.
Mostly, I think of all the times she said something that made me later turn to the wife and say, “That girl is truly special.”
Once, several years ago, I paid the Doctor a terrible insult. She was in the midst of some sort of teen angst, and in a moment of pure idiocy I told her I hope my daughter doesn’t follow her path. To hell with that. I can now say with 100-percent sincerity that if Casey grows up to have the heart and compassion and decency and love and pure, unadulterated goodness of my little sister Jessica, I’ll consider myself a success.
Happy Birthday, Doc …