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Swearing Swearing

Brian Wilson

I remember very clearly the first time I remember hearing my father swear.

Up until that point, and even later, the harshest “swear” coming out of my dad’s mouth would be “Jesus, Mary and Joseph.” It was more a plea to the Holy Family for help than something that would need to be blocked out in a family newspaper.

My sister, Sharon, was about 14 at the time. She was the oldest and the rebel. She was the one who knew how to sew, like all of us were taught to do, but couldn’t be bothered and instead stapled the bottom of her jeans to hem them. This would have worked except they rusted when they were washed. It is ironic when years later she was making and selling children’s clothing.

Being the parent of a teenager is challenging and Sharon’s inherent rebellious nature didn’t help things. If there was any stereotype of a rebellious teen in the early 1980s, Sharon was it.

The rest of us were pretty mild, even boring, by comparison. Either my parents wised up and got better at picking their battles as the other seven of us went through those awkward teen years or Sharon had gotten the lion’s share of rebelliousness.

I don’t remember the context of the seemingly nearperpetual arguments. I think it had to do with sneaking off and meeting up with friends for a party, but it could have been about a dozen other points of drama.

In my child’s memory, the world went silent for a seemingly long pause after the words left my father’s mouth. It was as if the birds outside and even the actors on the television that was playing in our living room took pause and marked that a line had been crossed.

That memory is one that stuck in my mind Saturday morning. I was at the Wausau Curling Center and had just wished Alex and his teammates good luck as they were heading out onto the ice for their 8 a.m. draw.

My phone rang and it was my brother, Mike. “Sharon died,” he said. I bit my tongue to avoid repeating those words that I heard my father say all those years before.

Later, through bits and pieces and calls and messages throughout the day, I learned that Sharon had gone outside for a cigarette at about 5:30 a.m. and come back inside the house where she lived with my sister, Nicole. Mike stopped by a while later to pick up Nicole and they found Sharon collapsed in a hallway. Despite all the efforts of the paramedics she couldn’t be revived.

When my father died, I thought my world had ended. One of the pillars of my universe had fallen. When a year later my mother died, my world was shaken yet again and it took a long time to regain a sense of balance. I am not sure I will ever fully get it back.

I worked out my anger at the death of my college roommate last summer while helping shovel dirt into his grave as part of his funeral ceremony. The sweat helped wash away the tears.

My heart aches at the passing of my sister Sharon. A deep, yet quiet aching of something precious that has been stolen away.

Your brothers and sisters are your first friends, they are your co-conspirators in youthful shenanigans and are there to pick you up when you are down. They are the ones you clumsily help sneak into the house late at night as your parents pretend not to notice, and they are the ones who have your back when things look their worst.

Take the time to tell your brothers and sisters what they mean to you before they are gone.

Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News.