It’s been forever since I pulled up a bar stool in a small-town tavern. A kind bartender named off the tap beers, and I made my selection. My choice of a New Glarus Spotted Cow was right on the money.
This bar apparently had good food, as everyone around me had terrific-looking meals. A ding went off, and a couple burger-and-fry orders were slid out the cook’s window with big knife handles sticking straight up from the bun and burger.
I looked around at my surroundings. I was in central Wisconsin. A few deer heads were mounted on the wall, one with a leprechaun hat on its head. Pabst Blue Ribbon, Coors Light and Modelo beer signs were lit up. A dartboard and Packer schedule were on the wall.
This past week, I made a trip to see my big sister. She and her family have lived in Wisconsin since 1975. I hadn’t seen her for a couple years, and I missed her. After a day of visiting and preparing dinner for her and her husband, I headed back to my hotel. The bar and a restaurant are attached to a local hotel, which at one time was a bowling alley. I felt a cold one was in order.
As I drove to see her that morning, I reflected on times gone by. I thought of the time my sister told me to turn up the radio. I did as instructed and heard the DJ state that the next song, “Teddy Bear,” sung by Elvis Presley, was requested by Patty in Anchorage.
From that moment on, that song always generates that memory. Not long after I arrived at her home, I asked if she remembered that day. She told me she would call in all the time to request songs.
Patty remembered the DJ had a dreamy voice. She told me that our parents made it clear that they didn’t want her to like Elvis Presley. Elvis was a "bad influence."
After my sister left home and I started to listen to music, I was told those long-haired freaky people in the 1960s were terrible for my development. I didn’t play too many records if my dad was in earshot.
My big sister is the keeper of my baby stories. She details my first words and loves to tell the story of my habit of banging my body and head on my crib, moving the crib across rooms. My sister is 10 years older than I am. She told me she had to tie the crib to something solid to keep the crib in one location.
During our visit, she told me what a treasure I was to her when I was a little guy. She told me she would volunteer to watch me as Mom did other tasks.
One day you're calling the DJ to request the hottest singles on the radio, and then life happens. We all step onto that bullet train. Now a goal is to stay in her home as long as she can.
I tried to make myself useful. I did a few things, but not much. My sister and her husband, both proud and stubborn, have lined up some help from a local organization that assists seniors in their homes.
One of the days I was there, a kind and caring woman spent a few hours cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and providing conversation. She told me she loves her work, and being able to assist others is her calling.
My guess is the pandemic set back many family visits. If you haven’t dropped in on some of your family members recently, I recommend it.
I don’t recall banging my head on the crib, though my wife and siblings believe that explains a few things. As I hoisted a cold one the evening before I headed home, I toasted her. “Here’s to you, big sister. You are a treasure.”
Loren Else lives in Rochester and also writes the Post Bulletin’s “Day in History” column. Send comments and column ideas to Loren at firstname.lastname@example.org.